Dan Bolton is a writer who has covered tea stories for many publications, including World Tea News. I always enjoy reading what he has to say about things he has found, or just hearing his opinions from his extensive experience and industry contacts. I was thrilled when I read this from him in a recent World Tea News publication: “Teavana continues to experiment with retail concepts because no one, including Starbucks, has developed the definitive large scale format for tea retail.”
Wow! Does that leave any doubt that there is huge opportunity in the tea retail space? Not for me! We’ve had a 3-year hiatus from our retail store, and have done online sales and developed our 1-minute brewing technology (which we hope to introduce sometime in 2016 to food service) and I’ve had a lot of time to think about tea retail during that time. I agree totally with Dan Bolton and, of course, I also believe a large part of that is the lack of the right commercial brewing system. One of the most recent posts on T Ching was by Holly Helt, and she talked about the challenge of being able to brew great tea consistently on a commercial level, and how different that is from being able to brew it at home.
That problem, however, is not the only challenge with finding a really ‘killer’ tea retail concept. We’ve all seen a number of concept styles, everything from Asian to English to coffee-house modern/contemporary. While all of them can work, none of them have rolled out into a national or international hit on the level of the coffee-house chains. And, as Dan said, not even Starbucks has found it. Hey…we’re talking about the #2 beverage in the world after water!
So, having stepped back 3 years and looked at the situation, I’m still watching, listening and getting ready to offer a great tea brewing solution on the commercial level. And yes, I love challenges and big opportunities, and we’re still looking at getting back into retail with a concept we have been thinking about–one that we don’t see out there in the way we would like to see it done.
Maybe we could put our tea-infused brains together here and discuss this subject further. I think, like Dan Bolton, a lot of us are sitting on the edge of our seats waiting to see who will be first to come up with the concept that absolutely nails everything tea retail should be. I’d love to discuss it here in the comments or off-line at firstname.lastname@example.org with anyone who is passionate or interested in the subject! It’s amazing, but over a decade after the current retail tea concepts many people now know about started forming, the race is just beginning. This ‘tea thing’ has proven to be a marathon, not a sprint, and I, for one, am thrilled that the running lanes are still wide open and no one has gotten so far ahead that the rest of us don’t have a fighting chance!