Specialty Tea Pioneer John Harney Passes

John Harney
Harney & Sons founder John Harney.

Specialty tea pioneer John Haney died Tuesday. He was 83.

The founder of Harney & Sons in 1983, his contribution to the development of America’s specialty tea industry can hardly be overstated. He entered tea retail late in his life following a successful career that made his encore all the more spectacular.

Harney was known for his gentility and impeccable taste in tea. A master blender, his teas drew praise from the palaces of England and raised the profile of the entire industry.

“No man ever graced his profession more than John Harney has done for ours,” author and friend James Norwood Pratt told the audience in 2011 on the occasion of Harney’s acceptance of the Cha Jing Award for Lifetime Achievement in tea.

Thirty years ago Harney began spreading the culture of tea, he said, because in doing so “we’re spreading the business of tea.” With his sons Paul and Michael and grandson Emeric, Harney embraced and mastered all aspects of the business. His blends are best sellers in grocery and fine food stores and exported and sold worldwide including Buckingham Palace and the Grand Dorchester Hotel. His ready-to-drink line is served in fine restaurants and his loose leaf draws a steady crowd to the retail venture in SoHo managed by Emeric. Recently he produced a line of tea in capsules for Keurig brewing machines.

John and Elyse Harney, Bermuda, 2013.
John and Elyse Harney, Bermuda, 2013.

Innovation was a hallmark yet the brand reflects the tradition and manners of traditional tea. In 1960 he managed the historic White Heart Inn, in Salisbury, Conn., mastering the art of hospitality. It was then he fell for tea serving loose leaf supplied by Sarum Tea to guests in the 1960s. In 1970 he joined Stanley Mason, owner of Sarum, working there until Mason’s death in 1980. Three years later at 53, he launched his namesake company.

The business has since grown to 170 people and occupies 90,000 sq. ft. of warehouse space in Millerton, NY. A new bottling facility is under construction.

The business will continue under the direction of sons Michael, 58, and Paul, daughter-in-law Brigitte and grandsons Emeric and Alexander.

Millerton, New York filling 90,000 square feet of warehouse space – See more at: http://www.worldteanews.com/news/three-generations-celebrate-30-years-fine-teas-harney-sons#sthash.622Fgpkb.dpuf
Millerton, New York filling 90,000 square feet of warehouse space, and employing over 170 people, – See more at: http://www.worldteanews.com/news/three-generations-celebrate-30-years-fine-teas-harney-sons#sthash.622Fgpkb.dpuf

Harney served in the U.S. Marine Corps. and graduated from the Cornell School of Hotel Management. He is survived by wife Elyse and five children John Jr., Michael, Keith, Elyse and Paul, and 10 grandchildren.

The funeral was June 20 at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Burial was in St. Mary’s Cemetery, Lakeville, Conn.

Source: Litchfield County Times

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