elyseI’ve spent the past month traveling to events, pouring tea, and sharing the stories of tea culture direct from the farm as marketing activities for my startup, Tealet. These events have taken me from San Francisco to New York City, Chicago, and Austin. Most notable among these events was South by South West (SXSW), an annual gathering of tech, film, and music enthusiasts. We were part of cloud-hosting company Rackspace’s Winner’s Circle, a collection of startups that demonstrate the diverse uses of their products. Many attendees were surprised to be offered a cup of tea and asked what we were doing in such a high-technology environment. It brought great happiness to us to see that the majority of people we interacted with were either tea lovers or tea curious. Below are a few key points I took away as tea relates to pop culture.

Hip Alternative

Most attendees of SXSW were newbies to the tea world. Everyone loved the tea, whether it was a Hawaii Grown Green, Indian Grown White, or sweet Japanese Kabuse Sencha. Their past experiences with tea hadn’t gone beyond Earl Grey, but they were all extremely curious about tea. When asked why they were interested, the most common answer was simply that they wanted a beverage as interesting as coffee to supplement consumption of their favorite caffeine source. In an attempt to either eliminate or reduce their coffee consumption due to health concerns, people were happy to learn about the wide range of tea options that can be found around the world.

Rich Tea Culture

Attendees of SXSW are enthusiasts of music, art, and tech – the pillars of modern culture. After sharing a cup of tea, people asked questions about how and where the tea was grown and processed. When we showed our videos of tea farms in Japan and Hawaii, people were intrigued and asked more detailed questions about the culture of tea. They loved to hear stories of why tea culture has been quiet in the U.S., but is still thriving in populations around the world. Tea culture is growing stronger as a viral generation discovers the beauty of our favorite steeped beverage.

Appreciation of Origin

Although many of the people we interacted with didn’t have a long relationship with tea, they were quick to understand the value farm-direct distribution provides the industry. Lunch trucks and trendy restaurants have established a theme of sustainability, which shows that consciousness is hip. This is great for the farmers that we promote at Tealet because the new consumer wants to connect with the producer. We explained that our growers share their stories through social media, building a scalable connection between them and millions of tea lovers around the world. The market values products that are connected to their origin and marketed through stories.

If you are a retailer of tea and interested in my learning points, please feel free to email me at elyse@tealet.com and we can talk.