In Conversation with...MELISSA CHOI

Melissa Choi is the founder of Choi Time Teas, inspired by her Chinese heritage and a passion for green tea in particular with the health benefits it provides, London based Melissa has successfully created one of the most exclusive tea brands on the market.

The collection, includes Jasmine pearls, Damask rose buds and Chrysanthemum flower and dramatic giant flowering tea bulbs which are hand-picked from the finest white needle green tea leaves, naturally scented with jasmine blossoms and individually hand-woven with exotic flowers.

Melissa's teas are somewhat elite in the tea world; you'll find them at Harrods and in various private members bars across London, and thankfully the range is also available atChoi Time online.

How is it, you came to do what you're doing?

I have always loved drinking Chinese teas, especially jasmine green tea pearls. I was born to a Chinese father in Hong Kong and tea always played a huge part of my life. My Chinese grandmother’s mantra was ‘Drinking jasmine green tea is good for your skin and helps you stay slim!’

My father is one of 9 so we had lots of cousins. Every Sunday after yum cha we would all get together as a family at my grandmothers house and sit around her big blackwood table, this was where she taught all of us grandchildren, the virtues of drinking good quality teas.

My grandmother has always been my inspiration for my business and when I left Hong Kong I always carried these loose-leaf teas with me. My friends and colleagues were always intrigued about the tiny little pearls I use to drop into my mug. I encouraged them to try it and once they did they were hooked, I’ve even converted hard-core coffee drinkers into Choi Time tea drinkers!

What is the most difficult thing you overcame and what did it teach you?

I’ve found the most difficult thing I’ve overcome to date would definitely be balancing my work life with becoming a mother. I think I’ve managed to get the right balance by building an office in my garden so that I’m technically always there and at home to spend time with my daughter. I think a working mother and guilt definitely go hand in hand and you can beat yourself up about it time and again, I finally feel happy with the way I’ve balanced it though.

Who inspires you and why?

My husband, Drogo Montagu definitely inspires me. He is so motivated and ambitious without compromising our family life. He is an amazing father to our 15 month old daughter and spends quality time with her. He’s managed to change careers due to medical reasons and has built up a very successful food internet company from scratch within 3 years which I find very admirable.

Most memorable moment?

My most memorable Choi Time moment was coming home from a weekend after Alice Temperley's summer party and finding over 500 online orders for my tea. I had featured in the Saturday Telegraph magazine that weekend. I had not been aware that it was going to be featured. It was still a causal business for me then, (2005), and I was still working full time, so I had to recruit as many friends as possible to help me fulfill all the orders. We ran out of stock half way through the orders and had to call every single customer explaining the situation. I offered refunds to all of them. Not one person wanted a refund they were all happy to wait 3 weeks for the tea to arrive!

What is your signature style? 

I tend to go for accessories to glam up my style such as bags, scarfs and jewellery. I generally wear jeans with shirts and gilets and very comfortable shoes!

What three items are on your wishlist? 

1. A two week holiday anywhere hot!

2. My UK drivers license by the end of this year, I’m having to re-sit my drivers license as I cant swap my Australian one over!

3. The Cobalt Colour Block Tote!

What's your favourite App?

I would say the most useful app I have that I use all the time is the Margins app, it’s free and totally sorts me out. I’m not the best when it comes to numbers so this is a really good tool for me when working out all my costings for wholesale and retail.

Best advice you've ever received?

The best advice I’ve had is not to live in fear of what if’s, to be courageous and take risks.

What item can't you live without? 

 My juicy tube, I’m addicted to the lychee one.