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Theta Ridge Coffee


By Jennifer Magid

If the numbers are any indication, then tea is surely becoming to the 2000’s what coffee was to the ‘90’s - a bonafide “lifestyle” item. Its symbolism as a drink that is relaxing and beneficial to health proves to be gaining in mainstream appeal. This could be due to the growing number of baby boomers looking for any and all solutions for longevity, or it could be due to a “Starbucks generation” backlash. Either way, the numbers show that U.S. total tea sales are expected to grow from $4.8 billion in 2002 to $5.8 billion by 2005. * So what are companies doing that is making tea’s popularity rise?

Take It Personally
Many companies are working to create a niche in an industry where the possibilities are currently endless. Some are doing this by turning their personal beliefs into products. One example is Te Teas, which prides itself as providing only the highest quality whole leaf tea. This is because founder and president Kevin Luu takes the company very personally - he created it as a homage to the drink that he was raised on. Reared in a traditional Chinese family, Luu grew up with tea being the most consumed beverage in his house next to water. When as an adult Luu couldn’t find premium whole leaf estate tea on a consistent basis, he decided it was time to take matters into his own hands. Te Teas, based in California, was his solution, and the whole focus of the company is to provide rare hand picked whole leaf teas from the world’s top tea growing estates. No teabags, flavored or herbal tea allowed. Apparently, Luu’s vision is working - the line recently won first place for both Best Non-Alcoholic Beverage Chef’s Choice and Non-Alcoholic Beverage People’s Choice at the 12th Annual International Hospitality Celebration.

Hampstead Teas/UK president Kiran Tawadey created her organic tea line thanks to her son’s eczema. When she found out her son was allergic to additives found in common foods like orange juice, she set about researching the chemicals and additives in many foods to find alternative sources. Tea became a homage to her son’s allergies when she contacted the proprietor of the Makaibari plantation Darjeeling, who she had met years earlier in her travels. His tea estate had been converted to organic production of teas; Tawadey realized that there might be a worldwide interest in drinking truly organic tea, and her company was born. The company now offers predominantly leaf rather than teabag based teas, as Kiran believes that leaf teas provide a higher quality, better taste.

About 66% of the estate that cultivates Hampstead Teas is undisturbed rain forest. The plantation is also Demeter Certified Biodynamic. Beyond just organic cultivation, the estate gives workers living wage, plus annual bonus and better living conditions than other estates.

Mount of Olives Treasures Herbal Tea.
Design is Making a Difference
Many companies are designing products that attract attention by going beyond looking like average teabags. Teaosophy, a new line of premium teas, aims to give the consumer an experience that is uplifting both visually and to the taste.

The company, which is based in Fife, Washington, has designed a unique pyramid shaped silken mesh tea pod. The pod’s shape allows water to circulate around the leaves, in turn giving them the appearance of “dancing.” The benefit of this design is it allows the leaves to expand and move more freely than traditional flat teabags, which gives a fuller infusion of flavor and aroma for the drinker. Flat teabags are known for typically containing tea “dust,” or the remnants of the tea leaves, which makes it harder to control flavor intensity. “The larger leaves and tea pod allow drinkers to control the infusion of the tea - regulating its flavor intensity and eliminating the infusion of any chemical or paper remnants that can seep into the tea from paper dip-and-go bags,” says Amy Paulose, vice president of brand development. “This result is loose tea’s robust flavors with the convenience of a teabag.”

The brand’s creator, George Paulose, who is a native of India, has used his connections to his country to his advantage. He is able to personally taste and choose his own teas, which has led to Teaosophy’s current line of five flavors: Kerala, Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, and Ceylon. Each flavor is grown from a different region in India and Sri Lanka.

On a similar note, the Adagio Tea Company used some unique marketing strategies when it sent out its latest tea catalog to interested consumers. Many customers were surprised when a CD arrived in the mail- instead of a catalog. Upon opening it, there is actually a 24 page, 4 by 4 inch book. But why the music theme? Turn to the back of the catalog, and you’ll see the slogan: “receive disk free with your first order.” The CD is of full length, and features classical music - perfect to have on in the background when sipping on a hot cup of tea.

