Why is it that this beverage inspires communal drinking, more so than coffee? Espresso bars commonly have drinkers who have come in on their own, sitting or standing shoulder to shoulder with the morning paper or their laptops. But tea places tend to attract groups – whether it be pairs of people or more, chatting or working quietly together. And the beverage itself is oftentimes a shared pot as opposed to a single serving. Always made me wonder.
As a business, the tea industry is far more of a community than many other sectors. I can easily call one of my competitors and ask for advice or a contact. This is not the community feel one gets from the coffee or chocolate industries. Granted, we specialty tea people are in a small and growing niche. The pie is large enough and growing so that newcomers are not unwelcome. We can cheer for every bit of progress made for the industry sector as a whole, whether it’s contributed by our own company, or another.
“Eat your view” is becoming a popular bumper sticker, perhaps thanks to Michael Pollan, the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I was recently struck by my local community’s outpouring for the people displaced by the devastating Fourmile Fire here earlier this month. With over 2,000 people displaced by the mandatory evacuations, fewer than 20 actually took advantage of the shelters. Many of us opened our doors to friends or displaced animals. It dawned on me that this community lives and eats their contributions to society every day – by loyally shopping at our farmer’s market (the most crowded place in town on any Saturday), by faithfully becoming guardians of homeless animals (our shelter has the longest “no kill” record in the country), and by consistently walking the walk with our recyclables and compostables and winding up on the list of the Top 10 greenest cities in the U.S.
At The Tea Spot, my colleagues and I subscribe to that same “eat your view” mentality and are highly motivated by our social mission to “walk the talk.” Of course, we’re grateful to be growing and thriving through the currently challenging economic times, something which doesn’t happen by accident. We focus very hard on our business metrics. But the final goal – the light at the end of the road – is in our ability to affect people’s wellness. We don’t have the expertise or the means here to develop vaccines against nasty diseases. But we can, hopefully, enliven our customer community by making them aware of the benefits of steeping fresh loose-leaf tea, especially if it can replace a high-fat/calorie or chemically laden beverage treat.
In the end, whether we realize it yet or not, the precious thing that we are all part of and responsible to is the community.