Savoring a Spot of Tea
Moorestown-based Harris Tea Co. combines an environmentally sound facility with community involvement.
Pinkies extended. Scones with cream. Napkins on laps.
We’ve come a long way from the time when prim Victorian tea times were a ritual, but amid life’s lunacies, a calming cup of tea can be a welcome respite.
Black, green and white, or jasmine, orange and rosehip, tea is an agricultural product native to East and Southeast Asia. Some historians cite Chinese written accounts of tea as early as the 3rd century. Currently, the antioxidants in tea have cultivated its popularity.
Tea is the second largest beverage consumed in the world, behind water, says Bob Hackel.
And, he ought to know. He is the senior vice president of sales for Harris Tea Co. on New Albany Road.
“In the United States, about 70 percent of tea that is drunk is cold,” and iced tea is mainly sugar, says Hackel.
Harris Tea is the largest blender and packer of private label teas in North America, as well as for its own label and Tetley products. The company packs for the food-service industry and large grocery retailers such as Kroger, Publix, ShopRite and Trader Joe’s.
Besides the Moorestown plant, the company has two other production facilities in the United States—Anaheim, CA, and Marietta, GA. Only the California-based site produces cold teas.
Northerners prefer hot tea, along with tea drinkers in the West and Midwest.
“But, a lot more iced tea is consumed in the Southeast and Southwest,” adds Vice President Richard Haas.
Both Hackel and Haas have spent over a decade at Harris.
Varieties of tea come to Moorestown from Argentina, China, India, Indonesia and Kenya. Some herbs used in the blending process arrive from Egypt. Washington state is a large supplier of peppermint, and chamomile comes from Mexico, adds Haas.
“The blending is done at all three facilities,” says Hackel. “The aim is to create a well-balanced flavor.”
In 2000, Harris Tea moved to Moorestown from a smaller operation in Pennsauken. The company, a division of Harris Freeman & Co., is a privately-held company and recently bought Keith Spicer LTD in the United Kingdom, giving the company a stronger foothold in Europe.
On Wednesday, July 20, the 80-member Moorestown facility held a ribbon cutting ceremony—with heaps of tea for its guests—to celebrate the start of their second solar power system.
“The program is the start of a major sustainability program,” says Haas, “which we expect to have in full operation by 2013,” part of a $1 million alternative-energy outlay.
The sun will supply the heat, generating 600,000 kilowatt hours of electricity annually and sourcing 60 percent of the facility’s power needs. More than 2,000 panels were installed onto the roof of the New Albany Road building.
The plant expects to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 450 tons annually—eradicating 46,000 gallons of gasoline, thus eliminating 20 million pounds of greenhouse emissions over the life span of the system.
The sun-filled Anaheim site was the company’s first site to go solar in 2010.
“California offers the best in sunlight and tax incentives,” says Hackel.
In New Jersey, credits and incentives are bestowed upon companies going solar in accordance with the New Jersey Clean Energy Program. For its part, the company anticipates recouping its investment within nine years, says Hackel.
Both facilities contracted with the California-based REC Solar, a solar electric provider, responsible for more than 6,000 systems nationally.
As part of the institution’s humanitarian missions, the company has built schools in India and Argentina. The goodwill governing its underpinnings has extended into Moorestown, too.
As part of its community-based programs, Harris Tea partnered last year with the William Allen Middle School and held a session called Tea Program 101.
“We explain what tea is and its health benefits,” says Haas. “We make it fun, while the kids are learning.”
Next up, the New Albany site has launched a sort and segregate program, aimed at improved recycling of corrugated boxes and unicartons, continuing its green-based initiatives.
“These projects have been important business decisions,” said Hass, “and we are doing what we can to improve the environment.”