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Starting a Tea Business?

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Starting any business is exciting and a little scary too. Starting a tea business is no different. Whilst we would never profess to be experts in anything, we have had a lot of experience over the years helping and listening to customers as they start their tea businesses and would like to share some of our thoughts and observations with you relating to the very important tea part!

There are many types of business where tea can be sold – far too many to mention here, however even if your exact type of tea business isn’t mentioned in this post, hopefully you will find some information useful and of course, we are always on hand to talk with you and will help all we can – just get in touch.

Things to Consider

Now of course at Jenier we haven’t opened a tearoom, but we’ve worked alongside many people who have – indeed one of our award winning tearooms Dartmoor Tearooms, very kindly shared their practical thoughts in a top ten tips guide for us to share with you. You’ll find this at the following link: https://www.jenierteas.com/top-ten-tips-when-opening-a-tearoom-a251/

As far as teas are concerned, we always suggest the first thing is to decide the ambience you wish to create for your customers. What kind of experience do you wish them to have? The great thing is that good quality tea can fit into any ambience, we just need to think through all the options and what will work best for you and your business. So for example if you are a tearoom, it makes sense that you would want to be known for your teas and serving good quality will ensure repeat business, word of mouth marketing and good social media reviews – all of which are priceless. So we would always suggest going for the best quality teas you can. In the present climate, most clients we’re speaking to report their customers expect a ‘tea experience’ to offer a reasonable choice and to be able to cater for individual preference in an informed, relaxed environment. People are interested in tea but to venture outside the “just a cup of tea” request, they need to have some motivation to explore. This could be done via menus with enticing tea descriptions, colourful displays of the teas with perhaps the opportunity to touch or smell the teas prior to ordering. As you begin to sample teas, don’t forget how important water is to the equation of a ‘good cup of tea’ – you’ll find out more at the following link: https://www.jenierteas.com/the-importance-of-water-a175/

Your Starting Tea Range

If you are going to be serving tea don’t feel the need to offer too many teas when starting off – you can always add to your range as you get a feel for what your customers like and ask for – and believe us, they will let you know!. We would suggest starting your range with teas from across the various tea types whilst keeping in mind that a lot of customers will ask for a simple black tea – most commonly recognised as a ‘breakfast’ blend and more often (particularly in the UK) one that can be served with milk. So spend time sampling and agreeing on your ‘house’ tea – this is the one you’ll sell more of and to a lot of your customers, is the tea you’ll be known for. Keep in mind when making your opening tea order that whilst you don’t want to overstock on any tea, you will need to buy more of your ‘house tea’ so build this into your budget.

Serving Your Tea

But what about from the serving perspective? The next step is to decide in what format you should serve your teas. Well, we’ve seen successful implementation of individual and combinations of all types of loose leaf, pyramids, classic teabags, individually wrapped teabags – but it might be helpful to take a little closer look at each format independently and look at the pros and cons of each. However, before that, there might be even a more basic topic that needs to be examined and believe us, there is nothing unusual about this question – we get asked all the time – what exactly is tea and what are the differences? If you would like to know a little more on this subject please check out our Quick Guide to Tea post: https://www.jenierteas.com/quick-guide-to-tea-a233/

Loose Leaf Tea

From our experience it will not come as a surprise that loose leaf teas are the most popular choice for many businesses wishing to focus on tea. The benefits are of course the quality leaf teas you can access in this form along with a wide range that can be changed, with relative ease, throughout the year to reflect seasonal changes. Ok so they are popular, but working with loose leaf teas in a commercial environment needs to be thought through as the last thing you want are expensive plumbing bills as a result of block drains full of tea leaves. So what are the options?

  • Infuser Teapots

    There are many different styles on the market, although the choice is slightly limited by the design necessities infuser teapots have, so they might not always look right if you were looking for a vintage tearoom look. In our experience, the most popular ones are those that will hold around 2 – 3 teacups (around 500 - 750ml) with a stainless steel mesh infuser. Even here there is detail to consider. You need the mesh to be as fine and as strong as it can be, have plenty of room and extend as far down into the teapot as possible to allow the leaves plenty of room to unfurl and infuse. Be aware that repeated use will eventually cause your mesh infuser to look pretty tired, so if you can buy spares great, if not factor in replacement teapots. The next thing to consider is how many teapots will you need? Remember, you’ll need to get the leaves out of the infuser, clean the infuser and the teapot and get that teapot back into service, so make sure you have enough teapots to cope with your busier times. Emptying the leaves out of the infuser will need to be a well-disciplined process if you’re to avoid sink blockages so make sure your staff are clear on the process to be adopted – perhaps have the food waste bin on route to the sink so the first stop is disposing of the leaves.
    At the table, your customer may wish to remove the infuser to halt the infusion process, so be aware they will attempt this, even if not necessary. It might be a good idea to have a small dish for them to place the infuser and leaves into, but make sure you explain that the baskets are likely to be very hot (as are the teapot lids) and to be careful of burns.

  • Simple Tea Strainer

    An attractive tea strainer always looks very impressive and certainly from the tea’s perspective, allows the loose tea leaves to have lots of room inside the teapot to infuse. As with anything in a commercial environment, you need to try to ensure any equipment used can cope with repeated use and even the best made strainers will become tired looking and require replacing. In relying on the strainer to do the work of controlling the tea leaves, this does of course open up your choice of teapots to any style, traditional, vintage or modern, but the process of getting the remaining leaves out of the teapot, cleaning the teapot and getting it ready for service again, can be quite an issue if not thought through. There will be some leaves trapped in the teapot and pouring spout, so you may need to use running water to clear. There is a hazard of course, if leaves repeatedly find their way down the sinkhole, your drains could get blocked. One solution may be to use a large industrial sieve over the sink to allow enough room to rinse out the teapots and catch any tea leaves as they’re rinsed out. The tea leaves can then, periodically, be emptied out from the sieve safely into the waste or compost bin.

