Whittard of Chelsea is making the bold move of turning history on its head by selling tea to China.
The 129-year-old British retailer is considering opening stores in the country and an online shop on Tmall after a surge in interest from Far Eastern shoppers for its teas.
The company was first established in 1886 by Walter Whittard as a tea shop in Fleet Street, London. It was left with 51 shops across the UK after closing down a raft of loss-making stores and is now undergoing a turnaround, led by managing director Mark Dunhill, the former chief executive of jeweller Fabergé.
Mr Dunhill said that the chain was now looking at ways to grow the business overseas after spotting sales in foreign markets had jumped.
"When we looked at our sales figures and where our customers came from, the number from mainland China has doubled over the last two years. A huge proportion of visits to our website are from mainland China, where we assume they are checking out what they want before they buy it over here."
Mr Dunhill said that there were at least 200 re-sellers of Whittard products on Tmall, who were selling its teas at a significantly higher prices.
"Afternoon tea has become a lifestyle phenomenon in China, particularly with the young. They are fascinated by the English tradition of taking tea," Mr Dunhill said.
Mr Dunhill said that Earl Grey plus fruit and herbal infusions were particularly popular with Chinese consumers.