Winter is by far my favorite time of year to reflect upon our successes and not-so-successful efforts at the teahouse during the year, and this year has yielded a few surprises in terms of trends. In no particular order, here are the top 5 teahouse trends I’ve noticed this year:
1. Oolong and green tea sales were up. Flavored/scented tea sales remained relatively flat. Along with this, I’ve seen more oolong “converts,” which seems to be a natural category to move into if you’re looking for something exciting (and, at times, unpredictable) to explore.
2. New and current patrons in 2010 were even more educated about green and oolong teas than they were last year. As grateful as I am for the marketing efforts of the large tea companies and shows such as Dr. Oz for helping to educate the public about tea’s many attributes, I am particularly grateful to our fellow tea drinkers for educating their friends and family, thus spreading the good news about tea. This is key, and quite telling.
3. Continued strong interest in tea tastings, particularly single-focus teas – our matcha tastings were our most well-attended of the year. I was pleasantly surprised by how well-attended our tastings were, despite the poor economy, empty storefonts on either side of us, and horrendous construction outside our door. This said a lot to me in terms of our guests’ interest in teas and wanting to drill down further into topics such as production, culture, and health benefits.
4. Repeat guests came in looking for new ways of making tea in different situations. For example, they might have purchased a teapot for home use and were looking for something to use at the office or in their car. Perhaps the to-go tea cup will become as ubiquitous as that sleeved/lidded coffee cup we see everywhere. (Can someone please design a cool-looking, biodegradable to-go cup that says TEA TEA TEA on it?)
5. I was pleasantly surprised to see more lone guests this year drinking tea without laptops, instead simply reading books or journaling while they sipped and nibbled. This could be due to the economy, but given that I had hoped people would feel comfortable enough to visit us alone to self-reflect, seeing this happen is refreshing and encouraging.
All the best to everyone for a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2011, and many thanks to T Ching for providing us with this wonderful forum to express our tea thoughts, and to all our loyal patrons at the teahouse over the past year. I’ve been very fortunate to have some meaningful interactions that I’ll remember fondly for years to come.