It’s our 10-year anniversary! According to Hallmark, a 10th wedding anniversary is traditionally known as the “Tin/Aluminum” anniversary, which really sounds about as romantic as … well, as giving someone a canned good as an anniversary gift. What would anyone have to say about the 10th anniversary of a small, independent tea company?
I had a chat with our CEO and Founder, Richard Rosenfeld, about how this anniversary snuck up on us, and here’s a nugget that has to do with you, dear tea lover: “Things I’m especially proud of include our loyal consumer base — the people who look for our products out there. Consumer loyalty comes back to the product itself: Our tea has to deliver on the promises we’ve made. Every single time someone drinks our tea, it’s gotta taste good.”
But I’ll stop right there before this starts to sound like a business seminar.
Because here’s what I think is interesting: We’ve evolved! And I’m not just talking about the little things like product names, some ingredients and all that. If you’ve been paying attention for the past 10 years (or even the past four years) you’ve seen us going through some packaging changes, and we promise we’re not doing that just to drive you crazy. It’s hard work trying to stand out from the pack in a very crowded aisle of tea.
We started this journey 10 years ago with the words, “A better cuppa’ tea” on our boxes, which makes a lot of sense if you know our brand story. Here’s a short version: Richard began to love tea because of all the business he was doing in Asia, where he was served a lot of tea. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t find the same delicious tea when he got back home to the United States, so it makes sense that his company’s motto for the first several years was exactly that — giving people better tea than they’d had before.
He put organic, whole -leaf tea inside pyramid-shaped sachets (a relatively new technology at the time) instead of paper teabags, and Two Leaves and a Bud Tea Company was off and running. We’re not saying we were the very first using sachets, but it was definitely an idea with legs. Pretty soon more tea companies were offering whole leaf tea in convenient sachets, and it wasn’t as hard to find “a better cuppa’ tea” in the supermarket.
But you know what else we’ve always done that makes our tea great? We “Go There”! We take time to travel to the tea gardens, developing relationships with organic farmers who are growing the leaves we want to steep. We have photos from the first and subsequent trips when Richard dragged his wife, Pam, into tea gardens, meeting the pluckers and deciding which organic growers were the best for our company. Pam brought her camera and took those photos of her then-ponytailed husband planting tea bushes. Many years and a few haircuts later, we’re so happy to have proof of Pam’s positive effect on Richard’s style experience there in the field: literally witnessing the work and care that goes into a superior cup of tea.
And after a few more years of crafting great cups of tea, seeing more and more large companies enter the specialty tea industry we realized: Our strength as a company is, in fact, how very small we are. The eight of us who are in the office together in Colorado — and one person on the East Coast — drink a lot of tea. Tea tastings are open to everyone on staff, and I’ve never heard a single person at a tasting say, “I don’t have an opinion.” We regularly talk to tea fans all over the world via social media or e-mail, and we love when they tell us their own tea concoctions, offer constructive criticism that we find really helpful, or call up with a few good ideas that we take to heart. Tea lovers who discover us often travel with our sachets, so wherever they go, they’ll have a delicious tea when they get there.
We do all of those things too! Tea affects our lives quite personally, just as it affects yours. Hence, “We take tea personally.” If one phrase can possibly sum up how we feel about our place in the huge, occasionally impersonal tea industry, we think that’s darn close.
So what’s next for us? World domination! Just kidding … sort of. You see, we do want to be recognized as the best for what we do, and we do want to land in the hands of tea lovers everywhere, whether those tea lovers want loose leaf tea, sachets, tea bags, or even the really, really hard to get limited teas. But we’re not going to do that at the cost of changing who we are — a small, independent company who can focus on quality, sustainability and the tea lovers themselves.
We’ll get back to work making great tea while the next 10 years go by. You guys just keep on drinking.