Monday, September 14, 2015

Interview: Chris and Anne of Beacon Hill Tea Company

I'm happy to present this week's interview with Chris and Anne from Beacon Hill Tea Company. They are a new subscription based tea company with cheerful packaging and the lighthearted, simple message, 'don't worry, steep happy'. I was interested to find out what it's like to start a tea subscription service since it's a very competitive market. Read below to learn more about what they had to say.

Why have you decided to start a tea subscription service?

We are both engineers by trade, and for those of you whom are unaware engineering is an amazing grab bag of emotions. It is 50% being creativity, 50% turning that creativity into reality, and 20% second guessing yourself(if you want to point out that adds up to 120%...shhh). There are downsides to working for someone else is that the emotional state of the company permeates your day to day life. Each of us independently reached the conclusion that we wanted to craft our experience. Tea is something we both share as something that is generally relaxing and a universally positive experience in our lives. Although we may not have the experience that decorated tea connoisseurs may have we do feel knowledgeable enough to this positivity with everyone else on an ongoing basis

Chris and Anne

What are the challenges of selling tea over the internet?

Tea is best experienced in person. The colors, smells, tastes, and even textures are difficult to convey on a flat computer monitor. We bridge this gap by spreading the emotions it brings to draw in like-minded individuals.

How do you select and source your teas for a timely delivery?

Sourcing exciting tea is particularly challenging. Surprisingly twitter is one of the best ways to discover new and esoteric companies. Finding a billboard that thousands see every day is one thing, but interacting with producers/manufacturers is another. As Beacon Hill Tea matures we hope to use our personal relationships to drive new blends of tea that the community wants.

How did you conceive of your packaging?

Much like wine tasting, or any food, experiencing tea is greatly influenced by its environment. Even the best, most expertly prepared meal may seem bland if served in a gloomy basement. We capture colors in everything from the green rice paper packaging, the blue cushioning, and the colorful tape we use to hold the whole thing together. We try to make opening one of our boxes something that will brighten your day every time you go back to it.

Equally important is practicality. In order to safely, and frankly cost effectively, get our teas to you we needed to keep our monthly box under 13oz to take advantage of parcel postage rates. The resealable rice paper bags are lightweight yet designed to hold tea. The box, which opens like a treasure chest, is designed to be mailed so it is reinforced in some areas and lighter weight in others.

There are many tea subscription services available. What makes yours unique?

Tea is intended to be experienced by everyone. Many subscription services are focused on tea drinkers and people whom already know they like loose tea. The most successful companies in the world are focused on accessibility and inclusiveness. We hope to expand the boundaries of loose tea in the United States where more people are trying it out every day. We already offer a promo that feature a tea infuser for new individuals that don’t have one, are working with several bloggers to produce educational materials, and try to use accessible language that anyone can identify with. A person new to tea may not understand what “minimally oxidized” means but saying “grassy and fresh smelling as if it was freshly picked” is much descriptive.

When did you both first start drinking tea?

If we are talking about bagged tea neither of us can remember. Chris’ sister is the one who really took the first dive into exploring new flavors several years ago. Peaked by curiosity Chris quickly followed suit, indirectly enjoying the fact that he had his sister’s next birthday, Christmas, and birthday (again) presents figured out.

Anne comes from a line of tea drinkers whom exclusively use bags. Her mother almost drinks black tea from bags and is only slowly converting to loose leaf. Her experience in loose tea although comparatively newer is tempered by years of black tea and compliments Chris’ love of more exotic flavors

What can subscribers expect to find in their first box?

In each box we hope to capture the essence of the month. October is when the leaves change, fruits are harvested, and of course Halloween. To celebrate this we are including our Autumn Apple(Apple, rose, and hibiscus), a Pumpkin Chai(with rooibos base), a more conservative green tea bead(Anne’s pick of the month), and an unannounced mystery flavor.

Do you have any personal tea rituals?

We are constantly trying to experience everything differently. In our selection of Beacon Hill Tea we had a huge tasting party in which a French Press was utilized in order to allow a large amount of leaves to unfurl and create large quantities quickly. On twitter one of our followers just suggested that we suck our green tea beads (pearls) instead of steep them. Infact we are trying that right now while writing these replies. It is like having a very strong cup of tea steeping in your mouth.

How do you hope to grow the company in the years ahead?

Tea needs to be a community experience just as much as it needs to be a personal ritual. We will continue happy messages and embrace as many people as possible. With the internet being key to our lives engagement and dialog will drive the future much more than it does now. Neither of us know where the dialogs will bring us but as long as we stay positive it will be fun the whole way.

Thank you to Anne and Chris for taking the time for this interview! To learn more about Beacon Hill Tea and their monthly tea subscription program, you can visit their website.

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