Close to 7,000 of these catalogs have been mailed out in the last year, and according to Ilya Kreyerman, chief technology officer of the company, it’s been an ideal way to make sure consumers keep their catalog around. “Because of our unique catalog packaging, we feel that people will hold onto our catalog whereas most others are discarded,” Kreyerman told DMNews.com in a recent article. “We never thought of printing a typical catalog.”

By not just including the cd with the catalog, Kreyerman says the company is avoiding the problems associated with giving out free product when you’re small in size. The promise of the free gift with purchase has resulted in a 10 percent response rate and an average order of $30-35, levels the company is pleased with.

Adagio offers an assortment of teas: loose teas, organic teas, loose teas in a bag, display teas, and an iced green tea drink called “Anteadote,” which contains nothing more than green tea, water and Vitamin C. They also have a hot selling “starter set,” which includes a 16-ounce teapot with three one-ounce samples of teas ranging from English Breakfast to Earl Grey.

Teasophy's various flavor selection, which are packaged in mesh tea pods.
An Emphasis on
Therapeutic Benefits

To stand out in the marketplace, some companies are trying to publicize their healthy benefits. Take for example the line of teas made from resources in Jerusalem. The Mount of Olives, which are multi-summited limestone ridges in Jerusalem, is considered a significant place of history and spirituality. Drawing millions of visitors annually, the area is filled with olive trees, fragrant plants and herbs. Enter the Mount of Olives Treasures line of teas, which aims to give the consumer the feeling of being cleansed through their drinking of the tea.

Organically grown and naturally flavored, the herbal ingredients in the blends are cultivated from the Galilee region and the Jordan Valley. Special flavors include olive and grape leaf, as well as blends in categories such as “purifying and meditative,” “soothing and relaxing,” and “revitalizing and refreshing.” Two blends contain black and green tea, while the rest are blends of herbs and spices. But all the flavors will be sold at Bloomingdale’s stores nationwide this April.

The philosophy behind 15 Minutes Organic Teas is that everyone, no matter how busy, deserves to enjoy a great cup of tea. The product line, based in Scotland is certified organic by the Soil Association, an independent charity for sustainable development. The line has an “urban” feel to it, and includes all organic teas in six flavors: berry, black, sweet chamomile, Earl Grey, green, and peppermint & licorice. Each teabag has a witty musing on the back of the packet, which helps to personalize the tea drinking experience and connect the consumer to the brand. For example, the black tea packet says, “our blender says it’s got the genuine Hill Country Uva flavour. Whatever that means.” The product is designed for self-service, which means that coffee bars can sit the product on their counter and customers can help themselves. The company provides a branded rack for holding the product, and the boxes are meant to sit next to each other - the image on the front runs across the three boxes in a row for maximum impact.

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Suppliers Weigh In
Given all the strong marketing tactics currently going on in the tea industry, what do suppliers think about the new initiatives packers are taking? According to Lucia Romagnoli of Tecnomeccanica SRL, located in Italy, the launch of teabags with ever-changing shapes has spiced up the market. “Even if I must say that the prevalent shapes remain the teabag with string and tag and the tagless bag, the trend to get rid of staples in the future is already clearly set,” she said. “In recent years, we have also seen a trend to “wear” filter bags in brilliant, shiny outer pouches, that give a new image to the product. Our advice is to go for such attractive outer envelopes, whatever the filter bag inside.”

Guillermo Mai, president of MAI S.A., located in Argentina, feels that the whole of the markets in the world are continuing to use existing teabags. But, “what is noticeable is a change in the teabag’s product, as day by day packers look for packing teas with flowers and leaves of a larger size than they used to pack, because that’s what the market asks for,” he said.

The possibilities in the tea market are clearly growing - and there are many opportunities to join in while tea is still hot.

* Courtesy of Te Teas.

Tea & Coffee - June/July, 2004

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