Grass roots vs Joe Root... Cricket is still its cup of tea, but Yorkshire Tea stirs the pot

Yorkshire Tea supports the new international stadium in Rwanda
Yorkshire Tea supports the new international stadium in Rwanda
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As long as there have been village greens, it has been the custom that cricket has stopped for tea.

But after six years as sponsor of the national team, it is tea itself that is taking a break.

The association between the England and Wales Cricket Board and Taylors of Harrogate, the family firm which makes Yorkshire Tea, has seen the brand leapfrog its rival, Tetley, to become the second biggest on the market.

However, it is the classroom, not the Long Room, where its real appeal lies, say its makers.

And so, with less fuss than the plop of a sugar cube into a teacup, the firm has announced a subtle change of direction. Not Joe Root but grass roots.

Two cricket charities, one in Britain, the other in Rwanda, will now be the beneficiaries of its marketing largesse.

“The partnership with the ECB has been really successful. We’re so grateful to them and we’ve loved serving tea during the Test matches,” said Gina Stringer, the company’s PR manager.

Ironically, it was not Mr Root’s appearance at Lord’s but in front of children at his old school at Dore, in Sheffield, that clean bowled everyone.

The England captain’s surprise entrance there was one of more than 1,000 events the company had helped run with the sports charity, Chance To Shine.

“It was a really special day, seeing where he first fell in love with cricket, and it’s those experiences that inspire children to think that they could be like him one day – maybe not an England cricketer but something just as amazing,” Ms Stringer said.

“We’ve supported grassroots cricket for two decades, but over the last six years that we’ve been working even more closely with the sport, we’ve realised that it’s where we can make the biggest and most positive difference.

“We love cricket and they love cricket. It’s a proper sport that communicates proper values – quality, equality, fair play, being respectful to your opponents and having fun.”

There were, she added, “shared values” between the sport and the product. “We do know that cricket lovers also love their tea.”

Taylors will announce a new marketing programme for Yorkshire Tea next year, but it will not abandon the second national stadium it has been supporting – not at Lord’s but in the landlocked east African nation of Rwanda.

The company buys 15 per cent of the country’s entire tea production, at an annual cost of £10m, and is also a significant benefactor there.

It supports Cricket Builds Hope a charity that takes the sport to plantation workers and others in the community. At the £1m international cricket stadium, opened last year on the outskirts of the capital, Kigali, there is a Yorkshire Tea bar.

Since the beginning of the decade, Taylors has spent £1m on social and environmental projects, training farmers to improve their crop yields and boost income, and making sure that all workers are aged at least 16 – an area that had been a source of concern in the years before the plantations were privatised.

“People have taken notice of the fact that cricket is doing a lot of good over there,” Ms Stringer said. “It’s not just helping to give people something to enjoy, it’s actually a tool for social change and reconciliation.”

The success as a community hub of the Rwanda stadium, known locally as the Lord’s of east Africa, convinced executives back in Harrogate that tea and cricket made a potent blend.

“We saw how much of an impact it could make and we thought we could do more,” said Ms Stringer.

“So we decided to look at creating a coaching program as an opportunity for our tea estates out there and providing coaching for schools.”

Yorkshire Tea’s partnership with the England and Wales Cricket Board, which is now ending, put to an end any notion that it was purely a regional brand.

It also sponsors National Cricket Week, a schools event now in its fifth year.