Coffee Buzz? I prefer a high tea.

Imagine you have been invited to a party. All the invitees are coffee brands come to life. What would it be like? Passionate, lots of loud conversation in varied accents, very black with shiny women in red and chrome, unique and interesting characters and of course great wine, food and coffee.

Now imagine you’ve been invited to another party, this time all the invitees are tea brands. How do you imagine that party would be? “Er, actually, I think I’m busy that night…” but wait, there is a new tea scene emerging and it is very cool.

Now I understand the thrill of flipping through the latest Bean Scene magazine, sniffing at sexy coffee machines and the latest bespoke blends.

I love coffee. Have been a many-cups- a-day girl for years. Grew up in a French household with stovetop expresso maker and special Columbia-Costa Rica blend.

Then, in 2007; I started a tea business. Until then, tea was something I knew little about apart from the odd cup of Earl Grey. It didn’t interest me. I thought it was dull. Maybe you do too?

Ten years later I am a convert to a new world. I have spoken with tens of thousands of tea drinkers, cupped 1000’s of teas and enjoyed close to 100 trips to Sri Lanka, China and India to taste, visit estates and oversee blending. I’m thrilled that my blends are stocked in outlets around Australia, NZ and Asia, including illustrious tea establishments such as Sofitel  and The Hotel Windsor in Melbourne.

Like so many things, dig beyond the mass and there are riches.

I still have plenty to learn; but oh how wrong I was about the exotic, fragrant, romantic world of tea and all its ritual, meaning and the pleasure it brings when done well.

I believe that just as the growing knowledge about and interest in coffee has fuelled café growth, so there is a gaping opportunity for those interested to bring tea drinkers a refreshing and authentic tea experience. One that will delight them.

Get into it

Tea becomes interesting when you touch and feel the real thing, not an opaque paper bag. And when you get interested in the provenance, discover specific estates – like Ceciliyan Estate bordering the Singharaja rainforest or the world’s first certified organic Needwood Estate, high in the misty Ceylon mountains. When you approach blending as the creation of a recipe: add a dash of Australian native Mountain Pepper leaf to Sultry Chai or let’s try combining fruity pear notes with floral jasmine for Green with Jasmine & Pear.

It becomes interesting when you explore the philosophy of the Japanese tea ceremony and  how can I ‘honour my guest’. Finally; tea becomes interesting when you give it a name and visual identity that is passionate and colourful – in my case, Madame Flavour.

It is not dull to open a freshly landed 10kg sack of primo Japanese Sencha. Or to pass around plates piled high with rare Peony White Tea with rose petals at a Tea Masterclass.

These are beautiful sensory experiences. I see a world of excitement and potential in tea.

Why should you care?

Others are seeing the opportunity. To make tea drinkers feel special. No more of the ‘second class’ citizen.

Tea represents on average only 5% of total café beverage sales. That makes it lower priority but that lack of priority is an opportunity. In this segment; a little attention at this early stage of the cycle will grow what is a very profitable piece of business.

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