In 1897 in Marseille, two brothers, Lazare and Petrus Digonnet, who acquired an interest for trading exotic products from their uncle, create the company « Thés de l'Eléphant ». The company is so successful that it quickly becomes the largest in France.
The following year, George Cannon, a British citizen married to a French woman, created a homonym tea export and import company in Paris.
The French specialist in high quality loose teas
While « Les Thés de l'Eléphant » developed in an industrial fashion, the George Cannon tea company privileged a high quality client base for luxury products. The offices consisted of two rooms close to Montparnasse. The high quality and limited selection of about a dozen references automatically produced a good solid reputation in the community.
In 1950, « Les Thés de l’Eléphant », market leader with more than 25% of the market, acquired « La Compagnie Coloniale ». The family enterprise grew (« L’Eléphant » in Marseille and « La Coloniale » in Paris) and acquired notoriety on the French market. However, diverging strategies and succession differences resulted in the sale of the company in 1969.
The Tea Aristocrat
In 1970 Andre Scala, the co-director of the family group (« Thés de l'’Eléphant » and « La Compagnie Coloniale ») purchased the George Cannon company. His son Raymond Scala, director and buyer for « La Compagnie Coloniale » took on the general direction in 1975. Raymond Scala went from a company of three hundred employees to an office of three.
Nicknamed the « Tea Aristocrat » by his peers, Raymond Scala was the first to introduce red teas from Yunnan, dark teas such as Pu’Er or oolongs from China and Taiwan to the French market. He introduced the idea of First and Second harvests and grades such as OP, FOP and BOP. He emphasized the difference in the taste of teas from the same origin. His knowledge and professionalism in the selection of teas enchanted the circle of tea experts but consumers were still hesitant to develop their pallet.
The boom for perfumed teas
In the beginning of the 1970’s the varieties of teas remained relatively unchanged: the regulars for almost a century had been breakfast teas, Lapsang Souchong, Earl Grey and Ceylon. Naturally, the consumer found these products boring and un-dynamic. This image of tea prevailed until the arrival of flavoured teas, causing a revolution in the tea world. Lemon, orange, blackberry, apple: new tastes which seduced tea consumers and revolutionized the tea world.
In 1978, Olivier Scala, the actual Director of George Cannon, joined the company. He quickly understood that the future of the company depended on the development of flavoured teas and convinces his father, Raymond Scala, to invest in this domain. He developed the range of perfumed teas using natural flavours and quality teas which are pleasant to the pallet and respect the alchemy between teas and flavours.
In the 1980’s, specialized tea companies develop. The new bulk importers which develop their own brands and open tea shops in Paris could have signaled the end for George Cannon and an era when no tea shop could have survived without the backing of a mother company or tea importer.
But, George Cannon continued to increase its reputation and reinforce its image in professional circles by offering its products to a wide range of customers: the most modest to the most prestigious. To enhance the offer, Olivier Scala imposed his style: the development of a unique range of products with more than 500 high quality natural teas and as many flavoured teas.
George Cannon, a committed brand
In 2006, Augustin Scala joined George Cannon and was formed by his father, Olivier Scala, in all the areas concerning tea tasting and buying. The family heritage is thus continued. An excellent « nose », Augustin Scala easily juggles with the flavours, smells and origins of teas.
At this time the image of the company evolves and modernizes: a logo is created and products using the name George Cannon are put on the market. The logical conclusion is the opening of a tea room, rue Notre Dame des Champs, close to Montparnasse, in Paris. As the showcase of George Cannon, the boutique serves as a reference for retailers and consumers.
George Cannon has, at the same time, developed its sale of organic teas (famous origin teas, flavoured teas and herbal teas) in order to respond to increasing demand. This engagement of George Cannon continues today and the number of organic teas referenced by George Cannon continues to increase (loose teas, tea bags, doypacks, and tea boxes).
In 2014, Augustin Scala was named General Director and George Cannon takes pride in at least 200 teas conditioned in its name (boxes, tea bags, doypacks) and as many derivative products.
Today, the company has 20 employees and commercializes 250 tons of tea.
To know more about Augustin Scala