Recently I participated in an online tea-tasting organized by Annette Y. Cowell, owner of Tea with Annette. It went like this: Each person had chosen the tea they would taste some weeks earlier, then Annette mailed samples out to us with steeping instructions. She thoughtfully enclosed a couple of disposable tea filter sacks too.
At the appointed hour, we each prepared our tea at home, then logged in to “meet” at Annette’s Facebook page, where we discussed our chosen teas in real time. The result? Tea-rrific, and lotsa fun! I kept thinking: Why don’t more tea companies do this?
I didn’t know much about Annette’s company before the tasting, so she agreed to answer a few questions for me.
How did you get involved with tea?
I’d say I came to tea by regional birth. I’m a Southern girl and grew up on sweet iced tea. I prefer tea’s natural flavor now. I don’t remember my first hot tea, but in my early 20s a friend introduced me to whole leaf teas and I was hooked. I’ve been a tea drinker and teapot collector since then.
Tell me about your tea business.
Operating as Tea with Annette, I am an independent consultant with Tealightful, a direct sales company headquartered in Rochester, NY. They provide marketing materials and a website; I earn by selling Tealightful products: teas, tisanes, accessories, and teatime delicacies including scone mixes and dessert crèmes.
I reach customers through in-home tea tastings and Healthy Beverage workshops, vendor events, and sales through my website. Tealightful is a young direct sales company and offers me the opportuni-tea to sell to anyone I meet, anywhere in the USA. I’m always looking for new venues to showcase our products.
What I enjoy most about Tealightful is sharing our tea-licious products and educating people about true teas and tisanes. I am a teacher at heart and love this part most.
How did you come up with the idea of a virtual tea-tasting?
The execution details of the Virtual Tea were mine, but my social media trainer planted the idea. I believe I am the only Tealightful consultant using this approach. The first Virtual Tea in July was amazing – the participation, the interaction was more than I imagined, so I’ll be scheduling more. You can read the transcript of the first Virtual Tea here.
Do you have a brick-and-mortar shop?
I don’t, although I keep a variety of our products for sampling and tasting. For my regular customers, I do my best to have their favorites on hand for immediate delivery.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to open a tea business?
Follow your passion. Any business is a huge commitment; you can’t be successful if you’re not passionately in love with it. If your passion is tea, decide how much you want to invest – money, time, energy – then choose an option. For me that was direct sales. For someone else that might be an actual teashop. Whatever the decision, realize it’s going to take more of everything than you can imagine and, if it’s your passion, you will willingly give it.
What is your favourite tea, and what vessels do you prefer to steep and drink it in?
I have two go-to teas – our Tealightful Afternoon (Kenilworth Estate Ceylon) and Ginger Peach Darjeeling (organic with ginger, dried peaches, and a touch of cloves and cinnamon). I brew my tea in a Harmony pot with a built in infuser. A clear mug or a proper teacup with a white lining is my cup choice, perfect for enjoying the beauty as well as the aroma and the flavor of the tea.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Tea isn’t just for drinking. Substitute tea for water in your favorite recipes for additional flavor; choose any complementary tea or blend. Some blends make wonderful meat rubs. Be creative.
If you don’t drink tea, I urge you to give a flavored tisane a try. So many blends are available today with delicious fruits and herbs, and all are healthful alternatives to soda and other sugar-loaded beverages.
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