How to get into the the tea industry/advice from vendors on how to proceed

Post Reply
Auxilium
Posts: 13
Joined: Mon Jun 15, 2020 6:36 pm
Location: USA

Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:05 pm

I have been obsessed with tea for years and throughout that entire time I have wanted to work in the tea industry. I am coming to a crossroads in my life as far as making decisions for my career and life. I would love to hear advice from vendors and people who work in tea on the subject of getting into the industry; what costs are like to begin, how to sustain the business, how to source well etc. My dream is to own a teahouse and do a small amount of sourcing.
User avatar
Bok
Vendor
Posts: 3389
Joined: Wed Oct 04, 2017 8:55 am
Location: Taiwan

Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:31 pm

One thing I consider paramount in getting access to the best(or even good) teas: relationships.

Be it with famers, teamakers(as those are often separate people to the farmers), wholesalers, tea sourcers, retailers etc. All that takes time. People spend decades to build these up and maintain them. Those outlets cropping up where people go to Asia to source teas twice or only once a year are bound to end up with mediocre or bad tea.

You will need a lot of introductions by the right people to even get access to many teas.

Focus. You need to find your niche. Another me-too-offering will have a difficult time to lift off. What will be your unique selling point? The market is quite full and demand exceeds supply (at least for good and premium teas).

Learning the language of where you plan to get tea will give you a head start to those who rely on interpreters and maybe open up doors which will remain closed to others.

However, with travel most likely not be possible and easy for the time being, you will have quite some time to ponder all this...

:mrgreen:
Noonie
Posts: 301
Joined: Tue Dec 12, 2017 12:30 pm
Location: Ontario, Canada

Wed Jul 15, 2020 7:01 am

Auxilium wrote:
Tue Jul 14, 2020 9:05 pm
I have been obsessed with tea for years and throughout that entire time I have wanted to work in the tea industry. I am coming to a crossroads in my life as far as making decisions for my career and life. I would love to hear advice from vendors and people who work in tea on the subject of getting into the industry; what costs are like to begin, how to sustain the business, how to source well etc. My dream is to own a teahouse and do a small amount of sourcing.
@AuxiliumWhere do you live?

If you’re close to an established tea house perhaps you can go in and talk to them about getting a job there. That would be a good way to dip your toes into the market.

Also, depending on where you live, e.g., New York vs. a small city in Europe, the Americas, etc., you have to consider the local market and whether there is enough customer base to support a brick-and-mortar business. Also with the local market, will they appreciate good tea. In my city if 50,000 or so in Ontario (Canada) it wouldn’t happen. Heck, the tea houses I know in Toronto are far below those in Montreal or New York in terms of experience tea geeks like us.

I suggest finding: a) a good book on starting your own retail business and b) connecting with a retail business, like a cafe, do ask questions about business ownership where you live.

Good luck!
Leafhopper
Posts: 5
Joined: Wed Dec 13, 2017 4:33 pm

Fri Jul 17, 2020 7:23 pm

I haven't started a tea business myself simply because of bylaws in my current city, but I used to work in the industry as a retail manager, and I have worked a lot with several profitable tea companies as suppliers, when I was in the cafe world. I've also done some consulting, and I've worked in the tea publishing space in a certain capacity.

Here are a few tips/notes, in no particular order:

1) It is saturated to heck. You need to develop expertise, and specialize in those expertise. The most profitable company I've encountered was a chai tea brand who targeted the wholesale speciality coffee shop market specifically. The point is there is a market for it.

2) Consider a geo-centric wholesale model. Wholesale to a specific, highly populated metropolitan area. Target coffee shops and restaurants. Be excessively easy to work with, personable, etc. 99% of tea programs are... less than par in most coffee shops and restaurants. Figure out what they want and make it make sense to them. Most of them don't want to spend much on tea. In my experience you should shoot for $<0.50 CAD per serving.

3) Consider nontraditional businesses. Figure out a gap in the tea world and do that. I look at someone like Ondrej Sedlak in this regard. He's THE western vendor for wooden tea utensils. It doesn't necessarily need to be another retail tea shop.

4) Understand that most tea shops are labours of love. Nothing is wrong with that, but you aren't going to get rich. Some of the most successful, prominent tea brands in the West have two employees... Husband and wife. Most people don't make any sort of living on this. A few very successful people do make a living on it. That's OK but you should consider your goals. Often it's a quality/saleability equation.

5) To get the best tea you need connections. Nothing wrong with going through wholesalers, but you need to make sure your wholesalers aren't selling the exact same tea at retail. Bad for both companies.

Anyway, there is a lot to it! If you're going the tea shop route, consider capitalizing on certain things so you can do what you actually want. The only profitable, busy speciality tea bar in my city is a bubble tea shop in the front and a gongfu tea bar in the back.
User avatar
aet
Posts: 190
Joined: Tue Feb 06, 2018 7:56 pm
Location: Kunming ( China )

Fri Jul 17, 2020 8:21 pm

as any business, make sure you have a good calculator. Many dreamers fail to do so and usually end up closing after year when next year rent pay comes up. Make sure you have some concept of selling the tea and familiar with regulations in your country.
If offline, make sure you have some good food, snack provided in your tea house, because that's gonna be your big chunk of income. ( tea supports digestion ;-)
Speak of the premises , you have to do your own research for rents and suitable locations, can't help you with that. In China we have different concepts of tea houses than overseas.
There is no such a thing called "tea industry" ...like that you enter to somewhere and there you go..just select the suitable option and stat your biz . Google and right key words are your best friends now. I don't think that any vendor would share "know how" with you. It's not some top secret, but it is a skill / knowledge after all.
Read, learn names of teas ( not English versions ) , read about the quality , prices, shipping options ...etc. You may find that from beginning , it's might more worth to get tea from local supplier first. It really depends on country. Import to EU is very difficult , for start ups with small amounts and budget , usually works better source from big companies there.
good luck!
Post Reply