Gavin Coombes

Production and Purchasing Manager

Gavin Coombes

Another long-time member of the Nerada family, Gavin has been with us for 20 years: “Originally, I came here for a three-day contract, but never left,” he smiles. “I started off filling sacks with tea for export.”

Before his arrival at Nerada in 1999, he had worked in many different roles, going to Coles straight after school, and working there for 14 years, managing food service in stores along the east coast. In 1988, he joined the REMM Group, which developed the Myer Centre in Brisbane, where he was in charge of its food outlets.

Gavin took to Nerada from the start. “You could see it was a good mob from day one. I brazenly told them I wanted to stay, asking what work they had for me. I went on to help the dispatch guy with packaging, driving forklifts, before I started tasting teas and becoming more involved in the blending.”

Eventually, Gavin took the opportunity to step into the shoes of a departing colleague in the purchasing department. Having also had experience at Nerada in packaging, it was a perfect fit. He still oversees production. “It’s a small team, so we all wear many hats,” he says “A very laid-back, easy-going company that allows you to put across your thoughts and views.”

He reckons Nerada hasn’t changed a great deal since he started, although it’s grown dramatically, with the introduction of new technology, and relationships with supermarkets bringing fresh opportunities to develop new product lines.

“It’s nice to see that the business continues to evolve and change, and to know that you’ve been involved in some of the projects from the get-go,” says Gavin. “There have been quite a few developments – the concept of blends, the loose-leaf tins, the green teas and other herbal teas that have been added to our range. You have to think about the consumer; just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it won’t work. You have to allow for tastes different from your own.”

These days, Gavin’s working day is spent wearing a variety of hats. He’ll start by tasting the tea arriving from the Atherton Tableland to assess its quality and consistency. “My day starts early, about 5.30am. I check what’s been produced in the night and afternoon shifts, and resolve any issues, making sure there are enough staff so we know what machines we can run. Then I come in and start invoicing and forecasting.” Gavin also helps out Nerada CEO Andrew Weavers with taste-testing and researching and developing new lines.

“The range of herbs and spices we have access to means we can experiment with flavour combinations. Tea has already been around for centuries, so it’s a matter of keeping up with the times. We were the first company in Australia to offer organic herbal and green teas back in the early 2000s. The sky’s the limit in what we can do, and we will keep evolving.”

When asked to pick his favourite Nerada cuppa, he replies, “Black tea more often than not. No milk! It’s nicer to taste the tea. I do also make up little blends that interest me, like the black tea and lemon myrtle, which we’ve just launched in a loose-leaf format. I started making that here and added flavours to see the difference. I’m dabbling in black tea and ginger at the moment...”

Beyond his working life at Nerada, Gavin enjoys taking his Harley-Davidson for a spin, and he’s just bought a Honda Goldwing Trike to do some touring. He’s also into home-brewing, and currently has nine different beers on tap. “I’ve even tried adding a bit of ginger to my beer and it’s turned out very nice!” he laughs.

Meet the rest of the team →