Tea is served, my lord: How the Downton Abbey effect boosted sales of one small firm by 500%

The English Cream Tea Company is based in Essex and specialises in delivering the authentic cream tea experience by post and courier. Fuelled by worldwide interest in Downton Abbey and a British Royal Family newly energised by interest in William and Kate, in 2013 the company grew by 500 per cent compared to the previous year with further impressive growth already in evidence this year. 

Currently around 45 per cent of its sales are made through the website and it regularly receives orders from as far afield as the US, Canada, Australia and China in particular. 

“After we uploaded videos to YouTube about English cream tea etiquette, we quickly gained 20,000 viewers and more orders from abroad,” explained Jane Malyon, the company’s founder. “Additionally, every time Downton Abbey or similar shows are aired globally, we gain new overseas interest. The world over loves our wonderful afternoon tea traditions and treats.” Winning the Guinness World Record for the largest English cream tea party ever was a huge break because it brought so much publicity worldwide. 

The company started in 2011 with a mission to bring the UK’s high end hotel-style cream tea experience to the rest of the world. “My husband and I have run a catering company for 35 years and already had the expertise and equipment to produce the delicious English Cream Tea Company treats,” said Malyon. “Coupled with our passion for all things ‘afternoon tea’, this was a perfect combination. The launch of the business was timely too as it was just before the Olympics, Royal Wedding and other patriotic occasions, and further helped by the world’s love of Downton Abbey.”

With the help of a grant from Defra and the EU, Malyon and her husband Roger developed a small barn in their grounds into The Sconery – a packing and packaging department.

Initially funding for the business was a mixture of the couple’s own money, plus shares given to key team members such as the branding designer and website expert in exchange for their continuing services to the company. “We are still somewhat hand-to-mouth with the business, in other word we make sales and then reinvest and we keep a careful eye on the cashflow as we go,” added Malyon. “We may seek external funding at some point, but wanted to initially bootstrap the business until it had some worth.”

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The English Cream Tea Company is still a small company but with global reach on its agenda. “Until recently, we could only export our most ambient of products such as tea towels, teapots, shortbread, as opposed to our fresh afternoon tea hampers that contain sandwiches and clotted cream,” explained Malyon. 


“However, this year we’ve been developing a new range that will be ideal for export such as The English Cream Tea Company range of delicious jams and preserves as well as some amazing teas. The overseas market will continue to prove very valuable to us as expats are desperate for a taste of home. We’ve been securing our trademark across the world, have started to work with export experts and plan to regionalise our website with language translations in the near future too.”

With so many international sales with such a wide variety of currencies, the English Cream Tea Company looked for an international payments provider and settled on WorldPay. “If everyone sent in cheques, for example, numerous trips to the bank would be problematic and extremely time consuming as we are based in the countryside,” says Malyon.

“Any problems processing transactions can hit a small business particularly hard. With an ecommerce platform, we can wake up in the morning to our new list of orders and can get baking and packing accordingly. If we had to wait for the post each day or only receive phone orders that would slow us down to a snail’s pace. There’s something rather wonderful about receiving new orders whilst you sleep too.”

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