Before the days of mega-chains and Walmart-like businesses that carry seemingly anything, businesses prided themselves in specializing in a very niche segment of whatever category they were in. There are still a handful of us that see tremendous value and beauty in keeping very minimal, but the shift for tea companies and even cafes and teashops to carry hundreds of teas is the new norm.
In visiting a café recently in Nevada, I asked the owner how many teas he carries. “We started off with just a few, but now have around 60.”
I asked how many of those are ordered on a regular basis, “Maybe 5 or so.”
If one walks into any café or asks a tea purveyor the same question, I think we will find that a very small portion of one’s menu is being regularly ordered. The big reason is they, of course, do not want to have to turn down customers who want a peach green tea or a vanilla oolong. We can all agree on this, but what is overlooked is the fact that businesses are really made also on what they do NOT sell. As purveyors, and shop owners, we have the option to easily carry hundreds of teas; to be a one-stop shop for all teas. What is lost here is the integrity of the curator and perhaps the trust of the consumer who wants to buy each specific tea category from one who specializes in that category.
This is why big-box stores do so well. Sure, the bread from the bakery down the street is way better, but that means I have to drive over there and I am already here at the supermarket. Now supermarkets act as pharmacists, butchers, farmers market, bakeries, florists, and much more. Sure, it is very convenient, but so much is lost and the masters and curators are put in an odd position of, “Well, should I carry those too?”