Meet Mrs TeeMrs Tee was born in Friedrichshafen in Germany in 1942. Bombed out in the war so went to live in the countryside with Grandparents. This developed her love for the countryside. This is when she began picking mushrooms. After leaving school she gained a diploma in Hotel and Catering and in 1962 she got a job with Pan Am as an air stewardess until 1972. In those days it was a very glamourous job and well paid.
After her children Robert and Jenny were born she settled in the UK in Hampshire. Mrs Tee bought herself a horse in December 1972 and started to pick mushrooms from horseback. In 1973 she sold her first mushrooms to the owner of the Chewton Glen and continued to sell her mushrooms to other local hotels and restaurants.
She then decided to sell them further afield and went to the local Travel Agents and asked them to find a group of large hotels accessible via the London Underground. (This was in the day when the internet had not been invented). There were four hotels grouped together which were The Intercontinental, The Hilton, Dorchester and the Inn on the Park.
The chef from the Intercontinental was Peter Kronberg who promised to buy Mrs Tee’s mushrooms as they had lived not far from each other in Germany. The same thing happened with Anton Mosiman who came from Switzerland just over the lake. The same with Mr Weber from the Hilton but came to a grinding halt with the chef from the Inn on the Park as he did not want to buy bloody mushrooms from a bloody german!!
Started delivering her mushrooms via train to Waterloo. At this time she was only selling what she picked such as Pied de Mouton, Brown Chanterelle and Ceps. Peter Kornberg recommended Mrs Tee to Michel Bourdin at the Connaught. Then Mr Lesnik at Claradges , Albert Roux of Gavroche. The company started to grow on merit and reputation.
During this time Mrs Tee continued her other hobby and love of horses and bought a horse from Germany called Kustos. Later he became the Lloyds Bank Black Horse for 3 years. She had success with another horse called Tee’s Hanauer who was the No3 Showjumper in the UK ridden by Michael Whitaker and Robert Smith. Tee's Hanauer was selected 4 times as the reserve horse for the Olympics.
In 1992 Mrs Tee's husband suggested she make the business all year round by imorting from other countries when the UK season was quieter. They received their first order from Leiths QE2 for 130 kg of mushrooms to go to Edinburgh for the World Conference. They started to import and source mushrooms from all over the world. During this time Mrs Tee was a Food Hero of Rick Stein and used in the introduction of Richard Brambles 4 Star Cook Book. Mrs Tee received a call from Buckingham Palace for their chefs to attend a Mushroom seminar with Mrs Tee.
Mrs Tee was charged with theft of mushrooms worth £27.50 and had 32 criminal appearances attended by legal aid barrister. She sued DEFRA in 2004 and the theft charges were dropped in June 2006. Mrs Tee was then granted a licence to pick mushrooms commercially in the New Forest by DEFRA and it is the first and last licence to be given.
Mrs Tee made the following mushrooms popular in England
Wild Oyster mushrooms – May to October
St Georges – Middle of March for 2-3 months
Chicken of the Wood – End of April – October
Hen of the Wood – October – November
Except for St Georges, they cannot be imported
Mrs Tee also sells Venison and Wild Mushroom sausages (own recipe) Wild Garlic Leaves from mid March to End of June
Mrs Tee has also advised trading standards on radioactive mushrooms. In her capacity as a mushroom expert she has given many tv and radio interviews on the subject and was even contacted by the medical profession regarding a patient who ate poisonous mushrooms.
Sadly Mrs Tee’s husband John died in August 2009 but Mrs Tee continues to fight on. Whilst the mushroom business continues to grow and her Guest House remains open for business Mrs Tee's motto is “Never Give Up”.