On the Inner Road, a road that runs parallel to Victoria Avenue probably the busiest road in Jersey and close to a place called first tower is a pub called “The Earl Grey”. A fairly unusual name for a pub until you research the area a bit.
Opposite this pub is an arch a large granite wall and a gate, a very finely made gate and archway with the words Overseas Trading Company emblazoned over the arch in red. This gateway is a very high status piece of stonemasonry and obviously an important part of Jerseys History.
Yet this gate leads nowhere, this gate is a remnant of Jersey’s commercial heritage and a clue to what happened here is in the name of the pub “The Earl Grey” which is a blend of tea.
The Overseas Trading Corporation
The Overseas Trading Corporation was a tea blending and trading company which had a global impact. It was the export division of the Allied Lyons empire, Tetley’s and Horniman’s tea was blended and exported round the world from Jersey.
Allied Lyons didn’t create OTC, it bought into an existing worldwide operation. In April 1876 when Thomas Cook an export Merchant from Reading (not the explorer) with flourishing markets in South America and the Far East, came to Jersey.
He rented premises in Commercial Buildings, Old Harbour, St Helier, from where he packed tea. This new tea-packing business was launched and it grew and grew. It was in Jersey because of Tax, even in 1870s it was all to do with tax.
From the 19th century till today there are those of us who prefer not to pay tax if at all legally possible. Mr Cook imported tea into Jersey, packed it and shipped it out across the world and avoided paying the British tea tax.
The Jersey business outgrew its premises in town and in 1900 the company bought land at First Tower and constructed a modern factory there including leisure facilities it was named the Sun Works as a compliment to the Jersey’s climate.
Every year 100s of tons of tea and tea doesn’t weigh that much, were imported into Jersey, packed or made into tea bags and re-exported all over the world under the Lyon’s Tetley’s or Horniman’s labels.
It is amazing to think that Jersey was such a world player in tea trading.
Anywhere in the world you could have a cup of tea that had been blended, packed and exported from Jersey.
Jersey people travelled the all over the globe to trade in tea in days when it was not as easy to travel as it is today.
Tea bags may not be very glamorous but that gate on the Inner Road opposite the Earl Grey pub is a reminder that the Overseas Trading Corporation was once a world beater.
For a long time, Jersey was a tea caddy to the world and all that is left as evidence of this is the gate. It was after all a very gentle and polite tea drinker’s world domination of the English tea market.
If anyone has more information about the Old Tea Factory and OTC please leave more information in the comments section below it is a very interesting part of Jersey heritage.