I’ve been to numerous tea houses over the years, each with its own character, tea selection and ambiance. Some of these tea houses are still in business, others aren’t, which leads me to wonder why some tea businesses thrive and others don’t. I honestly can’t say that there is only one formula to running a successful tea house. The successful tea houses that I’ve visited range from ultra-modern to decidedly Victorian to downright austere. Yet, they all have a few things in common:
- A Knowledgeable, Personable Owner Who Is Passionate About Tea: Without this, a tea house is doomed. The tea house owner must be someone who loves tea, knows about tea and is eager to share this passion and knowledge with others. Incidentally, you can’t fake this passion; customers know the real deal when they see it.
- A Large Selection of Teas: The more, the better. Tea preferences are varied, and the more variety a tea house has on offer, the more sales they will make. Tea novices may need a wide selection of teas just so they can find a tea that they like, while serious tea people are always looking for something new.
- The Ability to Sample or Sniff Teas Before Making a Purchase: Successful teahouses encourage customers to sniff tea leaves or try a sample cup before spending money. Patrons need to see and interact with the leaf before they buy it.
- The Combination of Retail Sales and Tea by the Cup: Good tea house owners want to attract customers for both cups of tea as well as purchases of dry tea leaf and teaware. This offers two different income streams and encourages customers to try different teas and tea brewing methods.
- A Lack of Snobbery: Successful tea business owners know that you don’t attract or keep customers by ridiculing them. Instead of rolling their eyes at someone who orders a flavored tea with a healthy dose of milk and sugar, these tea house owners give the customer what she requests and does so with a smile. On the next visit, the owner makes a suggestion or offers a sample of something different, encouraging the customer to expand her horizons and develop her palate. Nobody gets insulted, and everybody wins.