Whilst this time last year I was feeling largely optimistic about the future of tea, this year I am a little more reserved and believe we are facing some real challenges.
Here are my observations to close the year out with the biggest take away being that the specialty tea industry is so small that it will take real innovation in the business model to allow it to profit in isolation.
Tea business closures
My heart is heavy this year as we say goodbye to some well-known and loved tea businesses. These span physical and online stores across Australia (and also Internationally). Knowing just how much personal passion and financial sacrifice goes into these ventures makes this particularly resonate with me as a fellow micro tea business. All the best to you and thank you for all that you have done for tea.
Bad quality and incorrect tea marketing
What makes me mad about seeing the closure of some genuine and transparent businesses (that have closed) is that there seems to be a proliferation of poor quality tea being marketed as something it is not. Tea businesses shame on you, spend more time studying your own supply line and getting accurate information. You are not only doing a dis-service to your customers you are not valuably contributing to the tea industry. One more dodgy post about Taiwanese tea people....grrrrr.
Appropriating stories, ideas and logos 🤷♀️(oh and other peoples tea suppliers!!)
Unbelievable and exasperated is all I have to say. You have no idea how many angry posts I started (e-yelling) at supposedly collegial tea businesses just to end up bottling up my words this year.
Well given my last post of this year I am calling you out.
To all those tea businesses that have started sharing my story as their story, snapping up the ideas of other tea businesses working really hard to differentiate their concepts and take tea somewhere it hasn't gone before and blatantly picking up the format and calling it their own, what are you doing?! And I should not even have to talk about logos, seriously!
And to all those business that cannot go and find their own growers and producers of tea and claim to have a unique sourcing story, please! You are not working hard enough and you are not serving your customers. So change your story!
So where to from here? I really feel there are many positive things happening in tea. And I do not like to end on these negative points but I am hoping to generate a more positive conversation in the New Year.
Perhaps this year has been particularly tough as market forces of supply and demand level out. I really think this highlights a need for an industry body (one that is conceptualised properly from the outset) to regulate and to advocate for all those working tirelessly in tea and herbs around the country. It also needs people to be accountable and to demand more from one another within the industry if we are going to self-regulate.
Thank you to all those who show up for The Steepery Tea Co. and particularly my local Brisbane tea community. I cannot wait to see what 2020 has planned for us.