  • T-FILTERS™

    These are perhaps one of the most versatile solutions we see in action. They are filters made from sustainable, non-bleached paper so are environmentally friendly and control the loose tea leaves in the teapot or teacup, without restricting the style of teapot you can use. In addition, they can be removed very easily from any teapot, do not get hot like stainless steel infusers and as they can be disposed of directly into the waste or compost bin along with the leaves, make cleaning and getting the teapot back into service very easy. One other advantage is that they can also be pre-filled prior to service and stored in an airtight box ready for use. The cut away at the neck of the T- FILTERS™ allows for easy filling and the gusset bottom allow the filters to stand up in the teapot. Most people report simply trapping the filter top in the lid of the teapot makes for a very easy, controlled infusion process. Of course these T-FILTERS™ are non-bleached, so do have a darker appearance and if the top of the filters are trapped by the teapot lid are visible to your customers, so as with all the potential infusion solutions, we would advocate testing to make sure it works for you. A lot of our customers report that the appearance and mechanism of the T-FILTERS™ actually enhances the experience for their customer by openly demonstrating a commitment to care for the environment.

  • Stainless Steel Infuser Mesh Balls/Pincers

    These are quite a popular solution but still have the disposal of the loose leaf teas to contend with. Processes as mentioned earlier could indeed help, but one other point to make about this type of infuser is that there is obviously a seam where the two halves of the ball mesh meet. For larger leaf teas this does not cause a problem, however for some smaller leaf teas and herbal infusions, there can sometimes be leakages of the finer leaves into the teacup or teapot. Again, we would suggest test driving before buying in any bulk to make sure this method works for you and the tea range you intend to sell.

Pyramid Tea Bags

We have over 55 teas and infusions in a pyramid teabag form. Pyramid tea bags are very convenient way of infusing loose leaf tea and a great way of portioning the tea into cup servings. The pyramid mesh we use is made from a form of corn-starch, which is the best commercially, bio-degradable material available for pyramid mesh infusers at this time. As the pyramids have a string and tag attached to them, they are ideal if you wanted to offer tea by the cup allowing your customer to have more control of the infusion process. Also, there is a real visual experience as your customers can watch the loose leaf tea infuse in their cup. You may wish to offer a pot of hot water for a second infusion or to simply top up the cup, but we would advise trying this out first to see how it would work for you. You may wish to consider how you would price for a cup of tea as opposed to a ‘pot of tea’? If you feel you would simply prefer to use pyramids with a teapot, this is of course possible, however be aware of the teabag portions and make sure you use enough pyramid teabags to ensure your customer enjoys a good strength of tea. For best results we suggest ‘test driving’ your teapots before you begin serving to understand exactly how many cups you actually do get from your teapot – you might be surprised! When compared to loose leaf tea, pyramids teabags are more expensive on a ‘per cup’ serving basis.

Classic Premium Tea Bags – no string, no tags.

In a food service environment, there is often a need for a classic teabag but this does not mean you have to compromise on quality. Just because you may need the more common format of a teabag does not mean you need to settle for the tea used inside to be low grade and tasteless. For our classic range we take good quality teas and have them fine cut into a size suitable for a quicker, teabag infusion. We make sure that for speed and ease the amount of tea we pack inside the classic teabags is the equivalent of a 2 cup portion making the teabags both cost effective, efficient but most importantly, still great tasting. This format is ideal for service where there is less emphasis on the experience of the tea infusion part of the service, perhaps speed and higher volumes need to be considered, for example a busy self-service breakfast. As with all formats, we suggest always trying out first in the teapots you’re going to be using to ensure you’re delivering the best tasting tea you can.

Individually Wrapped ‘Tag & Envelope’ Teas

This product range was developed to provide good quality fine cut tea, in a competitively priced way that would cater for the occasion where tea was not necessarily being ‘served’ as such, but left more for your customers to infuse themselves. An example would be in hotel rooms, or bed & breakfast or take away. The teabags are manufactured in such a way that they are quickly sealed into their individual barrier protective foil envelope, ensuring the tea is kept away from light, air, moisture and strong odours and is kept fresh. The individual wrapping of the teabags contributes towards portion control and unnecessary waste as your customer need only open one foil envelope at a time. When developing the range, we asked for input from our customers and it was clear that to assist with more modern serving sizes in hotel rooms such as mugs and larger take away cups, each teabag needed to contain more tea weight to cater for newer serving styles.

Selling Your Teas

If you serve teas, customers will often ask if they can buy the tea to take home with them. You can of course package teas to sell but we’ve also put a lot of thought into how we might help. The principle behind. ‘My Own Label’ is to provide you with personalised, shelf ready, retail packages that will support your business (at very low minimum order quantities) and encourage your customers to buy teas directly from you. We understand that you may wish to have your own bespoke design and this is possible too with our 'My Design' service.

So in essence you’ll see tea can be served and sold in a variety of ways. You may choose to start using only one way, or you may need to choose a combination of tea solutions – there is no right or wrong way, just the way that will work best for you and your business.

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