This month, we enjoyed a pot of tea with one of Ahmad Tea’s Directors, Dr Ali Afshar. He shared his thoughts on how he expects the tea industry to evolve, the leadership lessons he lives by and what being part of a family business means to him. Put the kettle on and make your favourite cup of Ahmad Tea and enjoy.

What’s your role at Ahmad Tea?

I have a varied role at Ahmad Tea as I have a number of responsibilities. I look after some of our key markets, specifically Iraq, the Middle East, the UK and the US. I also drive strategy from a corporate perspective and am involved in product development and finance.

What are your favourite parts about your role?

I really enjoy variety, there’s always something new to focus on. One aspect that I really enjoy is that we are truly an international business so I have the pleasure of working with people from all over the world, from lots of different cultures. Seeing my team’s personal development journeys and seeing them excel in their roles is also very satisfying. Finally at Ahmad Tea, one of our core values is kindness and giving back and I really enjoy seeing the positive impacts from our many charitable projects around the world.

What’s the most challenging aspect of working at Ahmad Tea?

We’re a high growth business so therefore there’s always lots to do. I feel like I’m always running around problem solving or launching new products. It’s exhilarating but sometimes exhausting.

A picture of Dr. Ali Afshar

How do you envisage the tea industry changing in the next five years?

On an industry level, tea is a heavily commoditised crop and my hope is that globally brands increase the amount per kilo they pay for tea. Paying a little more for great quality tea can hugely benefit the people who work within the supply chain. From a consumer perspective, I think that the growth of speciality, herbal and functional blends will continue, especially in the Middle East where herbal teas are becoming more prominent. I think we’ll see consumers having an increasing variety of teas in their cupboards. We’ll also continue to see people experiment with drinking tea in different formats for example: bubble tea, matcha and cold brew.

Can you name a book which has had an impact on your career?

I learnt a lot from Ray Dalio’s Principles of Success. He champions making principled decisions and his book has helped guide me and ensure that the decisions I make at Ahmad Tea reflect my true values.

How would you describe working at Ahmad Tea to a potential new employee?

We are an ambitious business that cares and we put people first. Everyone in the company, not just our tea tasters, are genuinely passionate about tea. We have a growth mindset and are very internationally minded.

What are your key leadership lessons:

  • Be human first, we are all busy but always make time to engage with people on a deeper level. Take time to really listen to people around you and try to understand their perspective.
  • Focus on the “why”? Learn to communicate clearly and share what is driving your decisions. There’s no such thing as over communicating.
  • It’s the small things that are important. If you’ve committed to something, follow up on your commitment. If you say something, do it.

How do you think working at a family business differs from working at a PLC?

We’re able to take a longer-term perspective over our growth and we really care about preserving the earth and improving things for the next generation. I think we are really good at principled decision making rather than taking the opinion of the person who is shouting the loudest.

What is your favourite cup of tea?

It has to be English Afternoon, it’s a delicious blend of Ceylon, Kenyan and Darjeeling teas and has delicious floral notes.

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