What Would Make an Ideal Tea Company?

I’ll be going off to college in 2013 and I am considering studying business and entrepreneurship in hopes of opening a cafe where I would create my own tea blends and eventually try to branch out into online tea retail, similar to Harney & Sons. But I know that in order to make it, my company would have to stand out. I would have to be innovative and knowledgeable of the teas I am selling and the blends I’m creating. I would have to find a way to price competitively. Customer service must be a priority and I must have variety in the products I offer. These are things I know, my question to you guys is “what would make a company THE ideal tea supplier for you?”.

10 Replies
Azzrian said

Of course quality teas.
A good online web presence.
Customer Loyalty Program.
Affordable tins and storage for teas, perhaps a theme design – one or two – allowing for different personal taste.
Room to wander, I find being in cramped stores where I feel I can’t move about to be bothersome.
A sniffing area. I like to smell teas before I buy them but don’t like the idea of sniffing teas that are being sold – its a sanitary issue.
A tasting area – being able to sample ANY tea I want before purchase – perhaps this could be part of the loyalty program or even part of a club arrangement where customers can pay a small 10 bucks yearly fee to be able to sample anything before purchase, extra loyalty points on purchases, quarterly “tea gatherings” and such.
For online customers this would apply to being able to request samples in lieu of tasting in house.
Having everything I need under one roof and competitive pricing with everyone – price matching perhaps.
Example: Last night I was in search of everything I need for matcha – well not EVERYTHING I didn’t get a “sink” but I got what I needed. I had to shop three places and even paying three separate shipping fees I still saved money buying from three vendors! It was a pain in the arse though.
An online tea glossary would be nice on your site.
For the shop itself it depends on the look and feel you are going for, an eclectic artistic place featuring local artists and musicians perhaps or something more spa like, whatever you are going for make people not feel threatened to walk in and really stay around awhile. Warm welcoming service with out LOOMING but present to answer that question on the confused face.
Allow people to bring in their own bags to fill.
A “green” company that is earth and environment friendly.
Tea of the week feature always ready and for free.
Perhaps hot in winter -cold in summer.
Tea lessons for a low fee with a new tea featured bi-weekly those who attend get 1oz to take home with them.
A kiddy area – get those young tea enthusiasts going! Featuring kid friendly teas!
Okay Im tired but that is what I could come up with off the top of my head.

Definitely like the “sniffing area” thing. The teas would have to be in closed containers, though – I find that when tea shops leave plates of them out, it becomes impossible to smell them in a matter of days.

Room to wander – yes, if you end up with a small store, keep the center of the store clear and put the storage on the WALLS! I hate walking into a tea shop that has several display fixtures…I’m a student with a large bookbag, AND clumsy to boot, so I always feel incredibly nervous and like a bull in a china shop.

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Kwinter bravo! to you for thinking of tea business at such a young age! You have great expectations! Some day you can probably talk with this William guy (http://sirwilliamoftheleaf.blogspot.com/) who is a college student and (I think) runs a tea company with his young friends.

By the way this post just reminds me of a question. How many people would prefer a tea company with a large number of tea choices, and how many would prefer a limited number of choices (so it’s not exhausting to view the inventory)? What would be an optimum range, say, 20 products, 40, 60, 100? (If we talk about small businesses only and not including national chains or large importers.)

Azzrian said

I can absolutely see the benefits to both. I would say 40 would be opium. Although I would want to do more research. I would want to have three choices of top quality in each type of tea, then speciality teas to choose from, say maybe 10 speciality teas which could rotate by season perhaps. So based on that idea – how many teas would that be? I am far too tired to figure that out and in involves math which means I would not be able to type anything as I use my fingers for math.
LOL anyway – if you had say three of each type, including not so well represented types like yellow tea for example, how many total teas would that be? Then add 10 more specialities to that.
Anyway my 2 cents for what it is worth.

Gingko: I like your question. I wish more vendors would ask questions like these. : )

Currently, my primary interest is in Chinese green Tea, but I am also interested in Chinese red Tea. So, although I don’t think represent a good cross-section of the tea going population, I am not really interested in how many pu-erh or oolong teas a vendor carries. Admittedly, that will very likely change sometime soon, and most stores seem to carry a number of teas in four of the six ‘major’ Tea classes: green, red, oolong, and pu-erh (with possibly a few white and yellow Teas, and an herbal thrown in the mix). But, in terms of how many to carry, I am going to go with the less-is-more philosophy, and say overall 40 Teas. I would settle with 8 – 10 in each of the four classes mentioned above (with a couple whites and possibly a yellow), although I would prefer more green and red. In general, I look for the least expensive teas, but I will consider buying a very small amount of the pricier ones if they have something truly amazing about them (as with at least one Anji Bancha I tried: I can get five plus good steepings out of it and it has an amazing fresh flavor and aroma). I like buying teas that I am at least somewhat familiar with, like pi lo chun, huang shan mao feng, anji bancha, Dragon well, but I like one or two of the more obscure (or unique) teas to chose from as well (as long as they are affordable, that is). With, of course, harvest dates on all of the green teas!

Thank you for asking. That’s about what my ideal tea shop would have to offer, anyway.

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kOmpir said

Most of what came to my mind is already mentioned, but I would still add:
Your online retail should be worldwide available with low free shipping quota.

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Roland said

For me, the biggest things I would look for are:
Brewing classes/similar – great for building repeat customers.
Tracability – I value detailed information about the teas very highly – a shop which provides detailed information about where the tea was grown, who grew it, processing, altitude, etc. Would justify greater costs.
A simple, easily navigable website – even if you’re not selling online!
Tea quality – I don’t always look for lots of teas, but the teas need to be of high quality and preferably different/unusual.
Those are the things for me anyway. If it’s a physical shop, the usual suspects come into play – location, transport links, physical environment, staff attitude, quality of anything non-tea being sold.

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I don’t shop at physical stores much simply because there aren’t anywhere less than 2 hours drive away. So, I obviously tend to do a lot of online shopping. One thing I cannot do that I would love to is try tea at the physical store. So, when I find out about a new tea vendor I like to try some of their teas to get a feel for the quality teas they have. One thing I really dislike is that there are quite a few tea vendors that don’t sell samples. There’s not much I dislike more than buying 2oz or more of tea to try it and not like it. One other big thing for me, since I buy online, is customer service. If someone calls with a problem 1) pick up the phone 2) be friendly 3) try to help the customer, don’t give them the run-around.
Sorry, I feel like that was a bit of a rant, but if you do online retailing: customer service and tea samples.

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Missy said

I think most of the things I’d like to see in an ideal shop are already mentioned. I do have to say, I will forgive a lot if I just get excellent customer service. There is a fine line in high pressure and good customer service. I don’t like the things Teavana currently has their people doing. They don’t make me feel welcome, but pressured instead. However, I eat at Tacobell simply because they are friendly and ask me how I’m doing. They use manners, such as thank you and your welcome. In fact, I go there to restore my faith in customer service. Customer service can be such a small thing, pushing opinions up.

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Shoot me a message, email, tweet, or something if you would like to talk! I run Sirwilliamoftheleaf.blogspot.com and own a tea company. I am a sophomore marketing and entrepreneurship major. I would love to chat!

[email protected]
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