While most of the focus at the Boston Convention and Exhibit Center stays on the Natural Products Expo East, a certain group of people are spending their time discussing tea. The World Tea Expo featured special tastings, sessions on flavors, and information on buying. NFM sat in on “Focused Tasting: Black Tea” and learned how retailers can successfully merchandise tea depending on a customer’s unique palette.
5) Get Creative: Take advantage of tea’s flexibility. Give customers special recipes for breakfast blends they can make themselves or offer sugar and milk recommendations depending on a tea’s flavor combination. Tea isn’t like most drinks. It can be as bold as a strong cup of coffee or as meek as a club soda. Take advantage of this when buying inventory.
4) Know where a tea comes from: Look at tea like a fine wine – certain regions produce certain types of flavors. Educating yourself and your team on these regional differences makes a difference to your bottom line and your customer. There are typically two types of teas in the world: blended and estate teas. Sri Lankan and Indian teas are estate teas and produce a very different flavor than blended teas like Irish or English Breakfast.
3) Merchandise by other popular drinks: Have more coffee-drinkers than tea-drinkers in your store? Point your customers to specific teas that they might enjoy depending on the type of coffee or other drinks they buy. Use signs that say, “Like this? Try this.” Irish Breakfast is the most popular blended tea in North America. “It’s a starter drug, really,” said Elizabeth Knottingham, owner of The Teacup in Seattle. It’s good for coffee drinkers because of its great pairing with milk and sugar. Ceylon, or Sri Lankan teas, on the other hand, are much sweeter and better for those that prefer cold drinks.
2) Know your customers’ tastes: Do you know what tea experts you have among your customer base? Take a survey and see what shoppers know about tea, their flavors, and their regions. Chances are they may not know as much as shoppers at specialty stores. Hold education sessions on different intricacies or merchandise your teas by flavors. More experienced tea drinkers will likely prefer black teas while beginners may start with fruitier teas. The only way to know is by asking them.
1) Taste your tea: The most important thing you can do to sell tea successfully is to taste it. Start by smelling it, then slurp it and finally describe it. Don’t worry about professional tasting techniques – feel free to invent your own language to explain what you’re experiencing. Your customers can relate to notes like “tastes like roasted nuts at Christmas,” or “tastes like refreshing fruit on a summer day.” The more you taste the tea yourself, the better the recommendations you can offer to customers.