With a focus on Vietnam, Tonkin Trading was born out of a family business that has had dealings in Vietnam Tea since 1988.

Michael Whitlam, now with over fifty years experience in the tea industry, was the first western trader to forge links with the Vietnamese Tea Industry on an initial visit in 1989 following the government's Ðoi Moi economic reforms.

His son, Giles moved to Hanoi in 1992 to assist with developing the business and was based there permanently until 1998 when he returned to London to set up Tonkin Trading Ltd, and then Tonkin Products Ltd.

Tonkin Trading has been pioneering in establishing quality control standards and introducing Vietnamese tea to the international market.

We have overseen many changes in the Vietnamese industry from a time where there was only 10,000 mt of black tea produced in the country, and when it exported breakbulk mainly to the Soviet Bloc countries.

Today 150,000 mt tons are exported to global markets and all types of packing and quality standards can be met.

Diversification came in 1994 when we set up our Representative office in Hanoi and began trading and sourcing other commodities. Predominantly rubber and cassia, but also coffee, pepper and handicrafts such as ceramic pots and incense sticks.

Along with our overseas partners, we handled the largest export quantity of cassia to the west, with control of our own processing line.

We sourced rubber for one of Europe's largest rubber trading companies, in the days when Vietnam was just an emerging origin for rubber.

We now have our own rubber department dealing with rubber from all origins. It is headed up by Richard Smethers who has over 40 years of experience in the trade.

Michael Moynihan heads up our tea sourcing and blending operation in London.

He supplies blends of tea to a variety of clients in the UK and Europe as well as the Middle East.

Our tea business in Vietnam continues to evolve, now with our own black tea (CTC) factory to complement the tea trading we have been focusing on for over 25 years.

Tea has been our core business for many years and although Vietnam remains our speciality we are sourcing tea from all origins for our customers.

In 2001 we established Tonkin Products, a specialist food business sourcing, developing and producing top quality foods in Vietnam. Martin van Zwanenberg is co owner and technical director, permanently based in Ho Chi Minh City. Under his expertise, Tonkin Products became one of the first suppliers of frozen foods from Vietnam to the UK.

Martin oversees development and production of prepared foods now being shipped to the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa and the Middle East. His son, Andrew, is heading up the Representative Office in Ho Chi Minh City and providing the resource for further expansion.

We pride ourselves on being innovative and quality driven, producing unrivalled party food type products using the highest quality raw materials.

With offices in Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and London we are able to provide local quality assurance in Vietnam and professional representation overseas, with a wealth of experience across all offices.

Profiles

Giles Whitlam

Tonkin - Giles Whitlam

Giles Whitlam is Managing Director and owner of Tonkin Trading, and Tonkin Products. Having spent many years working in Vietnam, conversing and understanding the culture, Giles has developed an ongoing passion about the country and all it has to offer. He is now based in the UK but regularly visits Vietnam to continue to grow the business and explore opportunities working with the excellent teams in the Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offices.

Giles lived in Hanoi from 1992-1998, to establish a tea development and export business under his family owned company TEA ESTATE AGENGIES LTD. This led to the opening of the Representative Office in Hanoi, in 1994.

Giles worked closely with producers and the Vietnamese tea industry in general and established new standards, quality control procedures, international bulk packing and palletisation – all for new markets.

Giles then was able to source other agricultural products for export, such as Cassia, Rubber and Pepper. Additionally this led to sourcing ceramic and other handicrafts for export. Giles also found time to set up Hanoi’s first sandwich bar, 'No Noodles' and his restaurant 'The Verandah'.

On returning to live in the UK, Giles set up Tonkin Trading Limited in London in 1999. He added a tea blending division in 2004 and a physical rubber trading division in 2007.

In 2001 Giles set up Tonkin Products, a Partnership with Martin van Zwaneneberg. The aim was to develop unique hand made, high quality food items for export.

In 2012 Giles took on the ownership of a Tea factory in North Vietnam, which is now producing black leaf CTC Tea.

Andrew van Zwanenberg

Tonkin - Andrew van Zwanenberg

Andrew is Tonkin Products Chief Representative in Vietnam, based permanently in Ho Chi Minh City with his family.

Andrew balances responsibility for managing the delivery of innovative new product development, with regular direct customer liaison, CSR, supply chain management, production and quality management, strategically ensuring we deliver to the highest standards with our available resources.

Prior to joining Tonkin Products Andrew worked for Marks and Spencer, having originally started with M&S in 1994 as a Graduate Trainee Technologist.

Andrew left M&S in 2004 to work as Managing Director / Technical Director of a privately owned Chinese Manufacturer of Decorative Glassware and Candles, based in Tianjin, China. Andrew commuted regularly between China and the UK and split his responsibilities between managing the quality and manufacture in Tianjin China, and the customer liaison in the UK and US. Customers at that time included Marks and Spencer, Next, Debenhams, TK Maxx UK, Target US and Loblaw's Canada.

In 2009 Andrew was asked to re-join M&S as a Technical Manager responsible for Homeware, Procurement and the Hong Kong technical team, where he remained until joining Tonkin Products in 2011.

Martin van Zwanenberg

Tonkin - Martin van Zwanenberg

An experienced Food Technologist who worked in his early Career in the Fishing Industry before Joining Marks and Spencer where for over thirty years he held a number of Senior Positions in Food, Clothing and Homeware.

Michael Whitlam

Tonkin - Michael Whitlam

Michael Whitlam entered the London Tea Trade in 1959. In 1961 he was posted overseas to the Colombo office of James Finlay where he continued to work first as assistant manager in their tea department and latterly as manager.

After stints in Calcutta, and South India, Kenya and Malawi, he returned to the London office in 1971. In 1973 he joined the Board of James Finlay Overseas Ltd with responsibilities to overlook their worlwide tea trading activities.

In 1974 he left to start up his own trading business and was also involved as a consultant to Andre & Cie Lausanne involved in barter and currency switch dealings applied to tea. His company became the largest exporters of Georgian tea during the years 1978 to 1983.

In 1989 he paid his first visit to Vietnam and was the first European tea trader to get involved on the ground in that country, since when this origin market has been the major player in the business development of the company.

Michael Whitlam remains involved with his son Giles on a consultancy basis in this exciting market.

Richard Smethers

Tonkin - Richard Smethers

Richard has spent nearly his whole working life in the rubber market and will celebrate 40 years of involvement this October.

delivering quality from Vietnam