Late last month I returned from Montreal after spending a week working with the owners of an incredible new tea bar opening in the downtown core. Having aptly named it “Téh Bar – the new face of tea”, Renoi, Olivier, and Jean Marc are set to change the perception of premium loose-leaf tea in French-speaking Canada.
Two years in the making, this compact and thoroughly researched concept was initially designed as an inline store for shopping malls or street fronts. With premium café real estate being scarce to non-existent in metropolitan areas, a year spent searching for a space did not yield any results for the trio.
Word eventually spread that Renoi & partners were launching something a lot more than a Ma & Pa operation. It was clear that this was the genesis of a tea concept that would grow into a national brand and in the process convert hundreds of thousands into loose-leaf tea drinkers and aficionados.
Perseverance certainly paid off. During the two years that the concept was solidifying in the psyches of the group, a partner left the team, a relationship break-up occurred, deals for spaces were near the signing point on several occasions and then evaporated, and another tea concept launched in their own backyard. For a time, it seemed like the universe was throwing them every curve ball it could muster.
I was confident though, and after meeting the group several times to discuss the installation of a new Teapresso in their tea bar, I quickly realized that this was no ordinary group who wanted to open a “little tea shop”. Their sheer abundance of creative talent was obvious as was their dedication to their dream of opening the best tea bar in Quebec and possibly even in North America. No stone was left unturned – every tea supplier in North America was contacted and asked to provide samples for tasting and evaluation, the retail line was carefully weighed and considered, and the tea-infused nibblies were created from scratch for the new store. We slurped lots of tea, and narrowed it down to just 3-4 suppliers. Only the “best of the best” would be served at Téh Bar.
The new Steam-Plus 3 Group Teapresso I installed is the first one in Eastern Canada, sitting front and center in their inaugural store. Renoi and I spent quite a bit of time inventing new drinks and perfecting some of the classics like the Chai Latte and London Fog. We both expect Montrealers to be blown away by the flavor and quality of the tea drinks Téh Bar’s new Teapresso pumps out. It is a noble grandstand for the machine and will test its potential repeatedly to the Quebec audience.
Sunday, August 23, was Day 1 for Téh Bar. I called Renoi at the end of that first day from Toronto to see how things went and congratulate her and her partners, Olivier and Jean Marc. She was ecstatic! I could hear the excitement in her voice. A few days later I spoke to Olivier, who, although sounding somewhat exhausted, conveyed elation in his voice. He said simply, “the numbers are better than I thought”.
I asked what the most popular drink of the day was? Without so much as a moment’s hesitation, the answer came – “Matcha” – freshly whisked and shaken over ice with a natural flavor essence. They went crazy for it!
Big kudos and thanks to Renoi, Olivier, and Jean Marc. The lesson of the day to any budding entrepreneur? – Perseverance does pay off.