Working with tea for around twenty-five years between us we had thought for a long time about trying to create our own brand. We’d always imported teas from a variety of sources and distributed it wholesale to hotels and restaurants and retail via our website. But what if we wanted to start from scratch?
Many questions arise; Where do we get the tea? What are the criteria? How much could we pay for it? How much can we sell it for? What should our range look like? What does the market want? In fact the more questions that we asked the more questions followed.
So, OK, let’s try to get it in the right order. We have a pretty good idea where to source the teas. There was absolutely no way we were going to compromise on quality, these had to be good teas, all loose leaf, traditionally Orthodox produced. Most importantly they have to be appropriate to our market. British people like to add milk to their tea so we need black teas that are strong enough to taste good in ‘Builders Tea’ mode but still had to be delicious if drunk black. Then we need green tea that’s not too extreme. A Sencha perhaps? It needs to be great quality but not go bitter if it’s a little over-brewed and so on. There are hundreds to choose from, and that’s before we even look at infusions!
Lots of samples start arriving and much tea tasting takes place. Eventually we make a secret trip abroad, have some meetings, make some decisions, and return to Somerset very satisfied that we’ve got nine teas and infusions that we’ll be proud to offer.
How to go about getting some design development underway? Christine started searching the internet; it appears there are quite a few agencies and designers out there. Many sound very plausible, some definitely don’t! Then we met The Collaborators, based between Bath & Bristol, they are not too far away. More importantly they immediately grasped what we wanted to do and had great experience in working with emerging food brands so we knew we were on the right track.
We take a deep breath and write the first cheque (actually a BACS payment but the narrative is better). This is the first time we have really put our future in someone else’s hands.
The Collaborators go to town on the project. We have a whole day session with them so they get to know us and find out what we think we want to do. That turns out to be an interesting question as we may not have been 100% sure ourselves. We look at brands we admire, categorise and organise them. Many post-it notes are used at this point. Lots of packaging is handled. There’s a team quiz with Christine and me on different teams. There are a few heated discussions as we try to work out how our tea brand is going to look and how it will fit alongside all the other tea brands that are already out there. Our own episode of a Mad Men brainstorm is both inspiring and exhausting.
Two weeks later we go back and three concepts are presented to us. One of them we immediately love the look of but we’re not sure about the name. Actually we like one of the other names but not the design so much. We take the design work away to show to some other people and take a bit of external expert advice.
Although we take time to consider the designs, it’s obvious from the start which way it’s going, a design featuring brightly coloured packaging to stand out on shelf. Each tea variety has a human line-drawn character in an hourglass design. They are all somehow representative of the type of tea within.
The main teas will be packed in tubes for extra retail impact with the added benefit that they can be used as a caddy in a hospitality environment behind a bar or on a hotel breakfast bar.
The name: High Tea Co.
Our brand is born.
The hourglass symbol takes on a life of its own with our new strapline: Time for Better Tea. See, that’s what you get when you use a real marketing agency!
What’s next? Secure a web domain. There are several suitable URL’s. We ask The Collaborators which one we should buy. All of them they say. OK…
Very importantly we need to agree the packaging. It turns out tubes are really expensive but eventually a contact puts us onto a supplier with a good concept that will really work for us. We provide The Collaborators with design guidelines and they start on developing the actual artwork.
At the same time we ask them to look at front and back labels for pouch packs. The top five High Tea Co teas will be in tubes with four more in satin-black stand-up pouches. They are going to look great with their brightly coloured labels. However The Collaborators need to develop four new characters to go in the hourglasses. This leads to some quite amusing discussions. For example: What has a lady playing tennis got to do with Ginger Breeze herbal infusion? Why is there a kid being pushed on a swing on the front of Simply Red Fruit?
Eventually all the artwork was agreed and sent off to the printer. Well actually two printers, one in the UK for the pouch labels and one overseas for the tubes. I decide I will go and see the tube printing. It’s fascinating but the actual tube production will take place later. The tubes will have a steel top and base with embossing on the lid. It will use a simplified hourglass design to continue our Time for Better Tea theme.
In the meantime we’ve agreed a packing partner for the tubes (a special machine is needed to fix the base in place) and we have worked out how to package the pouches ourselves.
Just as the tubes are almost ready the embossing on the lids is rejected. A delay ensues while we await new lids.
Eventually the tubes are delivered to the packer, tea is packed and delivered, our cool black pouches arrive and are labelled and filled. We’ve got stock!
After 10 months development High Tea Co is finally ready to go. Now all we need is for someone to buy some!