Tea Time with Chiara Bedini of Babingtons Blends
Join us for a peek inside the empowering world of Chiara Bedini, co-owner and CEO of Babingtons Blends Tea. As the great-granddaughter of one of the founders of the iconic tea brand, Chiara has spent over 30 years making a name for herself in the family business.
Founded by two British women, Anna Maria Babington and Isabel Cargill, in 1893, the Babingtons Tea Rooms have served as a luxurious, eccentric gathering place in Rome since their inception. It wasn’t until 2021 that Chiara, along with her cousin Rory Bruce, were able to share their exclusive tea blends with the rest of the world through the launch of their UK operations.
Today, Chiara, alongside her cousin and fellow fourth-generation Babington Rory Bruce, is upholding the Babington tradition of intelligent, innovative female leadership through a focus on sustainability, philanthropy, and curating high-quality tea blends.
Read on and be inspired by Chiara Bedini in this edition of the Lh Empowered Women Empower series.
Be Empowered by Chiara Bedini, Co-owner & CEO of Babingtons Blends Tea
Love Happens: As our name and the tagline of our publisher, KOKET denotes, at Love Happens, we are firm believers that you cannot achieve any level of success without love. When did your love affair with tea begin? How did it make you feel?
Chiara Bedini: It started very early in my life. Babington’s teas at the time (1960s) would arrive at my home, where it was kept in a small warehouse. I used to love opening the big wooden boxes lined with aluminium paper and inhale those exotica aromas…. The smell of Darjeeling and Ceylon tea pervaded my whole childhood, and then, of course, Sunday lunches at Babingtons were such a great family tradition!
Lh: What does Babingtons Blends Tea mean to you?
Chiara: The beginning of a new adventure, bringing Babingtons to the world and our delicious range of premium, fresh blends into people’s homes—to celebrate and share life.
Lh: How do you describe the perfect tea ceremony?
Chiara: There are many different tea ceremonies in the world. Each country, each family has its own. Babingtons Tea Ceremony is a wonderful mix of Victorian Teatime and Roman lifestyle. Freshly made finger sandwiches, including cucumber sandwiches, hot buttered scones, and scorching cups of delicious tea served on a Sheffield tier in a calm and friendly environment, overlooking the very busy piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. This is the essence of Babingtons.
Lh: Tell us about the importance of being in great cities such as Rome and London in this specific business.
Chiara: When Babingtons opened in 1893—over 130 years ago by my great-grandmother and her friend, you could only buy tea in the chemist. Therefore, tea rooms in the heart of Rome were, and still are, very unusual. But so important too. Tea is all about stopping to enjoy very different from the more aggressive and fast-going espresso coffee. Tea is synonymous with calm, taking care of yourself and others.
And we have spent the last 10 years working on the quality of all our blends, making sure they all come from sustainable gardens and are scented naturally, not artificially, to give the best experience to our clients.
This is what we now bring to the UK through our online store, retailers, and hospitality partners. We are sharing our story and history with people of the UK, who are, of course, massive tea drinkers too.
So, to answer the question, the most important thing is giving a quality option to tea drinkers everywhere.
Lh: What is it like to run a family-owned business? Is there ever a clear line between the two realms of work and personal life?
Chiara: It’s a real challenge! It is very difficult to outline a clear line between personal and working life. When I started working for Babingtons 30 years ago, I was the niece, the cousin, the daughter… It took a long time to find my space in the business and to be considered professionally. It’s part of the journey. And I always bring my children to Babingtons, for breakfast, lunch, tea, or supper. And now that they’re older, they come to help when needed. This helps them to see what I’m up to, and for me to spend time with them too.
Lh: How does the Babington Foundation get involved in Babingtons Blends Tea?
Chiara: The Foundation was created in 2018, the year we celebrated our 125th anniversary. A way to say thank you to the tea world, so important to us. We decided to intervene in Darjeeling, a small region in the northeast of India, at the foot of the Himalayas, because the first teas served at Babingtons in 1893 came from Darjeeling.
Today Darjeeling is a region from which some of the most delicious teas come. But the economic and environmental situation is very bad and even more so after the pandemic, and many young boys and girls decide to leave, often getting lost in the big cities.
So, each year we support 25 to 50 students, giving them professional training to help them stay in their community and support their families with real jobs. Karha Chai, our blend dedicated to India, is the tea we chose to represent the Foundation, and all the profits from the sales of this tea go toward the Foundation.
Lh: If you could give one bit of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
Chiara: This is a great question. I would tell my youngest me to believe in herself more, and not to be afraid of having an impossible dream. And to study, travel and meet people that can help you make that dream come true. Before working for Babingtons I had other experiences but knew from the beginning that I wanted to bring my ideas to the family business. And I did, but through a very winding road!
Lh: What empowers you most?
Chiara: I love my job; I’m very lucky. Not everyone can say the same. So, I would say the love and passion for what I do. I firmly believe that what we give comes back to us, and the love and passion we receive from our customers is amazing.
Quality, sustainability, and doing things well in a world where everything is so mediocre also give me a sense of meaningfulness. And last but not least, creating work and a human environment for all our staff in Rome.
Lh: Do you have any mottos or favourite quotes you like to live by?
Chiara: I have many! Mostly Italian ones… and it’s difficult to choose. But probably the one that has been with me for the longest time is: chi semina raccoglie “he who sows reaps”. I believe that things happen when it’s time for them to happen, but it’s very important to sow well… and I’m an eternal optimist, which always helps!
Lh: What is next for Chiara Bedini?
Chiara: I have a lot of ideas, but I also want to start slowing down a little. Life is not only about work, and the past few years have been very hard due to Covid. So, my next 3 important projects are: creating an even better female-friendly working environment, having a film produced on Babingtons’ Story, and making sure our Foundation thrives.