Now that we had the tea sommelier intact, it was time to finalize the product offering. I came across so many teas during my travels abroad and I knew there was no way we could offer all of them. I also knew that offering too many choices would be a detriment to our business. Based on my experience, simple is better. Having hundreds of teas may sound impressive, but, in reality, it could be overwhelming for the average consumer, especially for the novice. We had identified that consumers in the domestic market were not as educated in their tea knowledge as they were in the international markets. We wanted to make the experience as simple and pleasurable as possible. Plus, we wanted to ensure that our teas were as fresh as they could be, and having hundreds of varieties would’ve meant that many of our teas would’ve been sitting on the shelves for months. So we began coming up with various tea blends with the goal to have no more than 30 varieties. We knew that just because a particular tea worked abroad didn’t mean that it would automatically be a hit here in the U.S., so we began hosting tea tastings with our closest friends and created a scoring system for each tasting. We conducted blind tastings with a scoring system of 0 – 10 and chose only those that scored an 8.5 out of 10 or better.
It was also important to us that our teas be easy to identify and categorized in an intuitive manner. I love music and I don’t know a single person out there who doesn’t appreciate music. Music really is a common element that is enjoyed by all, whether it is reggae, hip-hop, jazz, or classical. So we decided to correlate music + tea – for every genre of music, there is a type of tea! What the world categorized as blends and infusions, we decided to categorize with a musical twist – Mixes, Remixes, and Uncuts. Mixes are Tavalon’s own propriety blends that can only be found at Tavalon. Remixes are Tavalon’s take on existing blends, such as English Breakfast (which we call NYC Breakfast). Uncuts are pure/unblended teas that cater to the more refined palates and connoisseurs. With our Mixes, we had an entry-level line of products for tea novices. The Remixes could accommodate the more seasoned tea drinkers who wanted something different, and the Uncuts could appeal to the tea purists.
Five years into the game, we still have not figured out what the magical number is in terms of product offerings, but we have added and subtracted quite a few products since our inception. Tea-knowledge levels in the domestic market have improved significantly and we are constantly evolving to adjust to the changing trends. I’m sure we’ll get it perfect one day, but for now, it is still trial and error to come up with that flawless line-up.