starting a tea cafe

okay i know many have came to ask this question but i have a little bit more of an idea of what i want and there fore need a little bit more detailed advice. I would like to open up my own cafe with just teas and some wines after 5pm. i also want to retail teas from all over the world from africa, china, india, and fine english teas. also i want to educate ppl on the benefits of each tea. but my question is how do find the retailers to sell me the teas where would i start at to look for retailers?

13 Replies

My first question would be “where are you located?” I’m a firm believer of supporting local economies. I’d try to find several quality tea merchants right in your own town. Let us know your general area and someone here might have some contacts.

Here’s an example of a local place called the Urban Tea Loft that sounds like something similar to what you want to do.

Pithy said

Wow, please don’t be like this place!

Made up names, no mention as to what type of tea is used and the option to add chocolate milk to half the items on the menu are obvious signs that this place has no clue about tea or where their tea is coming from. I’m surprised they don’t have Boone’s Farm on their wine list.

Simple questions to ask to make sure the places you are getting your tea from are reputable- Can they tell you where their tea is coming from ( I mean down to the provenance or mountain) and can they tell you when it was harvested.

I think the best way to become a reputable business is to be as informative as possible with your products. A cafe that is doing something similar to what I think you want to do is Halcyon. I’m guessing they buy wholesale from several specialized vendors.

But tea is seasonal and not really the first thing you want to purchase when you consider the time it takes to start a cafe. I’d worry about everything else first.

Pithy, both of the owners of the Urban Tea Loft are Certified Tea Experts. They’re very successful and well respected in the local tea community.


@Pithy, Thanks for introducing me to a wonderful shop!

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Jaime said

Most of the online tea companies have a “wholesale” button. I’d start with the companies whose tea you like, go to their sites, and click that button.

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If you want to get a ton of info. on opening a tea store, see:

Look at all the links on the top left (under recent and archive) for articles on running such a store….

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Adagio’s is a good resource but his estimate at $250,000 for opening a Tea store is crazy. He sites people that do it for between $20k-150k. In reality I think(I’m not sure where these gold plated tea shops that he opens are?) you can do it between $10k – $20k

teaenvy said

it entirely depends on how expensive retail square footage is (largely depends anyway).

as you say one can create a wonderful atmosphere and a superior shop without gold plating. but startup costs will include the lease (which may mean 3 months or more payment upfront), insurance, vendor licences and fees, operating capital for a period of time and you still have to stock, furnish, and buy things such as toilet paper.

its just expensive to start a business. i can well imagine 250k as being probable in some areas. few will get away with 20k….most will be somewhere in the middle.

best to just do ones homework

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@mrs_stewart I applaud you for wanting to educate consumers on tea and its benefits. That is one of the reasons we at Praise Tea got into the business and it serves as our sole mission.

There are several companies out there that sell tea at wholesale, ours being one of them, and direct from origin. A good resource to start would be to join LinkedIN and then the various tea groups. Many of us in the group are tea experts, master blenders, wholesalers and importers. And well, just excellent knowledgers. I would also join the Specialty Tea Institute and even attend the World Tea Expo (next one in June 2011). They have a Business Boot Camp, that I highly recommend, as well as, taking some of the courses. The information is invaluable.

Next, get your hand on every good tea book and starting a tea shop you can find….James Norwood Tea Dictionary; The New Tea Companion; Tea Blending is A Fine Art; Start Your Own Coffee & Tea Store; How to Open a Financially Successful Coffee, Espresso & Tea Shop to name a few.

@Cloud Mountain.. yes $100 – 250K is an accurate price – to DO IT RIGHT and cover any sudden expenses that may come up. Can you do it for less, sure. But, you want quality.

@mrs-stewart, you have the cost of tea, tea packaging, tea storing, tea accounterments and proper water filtration. If you plan to resell then you will need scales, scoops, hi-barrier packaging, labels and the list goes on.

We are currently in the process of going brick and mortar and it’s not an easy undertaking. If we can be of any further assistance, you may email us directly.

Best of success to you!

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Satori said

Tea is a burgeoning industry in America and I too commend you for wanting to create a business in this market. Like Praise Tea Company, I recommend joining the Specialty Tea Institute and attending the World Tea Expo in June. Knowledge is everything in this industry and I can’t stress enough how important it is to read about tea, take some classes, and go on field trips to other tea establishments in your area.

At the World Tea Expo you will find numerous vendors in the wholesale business and will be able to start building relationships with the companies you like. Attending the World Tea Expo was a crucial step in starting my business. The New Business Boot Camp is also a wonderful course that will set you on the right path for a successful business.

Starting your own business doesn’t come cheap. I would say anywhere from $100-250k is about right. It’s not just inventory that costs money, but licensing, permits, rent, tea packaging, labels, equipment, teawares, etc. The cost to open my tea bar was more than double what I first anticipated. However, to get my foot in the door, I started selling tea at my local farmers’ markets and built a website to establish a solid customer base before I opened a brick and mortar. There is a Chinese saying about tea: “How do you make a little money in tea? Start with a lot.”

I just opened my tea bar in August and boy was it a learning experience. If you have any further questions, please let me know! Here are a few tea vendors that have a great wholesale reputation:

Metropolitan Tea Company
International Tea Importers
Teas Etc.

Best of luck!

ElevateTea said

Hello Satori..I just read your comment and in it you said you started by selling at your local farmer’s market, I recently had the same idea, but in Canada, our farmer’s markets state that you can’t be a reseller, you have to “make, bake, create or grow” your items. Did you have the same restrictions and if so, how were you able to get permission to sell at the market?

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Art of Tea has some awesome unique blends and are focused on the organic and fair trade if you are interested in that demographic.
$100 minimum start up is accurate, there is NO WAY you can set up for $10-20 K. Your inventory alone is minimum 5K with a VERY limited selection, a commercial fridge is 5K alone… you get the picture. We were fortunate enough to find a cafe that moved and bought all the internals, with some minor renos it was easy to convert a cafe into a tea house. This would be the most economical way of setting up shop, though there are down sides as well (used equipment, previous business perception, etc).
Good luck, we opened July and are happy with business thus far.

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I would echo Satori in suggesting a trip to the Tea Expo. There is wide selection of Tea Vendors and the opportunity to taste and smell the offerings.
My business has been open almost 4 years now. I spent a year preparing to open, much of the time spent while waiting for permit approvals and reno was in pouring over as much education materials as I could.
My education is an ongoing thing. I just decided to join this site. There is always more to learn about Tea.
Best wishes!

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