I have noticed something about the tea business community.
That is: All of us want to start immediately on third wave tea. Like it’s the only option.
The problem is, all of the people who get into tea get into it so passionately that they forget the rest of the world just isn’t on the same page.
They learn everything and treat it like there’s only fine tea and crap tea. That there is no in between.
As a result, there are no bridges between simple tea and fine, loose leaf tea.
The rest of the problem falls down to most of us just aren’t willing to sell mediocre loose leaf tea. It has to be the best, single origin. The finest tea.
As many liquor stores as there are in town, there might be 1% as many fine wine stores. But as many loose leaf, typical tea stores there are, there are just as many fine unflavoured, single origin tea houses.
This is the problem. There is no room for growth, and there is a very shark-in-the-water kind of attitude among tea people, since there’s so much direct competition, and so little customer base.
Me, I see no option. It has to be flavoured with unflavoured. We have to offer both the mediocre and the top-shelf teas. By intimidating our customer base and assuming they will immediately appreciate the best teas, we disenfranchise them. They go elsewhere, or stick to buying bulk from Teavana or David’s. Which are generally overpriced and low quality.
Create a welcoming atmosphere. Find out what they want. If they want a tea that’s $3 a cup, get them one. If they want a tea that’s $6 a cup, good. You can geek out together and create a company-customer bond. There should be no exclusion in the tea industry, but somehow because of our excitement, we have discluded the 90% customer base who just want to drink a nice cup of loose leaf tea. They don’t want to geek out about it.