Designing the perfect teashop

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Designing the perfect teashop

Postby Charles » Jun 29th, '10, 13:27

Too many people ask customers what they want in a tea shop. This is an unfair question, because you don't know what's possible. I'd like to ask a different question. Where have tea shops, in your opinion, failed? What are you looking for that you haven't been able to find? My job is to come up with solutions - ways of meeting your needs - that you didn't know were possible. :)

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby Mrs. Chip » Jun 29th, '10, 13:36

Nice article Charles and great question.

IMHO, lack of proper training in the knowledge of "The Who, What, When, Where and Why of Tea" is where I have found teashops fall short or fail.

I have been in shops where I know far more about tea than the owner. That in my opinion is NOT Acceptable!!! Especially since I don't know that much! :)

Your staff should know the ins and outs of all the aspects of the teas they will be selling before they even hit the sales floor. I want to be confident that the retailer knows what they are talking about, not just saying what they feel the customer wants them to say ... i.e. 'this is the rarest white tea' ... :shock:

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby acgourley » Jun 29th, '10, 13:58

It's okay to listen to customers as long as you don't take their complaints at face value. What is the problem behind the problem? The visionary designer can cut through the noise, and isn't afraid to say "this isn't your real problem, and this isn't what you want, you want to do it THIS WAY." This is one reason Apple constantly phases out old media and interfaces on their computers. I expect them to remove optical drives entirely very soon. Maybe more directly related to your venture, consider Chipotle or In N Out with their limited menu and limited customization.

Obviously tea has a much broader spectrum you must address than mexican food or burgers, but there are parts of the process you can streamline and simplify. I think pushing the plastic adagio brewing pitcher thing, and adagio brewing kettle, is a good start. It's really the easiest way to brew tea at home, and you shouldn't even let people ponder the alternatives. Brewing tea at work? Use the adagio paper bags. Don't offer other solutions.

Bottom line, give people a clear step by step process to follow once they enter your store. Teavana assaults you with a selection of teas and brewing configurations, and the only way to guide the mall-goer through it is with an aggressive sales staff. I think you have a chance to let a more streamlined experience that will be less daunting for people.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby Geekgirl » Jun 29th, '10, 14:14

#1: in my book: train your people to say "I don't know, but I can find out." NOTHING irritates me more than an employee who tries to bluff their way through information about a specialty product.

#2: Factcheck: review what employees are telling people about tea. For instance - it's pretty shameful for a teashop to be claiming "this tea will help you lose weight." It's a blatant sales grab. Certainly provide (fact-based) information about health benefits, especially in higher-grade, less processed teas, but if anybody is making stuff up, they should go back into training.

#3: Don't hide all the inexpensive and practical teawares on one dark little shelf in the back of the store. A good teashop should have a nice, prominent display of useful "budget" items. Make it easy for people to enter the world of tea, and eventually they'll be back for upgrades.

#4: Tare your scales. Better yet - use scales that have a digital readout that is visible to the customer. Tare the scale, and then give them what they ask for in weight. If your scales autoprints labels by weight (like they do at the grocery store), get as close as humanly possible, then ask the customer if the variance (if there is one,) is okay. If your scale does not autoprint to the register, err in the customer's favor by always giving them that .02 ounce or .5g over. It's a tiny amount for you, buying in bulk, but to the customer, who buys in small quantities, it's a good faith sign that you will never shortchange them.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby aya_s » Jul 2nd, '10, 00:10

The thing that seems off-putting to me in tea drinking is the perceived sharp learning curve. Growing up in a household where there was always a hot pot of green tea about, I never thought of tea as a complicated drink or one that required a lot of knowledge (though naturally I found out there's tons and tons to learn about tea the more I read about it!)

It seems easy for my (non tea-drinking) friends to get confused or get the impression that tea is a very delicate drink that you need to know tons of things to prepare properly, that they need to buy special equipment to brew it, and so on. Added to this, tea enthusiasts often rag on tea bags and flavored teas or lesser quality teas or overload all sorts of detailed information about plantation-specific tea and multiple types of tea equipment and while I agree there's no comparison to a high-quality loose leaf tea, having one's idea of tea spit on by somebody else or getting a heap of incomprehensible information does not give a friendly and approachable impression of the loose leaf/tea expert world.

