Hot or cold, tea is one of the most beloved beverages consumed around the world. Although tea has been enjoyed by people for thousands of years, it’s seen increasing popularity over the years, especially in the West.
There are many reasons why people opt to drink tea, but the liquid refreshment’s health benefits are generally at the top of the list. Many studies indicate that some teas may improve your immune system, counteract inflammation, lower cholesterol, and aid in preventing cancer and heart disease.
In addition, there are all kinds of different types of tea that people can drink. Available with or without caffeine and in a wide variety of flavors, there’s something for everyone to savor.
With tea being so much in demand and allowing for plenty of flexibility and creativity concerning the different options for consumption, it could be the perfect item to sell for ecommerce entrepreneurs. If you’re an avid tea enthusiast yourself, launching a tea business could be the perfect way to turn your love for the beverage into a profitable venture, provided you follow a carefully crafted plan.
This article offers a step-by-step guide to help you start your own online tea business and begin sharing your passion for tea with the world!
What are the advantages and disadvantages of starting a tea business?
You might be the biggest fan of tea in the world, but before putting in the time, money, and effort into starting a tea business, it’s important to determine if it’s the right avenue for you by examining the various pros and cons. After all, there’s a big difference between simply enjoying a nice cup of chamomile tea to relax on a cozy night in and running a profitable business selling tea via an online shop!
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of starting a tea business that you’ll want to consider.
To begin, tea is a very popular beverage, and its consumption seems to be growing around the world, which is great for entrepreneurs looking to enter the tea industry! According to Statista, global tea consumption was approximately 6.3 billion kg in 2020 and is expected to reach 7.4 billion kg by 2025. What’s more, Statista also notes that in 2020, the global tea market was estimated to be worth around 207.1 billion U.S. dollars and is estimated to grow to 266.7 billion U.S. dollars by 2025.
Another advantage is that selling tea tends to allow for decent profit margins, especially for online businesses, as many of the costs will be lower. Of course, there are many factors that can affect how much of a profit margin you’ll earn, including the type of tea that you sell. Basic black tea, for instance, generally won’t fetch as high a price as specialty teas.
Finally, starting a tea business will make it possible for you to explore your creativity! Learn as much as you can about the different varieties of tea out there, and experiment with your own unique blends to create a product that stands out from the crowd.
With tea’s growing popularity, it’s no surprise that there’s already a wide range of tea businesses already out there. Unless you happen to discover a completely new type of tea, you’re probably going to be facing some level of competition when you launch your own business. In order to be successful, you’ll need to differentiate yourself from your competitors, whether that be by offering a one-of-a-kind blend of teas, a specific service, or something else.
In addition, unless you’re going to be growing your own tea to sell, you’ll need to find high-quality suppliers you can rely on. Sourcing your suppliers can be a time-consuming, frustrating process, and you may find that you’ll need to try a few different options before you find the right suppliers for your business.
What kinds of tea can you sell?
If you’re relatively new to the world of tea and/or have just one particular kind of tea that you drink regularly yourself, learning about all the different varieties of tea possibilities to sell online can seem a bit daunting. Nevertheless, it’s a good idea to boost your knowledge of the various options available when you decide to start your own tea business and open an online shop.
Whether you opt to sell just a single kind of tea or numerous varieties, start by deepening your understanding of what’s out there. This will help you to more easily determine how to approach your business and better assist your customers.
All tea (except for what we refer to as “herbal tea”) is produced from the same plant, Camellia sinensis. The major differences between the types of tea are because of how the plant leaves are harvested and processed. While the tea plant can be cultivated all over the world where tropical or subtropical climates exist, it’s primarily found in China, other East Asian countries, and India.
Here’s a brief overview of the main categories of tea available today.
Black tea is one of the most well-known types of tea and is produced mostly in China and India. It’s particularly popular with Western tea enthusiasts, with brands like Lipton, Barry’s, Lyons, and Twinings being some of the biggest brands for bagged black tea.
Black tea gets its dark appearance from tea leaves that undergo quick and heavy oxidation after the leaves are harvested. When you see a product labeled as a “breakfast tea,” it’s most likely black tea leaves that have been broken down into smaller-sized particles. Black tea tends to have a stronger flavor than other types of tea.
