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Joko Tea

According to the Welgedacht Private Museum, Joko tea – produced by Unilever Food Solutions at their Tea Factory in Pietermaritzburg, Kwazulu-Natal – has a rather romantic origin story, filled with friendship and entrepreneurial spirit.

In the 1890s, Frederik Glenton worked in Johannesburg as a linoleum layer with the Transvaal Rubber Company. His dream was to start a tea company, but he was working hard to save money to bring his fiancée across from England. Eventually he achieved his goal, and went to meet his beloved at the docks.

On her trip over, Frederik’s fiancée had befriended a young man called Mitchell, who appeared to Frederik to be wealthy. Thinking he could get Mitchell to invest in the tea company, Frederik invited him to join his venture.

In fact, Mitchell had no capital, but persuaded his brother in Ireland to lend him money. And so Glenton & Mitchell was formed. The friends bought high-quality teas which they sold to mines and boarding houses. They would pack the teas in the afternoon and sell it the next morning, making deliveries by bicycle.

To publicise their tea, the friends had a wagon made to distribute their product. The wagon was pulled by two horses – Jo and Ko – and soon became synonymous with high-quality tea. The rest, as they say, is history.

Joko tea is still blended with the same personal care and attention to detail at the Tea Factory in Pietermaritzburg, where over 7 000 tons of tea are packed each year!