What would attract you most to a new tea shop?


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What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Charles » Dec 4th, '09, 10:28

So I'm designing a new tea retail concept. I have plenty of ideas for making it different, interactive and exciting for the customer. The hard part is deciding which will be worth the investment. For example, will allowing customers to blend their own teas drive enough extra business to cover the cost of the extra space, staffing and mess?

Read more about my ideas and plans at http://www.tearetailer.com/article_2.html and let me know what YOU would most respond to.

Thanks!

Charles Cain
Adagio Teas
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Mrs. Chip » Dec 4th, '09, 12:00

Welcome to TC Charles!

The plans you are formulating sound interesting. Much success to you in this new endeavor. Some feedback to follow, probably over the weekend as time allows. Thanks for the informative link.
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Zmoore0890 » Dec 4th, '09, 17:10

I really like the idea of the Tea Theater, and know that in a lot of cases, I'd be more likely to buy a larger quantity of tea if I knew what it tasted like. I almost always buy a sample unless I've already tried the tea and know I enjoy it. A perfect example is the Pomegranate black tea: I bought the sample and really enjoyed it. By the time my order of 8 oz came to my door, I had long since finished the sample. By being able to try it in the store I would have most likely started out by buying at least 4oz if not the whole 8oz. Also, I think the tea theater allows your employees to make suggestions to the customer that you don't get by simply ordering online. An employee could share their own thoughts on the tea and recommend other teas that the customer might enjoy, or if the customer doesn't like the tea they're trying, direct them to something different. Not knowing a lot about running a business, I can't really guide you for the cost efficiency of the tea theater, but as a customer I think the idea is amazing.

~Zachary Moore
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby bsteele » Dec 4th, '09, 22:02

First thing I have to get out there: Don't be Teavana. I started ranting... but decided to re-write my post. There's plenty that has already been said on that topic... 16 pages so far ;)

I guess a tea shop's attractiveness would really depend on one's prior tea experience and knowledge.

I want to step in a tea shop and feel like a little kid in a candy shop... or whatever analogy you want to use. Tea sensory overload would be freakin' awesome to me. There are plenty here on TC that would truly appreciate a tea theater experience.

But a tea n00b would not share the same experience initially. They would most likely be overwhelmed and feel really insecure maybe? Which I guess is where an awesome staff really comes into play.

Make sure the staff is friendly and not constantly trying to hard sell goods. Obviously business is business and inventory has to turn but there is a better way. Though I guess Teavana use's the sales tactics they do for a reason.

So coming back around: it's got to be a sensory experience... I want to feel welcomed... it's got to be trustworthy.

I dunno. Those are just a few of the thoughts that went through my mind as I was writing this. More will come later I'm sure.

I really look forward to the next few months and this new journey Adagio is taking. Thanks for including the TC community!
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Janine » Dec 5th, '09, 10:29

I can't tell you what would drive in the folks by the millions, but I can tell you some of the things I like:

Authenticity: teas that reflect tastes and criteria developed where people have drunk tea for centuries and grow it: China, Taiwan, India, Japan and good traditional blends for export.

Tasting: I don't buy tea I haven't already been able to try, for the most part, unless something comes highly recommended by someone I know. (I freely acknowledge this is because I'm lucky and spoiled to be able to do this.)
I often taste and compare teas, for example teas in the same category. So there should be a tasting option priced for say, three teas at once or more if that's what someone wants. Let's say there are five new teas from a season of Taiwan oolong: it's a nice introduction to be able to taste and compare the variety of flavors.

There's nothing like a tearoom that reflects the traditional idea of being able to spend time and relaxing: talking to friends or reading a book, etc. That doesn't mean you want people to park for hours with computers (although many traditionally minded tea houses allow it because it reflects the traditional idea of a teahouse as a place to do everything, including art and business), but it does imply a particular atmosphere.

Sell tea snacks or very light foods - it will make some money, hopefully, and people will be able to keep drinking tea.

Tea Ware and teapots for sale, and books esp on tea. Lectures and tastings are great. Have copies of "Teahouse," the play by Lao She :-)

And good, polite customer service a must; great bonus having people who can answer questions and enjoy talking about tea and sharing their knowledge - who love tea. I think snobbery for its own sake is idiotic, there's always someone who knows more than you do: people should be able to be polite to those who are brand new to tea.

That's where I'd start.
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Charles » Dec 7th, '09, 13:29

I completely understand the desire for a cafe or restaurant with a passion for tea. I'm not convinced that is what Adagio would be best at, or that a business can be successful trying to serve two masters. The best cafes don't carry hundreds of teas and the best tea retail shops don't serve food and have seating. Rather than try to write out the full strategy here, I've drafted another piece explaining the logic behind the Adagio Retail Strategy... http://www.tearetailer.com/article_19.html.
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Janine » Dec 7th, '09, 15:50

Ah, I didn't understand you meant this to be a strictly retail shop. In that case I have the following suggestions:

Teance (Berkeley, CA) has a tea bar. I'd have minimal seating (so you don't need to install special bathrooms if you wish to avoid this expense)... I think Teance's bar seats 6 but I'm not sure. The point of the bar is so that people can taste, and also you can organize tastings -- or they can just offer certain teas the owner decides on in a roster all day long. You could take reservations for this or let people walk in the door or both. Either way, I think it's to a great advantage to let people taste teas. I'd also organize formal tastings of groups of tea to introduce people to tea.

After all, I've no doubt the more time a customer spends in the store, the more money they're likely to spend.

Knowledgeable sales reps are a must - to show teaware and talk about teas. Politeness is mandatory. Need I say stick to the hours posted. I'd still offer minimal tea snacks to go - this requires no cooking if you get, say, traditional Chinese tea snacks or packaged cookies that people can buy to go with the tea or as part of a gift package. And I'd still go with books on tea, and teaware. But you'd know the profit margin better than I.

