Is it Tea time yet ?
Date Posted:1 February 2016
Just like our coffees, we pride ourselves in sourcing the best available teas and offering these at competitive prices
40 years ago my father was arranging the street sign for Mum's new cafe in what was once a bustling Nelson Street, Wallsend NSW to be called The Upstairs Coffee Lounge.
As young kids often do, I fired off a series of rapid questions to my Dad on the way to the sign writers........."Dad, why is Mum calling it the Upstairs Coffee Lounge when she drinks tea ?"
"Because it will be a coffee place mate", Dad replied.
"But she drinks tea and so do all of the other ladies that come to our house" I responded back to him.
I can't recall if Dad had the right answers at the time or we got distracted with something else, however, after all these years I still find this same question often bouncing around inside my brain.
Why is it that so few people make a fuss about Tea ?
It's the most widely consumed beverage on the planet after water, more than 3 Billion cups of tea are prepared each day from more than 3,000 different varieties.
Mention the word coffee and you will be bombarded with strong opinions, divided preferences, fierce brand loyalty and at times even court debate or controversy.
It seems as though for some people who are afflicted by the coffee passion bug, the brown bean has become the bell weather of their life - visit coffee forums and discover some of the most extreme humans on the planet - people with precise morning rituals rivalling military college procedures or those that tinker with their equipment for days, weeks and months hoping to extract that last 1% of improvement or efficiency from their beloved and sacred toys.
Yet there seems to be no such feverish fan clubs in the universe of teas.
Where are the passionate local/global campaigners beating their chests and where are the cult followings that often make headlines and generate huge amounts of publicity.
In Australia, for a long time up until a few years ago there were just a small handful of players that serviced the quality tea market. Generally, the game was played by a large boutique provider trading in major shopping centres and the rest of the market was being services by a few local regional providers. Stark contrast to coffee where more than 1,000 brands are battling each other to secure customers.
In last month's newsletter, I mentioned that marketing of coffee had reached a rather sad and disappointing level of deception and brinkmanship from too much competition. What we see in the press is just a fraction of what transpires throughout the day in real life. Coffee companies are waging war-like campaigns on their perceived competitors in revenge raids intended to steal customers from each over - you stole mine, so I will steal yours.
The coffee landscape is struggling to identify the next wave of innovation.
The pace of improvement over the last 5 years has run at such velocity that the whole industry has basically hit a wall and asked "OK what do we do next ?". Quality of the product at the roasting level has reached a plateau and the differences in real terms between suppliers is barely discernable on any given day. The next wave has to be how the distribution preserves quality and of course how the bean is brewed or extraction.
So, I keep coming back to the start of that 40 year old circle again - why isn't tea sexy - is it boring or does nobody care ?
Perhaps it is because the process of brewing or steeping tea is far simpler and to a large degree somewhat foolproof compared to the brain-surgeon skills needed to extract perfect espresso coffee and texture milk.
Maybe its because of the greater impact or effect of the caffeine from coffee upon the body that creates such an inspired "high". A legal drug that works in some ways like illegal drugs. Many teas have a calming effect, so is that sufficient grounds to relegate them to the boring and un-noticed corner ?
If we look at our own company history, mycuppa was originally conceived as a beverage company focused equally upon coffee and tea, yet somehow along the journey of business life we ended up spending 98% of our time on coffee and 2% on tea.
The reasons are pretty self-evident - coffee is a damn tough gig...it's quite the struggle indeed, 7 days a week......sourcing, roasting, maintaining freshness, constantly improving quality, extensive infrastructure changes, never-ending capital expenditure and of course, those pesky competitors always stealing your customers.
We ventured into premium teas 6 years ago with a range of quality organic offerings. In hindsight, whilst those teas were pretty much the best-in-class at that time, the offer was perhaps poorly marketed as it starved for attention.
In 2016, we have broadened our range of teas and revised the offers to make these products attractive just like our successful coffees in terms of both quality and value.
The new teas we have available now include:-
- Reduced the number of Organic products.
- Introduced more exciting blends - the first is our amazing new Berrylicious
- Added a portfolio of Health Teas that focus on well-being and natural lifestyle benefits - Anti-Stress, Slimming and Energizing formulas.
The most exciting part of this initiative has been the development of the health tea range. Using myself and our friends as guinea pigs over the last few months, I have been convinced of the potential for wellness benefits from these ayurvedic remedies - I am a believer and a convert.
We have a special storage infrastructure for our teas that distinguishes our product from the others in the Australian market.
Most of the tea suppliers use contract 3rd party logistics providers or contract packers to store and distribute their products via low-cost scale services.
This creates a key quality problem that is not being addressed by most tea merchants as the products are stored in basic warehouses exposing the teas to temperatures up to 50 deg C stored in high racks.
Heat rapidly accelerates the dehydration and oxydization of the plant-based products resulting in quality degradation. Just a few warm days can mean a loss of 5+% in quality scores and over a season the actual drop in quality can exceed 25%.
At mycuppa, we do things differently by maintaining our stock in our own warehouse under temperature controlled insulated rooms. Just like the extreme measures we take to produce the best coffees, we do the same with teas - all part of our key difference.
See the new range of teas here.