IN THE BEGINNING...
As many small business owners know, it takes inspired vision and conviction to take an idea and cultivate it into one of Australia’s most respected specialty food service companies. Ben Kelly and Nathan Wakeford founded Somage Fine Foods in 2006 - a time when cappuccinos looked like muffin tops, chocolate drinks were flavored sugar and it was still okay to serve teabags in polystyrene cups to take away. The pair had a vision for something better.
Our first product, Kali Premium Drinking Chocolate, was created in the lounge room of Nathan’s 3-bedroom rental terrace. After extensive research into cocoa, including travels into the remote cacao growing regions of Venezuela and Colombia, we created a recipe that has stood the test of time. Some 9 years later, Kali is Somage’s top selling product line. The high quality cocoa and single origin couverture still win the affections (and tastebuds) of consumers throughout the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Hong Kong. The success of Kali chocolate was the foundation on which Somage was built.
With the success of Kali, and the palpable desire for higher-quality products from our customers, the idea came to develop a superior tea offering. Driven by passion - and an innocence that allows action without considering the full consequences - Nathan jumped on a plane to Sri Lanka in search of specialty tea. On arrival in Sri Lanka, the airport looked more like a military base, as the 25-year civil war had only recently ended. The environment was tense, and vehicles were stopped regularly at military checkpoints. Despite this, Nathan had a romantic notion of “roughing it” in search of the ultimate tea plantation. Traveling with locals on crowded buses, packed trains and rickety tuktuks, he ventured down bumpy roads and dirt tracks to find tea suppliers with the potential to make our Chamellia tea a reality.
To be continued...
MAKING OUR MARK...
More years passed and soon we realized that passion and enthusiasm alone were not enough to inspire an industry appreciation for specialty tea. We decided it would be necessary to educate the industry. After seeing the success of the specialty coffee movement - and Nathan’s experience leading the Victorian chapter of the Australian Specialty Coffee Association (AASCA) - Somage decided that an industry body for specialty tea was required. In collaboration with two other founders (May King and Sarah Cowell), the Australasian Specialty Tea Association (AASTA) was established. Nathan, its inaugural president, is currently presiding for a third term. The association has continued to grow and prosper and now includes the majority of Australia’s leading specialty tea companies.
More recently we observed the lack of knowledge and expertise in the preparation process in tea producing nations. We have commenced educating tea producers on tea infusion and tea tasting in Sri Lanka and China, and we also educate cafe and restaurant owners through the formation of the World Tea Championship. By leveraging our knowledge of specialty coffee judging, and from our role in the Victorian and Australian Barista Championships, we were able to develop a set of rules that evaluates a participant’s tea knowledge, preparation expertise and service. The inaugural event was held at the SIAL Tradeshow in Shanghai, and is quickly becoming the leading event in progressing innovation, as well as creating an international community for the tea industry.
Doing the right thing, showing trust, integrity and mutual respect. Being authentic. Recognizing the true value and contribution of others. Aligning personal motivations with the harmony of the team.
Seeing a dream manifest into something great. Being part of a winning culture, hitting goals and celebrating success – punching the air. Pursuing excellence. Finishing projects on time and seeing things through to the end, whilst being realistic and flexible in what we achieve.
Being remembered for contributing our unique talents and gifts to the world, whilst having the courage to take action in aligning ourselves with the right people. Taking a long-term perspective and demonstrating our legacy through the way we behave, the way we make others feel, and our values. Being resourceful, considered and strategic.
Pioneering our own path by challenging the norms, seeking better methods, being dynamic, resourceful and innovative. Supporting individual ideas, individual expression, intuition and encouraging others through our best practice.
Taking responsibility for our actions and delivering on our promises. Communicating and reaching agreement if there are changes in meeting deadlines. Helping the team by being approachable, and open to suggestions or queries that are aimed at providing better solutions.