Perhaps in this kind of set up decor will set the tone and mood and if fairly essential in addition to customer service. What kind of decor do you plan?
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby marlena » Dec 8th, '09, 17:25

You have to have staff that really knows about tea in a friendly, non threatening way - a mix of ages would be a plus, as older people might want to try something new but be intimidated by all young staff. Some place where people could see and smell the dry tea, apart from large store canisters. Not pushing product or hard goods. Maybe a medium size place. Maybe a few baked goods, just maybe three or 4 things -aroma brings people in. Something of a coffee house atmosphere - arm chairs, the newspaper,, cozy stuff.
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Janine » Dec 8th, '09, 18:23

great ideas, Marlena... I wouldn't have thought about variety in the ages of staff but it is a good idea
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Charles » Dec 8th, '09, 19:06

Great feedback and some good ideas. I've seen some tea retail environments that put the tea on the floor to be seen and smelled by the customer, but most shops keep the majority of the collection "behind the counter". My primary criticism of Teavana's model, if I may be so direct, is that you simply CANNOT look at tea without talking to a sales person.

I hope to flip this on its head and put every tea out on the floor where it can be seen, smelled and compared. The staff needs to be present but unassuming - out of the way unless called for. The only part that is still a bit of a question in my mind is where the consultation takes place if the customer requests it. If all the teas are out on the floor does the staff stand in front of the tea display and talk with the customer? Does this invade the customer's "space"? And how does it impact others who want to browse.

I KNOW I want to expose the customer to more tea, but we're still working out the operational details. :)
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Intuit » Dec 8th, '09, 20:13

Try the tea-bar concept.

Yes, patrons can ask to smell and taste a specific tea, on request. No, the teas aren't kept out where the customers can get their hands on it, unless its packaged. It's a hygiene thing.

Your floor is divided between a small tabled area for seating and prepackaged teas, and a long teabar area with stools.

Decor theme is up to you, but I would go for the old neighborhood corner bar theme... Oak and tile, understated but classy. It's instantly familiar, relaxing and encourages a bit of socializing in the evening, where customers can bring friends to try teas.

The tea bartenders can provide small labeled envelops of a tea to the patron while preparing a tasting sample. Using simple visual demonstration and re-iterating by providing oral brewing instructions, talking about the tea provenance and qualities while the customer sniffs and tastes the tea introduces and reinforces product familiarity in a friendly manner.

You can use tasting/aroma cup sets for the demos to standardize results.

Alongside your trademark flavored teas, considering including matcha, quality Japanese and Chinese greens, oolongs, blacks and yes, puerhs, emphasizing aged pu's ability to relax and promote good rest, sans caffeine. The idea is to graduate your new patrons to more sophisticated whole leaf unflavored teas.

In another thread you asked about what attracts us to tea: the answer is oral fixation. Once you have introduced a curious customer to better teas, if they are looking for new oral sensations, they will take to it enthusiastically. It's psychological and physiological, and it's habit-forming for those that are hardwired for strong stress-reducing response to certain ingredients in these specialty products

fine wines and liquors
microbrew beers
baked goods / deserts
cigars/pipe tobacco

You can offer tea snacks and sell same in packaged format.

This is not a substantially different model than is used in popular teahouses across the country, for decades.

As you cultivate your clientèle, you might consider adding a small second space for tea clubs that might want to host weekly or monthly meetings, if you are going to locate in a mega-metro area like NYC.
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Ebtoulson » Dec 8th, '09, 21:37

Intuit wrote:Yes, patrons can ask to smell and taste a specific tea, on request. No, the teas aren't kept out where the customers can get their hands on it, unless its packaged. It's a hygiene thing.

Thats exactly what I was thinking. I wouldn't feel comfortable buying tea thats been opened multiple times for people to stick their noes' in.
From all of the suggestions, the tea bar is my favorite.
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby JBaymore » Dec 9th, '09, 00:50

Samples out to "smell and taste"....... sale stock kept hygienically safe in cases away from general people.

best,

..............john
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Charles » Dec 9th, '09, 11:32

Good food for thought. Thanks! In response to the comments about keeping the teas fresh and away from the crowds, our current strategy includes three forms of tea merchandising:

1. Every tea in the collection will be packaged in sealed pouches that were produced and filled in the Adagio warehouse and packaging facility in NJ. This allows for maximum freshness, cleanliness, and labor efficiency at the store level.

2. Every tea in the collection will be out for the customer to "experience" (sight, smell and touch if you want) in glass jars on well lit sample shelves. This tea will never be consumed, so the affects of repeated opening, handling and light won't matter. We'll have some extra waste as we throw these samples out periodically but the upside is that the customers can easily browse the collection without the forced involvement of a member of the staff.

3. Every tea in the collection will also be stored loose in sealed, opaque containers. This bulk tea will be used for brewing cups of tea and creating custom blends. Because this tea will not be quite AS secure or as fresh as the packaged pouches, some customers will avoid it, but for the majority of consumers this style is what they are used to at every other tea shop this will be just fine.

This approach should give us the maximum flexibility and cater to the varied preferences of our customer base. Would you agree?
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Re: What would attract you most to a new tea shop?

Postby Chip » Dec 9th, '09, 13:55

I would agree ... seems you have the bases pretty covered.

And glad to hear about the pouches versus the tins (I have a problem throwing away tea tins :oops: ). This could also give you some options on prepackaged weights as well. Seems that often the amount of tea sold is dictated by how much tea will fit in a tin versus how much tea by weight is desired due to differing densities of leaf.
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