When I started drinking tea on a daily basis my indispensable tool was the ceramic mug with lid and ceramic filter fitted into it. I use a lot of different equipment I have picked up since then, but it seems that "learning tool" was what got me accustomed to drinking tea each day and enjoying it, then slowly branching out and learning more about different types. (As it's basically as easy as using a tea bag, but tastes much better)

The IngenuiTea looks to be a well-known product of yours that serves that capacity. I think a friendly and simple brewing device like that or infuser mug and some loose leaf tea samples that total up to $20 or less would be quite attractive to new tea enthusiasts.

Er sorry, I don't know if that post was where I thought tea shops went wrong or what I think you have right. Hope it was helpful somehow!

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby capheind » Jul 19th, '10, 16:39

Well i don't think focusing on being a retailer and only a retailer is that dramatically odd. People don't buy much tea at Cafes, just like starbucks sells much more through retail outlets then they do through their Cafe.

So many outfits go bust because they can't decide what they want to be, a tea retailer, an on-line retailer, a traditional teahouse, a modern teahouse etc. etc. etc. Its a shame I don't have time to hit your new shop near Chicago since I'm in town.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby virago_ns » Jul 23rd, '10, 13:40

Personally I like the "try and buy" business model. As long as the retail store had a sample station or serves tea by the cup I'm likely to shop there over a strictly retail and no beverage service store.
Taking tea to the next level and modernizing it, speeding it up, concentrating on volumes and not quality saddens me. Maybe I'm old school, but I like to sit down, relax, and sample my teas in an inviting environment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying Adagio doesn't carry quality product, but some other for-mentioned tea retailers seem to lack the personal touch. Connection with your customer is crucial for repeat business. Consumer loyalty is what makes (and breaks) any business, as the article above has shown.
A tea retailer should not sell tea. They should sell a tea experience.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby mhg » Jul 31st, '10, 10:07

I'm new to tea. I went into the Teavana store. I was approached by an excellent person and sold $250 in tea. After talking to him about how many people do this I found that many people do and even spend much more. I want to open a store just like it but Teavana doesn't franchise!

I have searched all over the internet and can't find a competitor to Teavana. What would be their closes equal or competitor? And, what do you call a place like this (lounge? Shop? Store? Restaurant?) In my city there are shops but they are exactly only that. You can buy tea but no sitting area or anything.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby RachelC » Aug 3rd, '10, 21:18

I like the "try and buy" method as well. I also like knowing that the employees are well educated and even being passionate about tea is a plus. I also enjoy having some seating and light treats or tea pairings available with the tea. If seating is offered then Free WiFi is a must. I also would like the option to have some tea prepared for me and available to take "to go," this is an ideal situation.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby TeaHoney » Aug 4th, '10, 19:44

I love the idea of a lounge-type tea room. Little bit bistro. Little bit comfy. The owner/operator needs to have a background in herbs, to fully understand not just the tea, but what the health benefits are as well. And don't just serve tea and pastries... how about essential oils, or tea-soaps?

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby jazz88 » Aug 4th, '10, 20:17

My ideal tea store would be: ultra modern (with some antique tea wear on display), some planters with live tea plants. Several large interactive, touch screen monitors where I could access information about the products, enter tastes I like and get suggestions. Area where I could sample teas.
Tea of the day deal. Clearly displayed pricing (don't like that I have to ask for that). Stuff that leaves me alone unless I ask for help. Where everything is processed fast and I don't have to wait.

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby TeaHoney » Aug 5th, '10, 15:03

Sounds really nice Jazz88

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby JCFantasy23 » Sep 25th, '10, 14:44

To me tea and books go together, some books somewhere - or else almost everywhere :)

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby SkiboTeaHouse » Nov 11th, '10, 05:20

Tea and books! I agree

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Re: Designing the perfect teashop

Postby fracol » Nov 30th, '10, 20:17

Personally I think Teavana is doing most things right. They have got the idea. When you walk into one of those stores you see vivid colors, thousands of thousands of teapots, acessories, and books lining the walls. Not to mention they display their teas so nicely it's difficult not to become intrigued.

The Mistake teavana makes is that their teas are so specified. They just have to have the same blends and teas from year to year. Plus they just simply won't tell you where the teas are from other than the easy answer China. How do I know if I am paying for a legit tea or not if I don't even know where it's from.

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