I remember being envious of New Yorkers, as a former east coaster myself, when three years ago the Paris-based tea company Palais des Thés open their shops in Manhattan. I was, however, shocked and disappointed to learn that they decided to close their doors at both locations. Founded in Paris in 1986 by François-Xavier Delmas he has evolved and expanded his chain into 37 locations in France, one in Japan and Israel and 9 other locations sprinkled around the EU. I understand they will locate an office in SoHo along with a tasting room so maybe we can’t say they’re totally out of the Big Apple. If they can’t make it in Soho, perhaps the trendiest location in the city, there’s just no hope for tea at all I’m afraid.
It troubles me to hear about another tea shop that is cutting back its U.S. presence, especially when the growth of tea in the U.S. continues to rise. Are they choosing the wrong locations? Is their staff not adequately trained? Are their teas just not wonderful?
We’ve got a grand total of 1 tea house in my little community ( population 7,167) of Hood River, Oregon called Good Medicine Tea. Despite being located away from the downtown strip, they manage to attract a local following by providing a delightful, peaceful environment with an engaging staff and delicious teas. If they can make a go of it, why not others? I know we’ve had this discussion many times over the years, and one as recently as last week, written by Diane Walden, but I’m just not satisfied with what makes one shop vibrant and successful while another one fails, although Chef Wemischner makes some good points also.
Yes, real estate prices in Hood River are low, but lots of pockets around the country have similar leasing price points. Is it the cities where the cost to lease or buy is just so expensive that it’s hard to overcome that monthly expense? Is it the personal attention one gets from smaller venues in little towns and villages where, like they said on the t.v. series Cheers, “where everybody knows your name”? I do like developing a relationship with my host/server, whether it’s at my favorite restaurant or my tea shop. It feels wonderful to be asked, “Do you want your regular?”
I came upon an interesting article this morning. This century-old tea family operating under the name of Harishpur Tea Estate is attempting to appeal to the younger generation of tea drinkers in India. From providing tea at cinemas, which I think is a terrific idea, and allowing customers in other locations to create their own custom blends which can then be saved on an app, are both innovative ideas to encourage the growth of tea.
So how do the big chains create passionate customers? Is it simply the location or the tea selections available there? I’d love to hear what keeps you going back to your favorite tea shop.