Mainly a product of China and Japan, green tea usually appears a light green or yellow color when brewed. It generally has a relatively mild taste that may be described as “grassy,” but it can become bitter and astringent if steeped for too long.
After green tea leaves are harvested, they’re steamed or pan-fired right away. This introduction to high heat stops the oxidation process and gives the leaves their bright green color. Other types of tea undergo a similar firing process but not as the first step.
Oolong tea features a color that ranges anywhere from a light yellow to rich amber. It’s primarily produced in China and Taiwan, with different regions producing oolong teas that vary in taste and flavor, much like the differences you’d find between varying types of fine wine.
Processing for oolong tea involves first allowing the leaves to wither in the sun then cool. Next, the wilted leaves are lightly rolled, oxidized, and roasted. The leaves finally undergo a second round of rolling, giving them their curled appearance. This tea’s level of oxidation is between that of green and black tea, typically ranging somewhere from 10% to 80%.
Similar in character to black tea with its brown/black color and rich taste, pu-erh is an aged, partially fermented tea that comes from the southern region of China’s Yunnan province. Although other Chinese provinces produce aged teas that resemble pu-erh, only tea produced in Yunnan can officially be referred to as pu-erh.
Pu-erh tea is made by harvesting the tea leaves and then having them experience a steaming or pan-firing process similar to that of green tea to prevent oxidation. After the leaves are shaped and dried, they’re fermented and aged for several years.
For tea drinkers who prefer a milder taste, white tea is an especially popular beverage. It’s mainly produced in China, more specifically the Fujian province, and undergoes minimal processing for a light flavor with a clean finish.
Depending on the type of white tea, the plant may be harvested before or after the leaves unfurl and grow to their full size. Either way, the plants endure minimal oxidation and are slowly dried to remove as much moisture as possible and produce the sought-after flavor and aroma.
Compared to other teas on this list, purple tea is relatively new and rare. The plant is mainly sourced from Kenya and gets its color from the high level of anthocyanins found naturally in the leaves. Although most teas provide a variety of great health benefits, purple tea boasts more antioxidants than any other tea leaf.
Purple tea is generally made using methods similar to those used to create oolong tea. Once the leaves are harvested, they’re wilted and experience partial oxidation. Finally, they’re shaped and dried before consumption.
As mentioned earlier, what we refer to as “herbal tea” doesn’t actually come from the Camellia sinensis plant. Herbal teas are instead made up of blends of various herbs and spices and are usually free of caffeine.
You can find herbal teas that have just one ingredient as well as those with multiple ingredients, with some of the most popular being chamomile, ginger, hibiscus, lavender, lemon, and peppermint. In addition, many herbal teas feature blends designed to help with specific maladies, say to soothe an upset stomach or allow for more restful sleep.
Besides the different types of tea categories to choose from, there are also various forms that tea can take.
- Bagged: Tea leaves or blended herbs are placed in a small, porous bag. These pre-measured individual servings of tea are very convenient for users and only require a mug and hot water to enjoy them.
- Loose leaf: Tea leaves are left uncrushed and must be measured out by the consumer when being brewed. While loose-leaf tea requires a bit more effort to prepare and more equipment than bagged tea, the tea leaves are usually less ground down and fresher, allowing for a stronger flavor.
- Powdered: Tea leaves are ground into a fine powder, which then only needs to be combined with hot water to drink. This form of tea generally doesn’t have as strong a flavor as other forms, but it offers extra convenience and makes it easy to add the tea to other foods, such as soups or desserts.
Steps for starting a tea business
Launching your own tea business can be a very exciting and rewarding venture. However, it’s not something you can simply do in a day—planning ahead is a must!
Use these 9 steps to help guide you when you decide to turn your love of tea into a profitable business.
1. Become a tea expert
There’s much more to tea knowledge than simply knowing a handful of varieties and how long to steep them for optimal flavor. If you want to start your own tea business, consider learning as much as possible beforehand and becoming a tea expert to build authority with your target market.
In terms of how to go about becoming a tea expert, there are various online and offline resources you can use to achieve your objectives, whatever they may be! Online courses, books, blogs by knowledgeable people in the tea industry, and in-person classes are all great places to start if you want to learn more about tea, whether your aim is to discover all the many health benefits of tea or how to grow tea plants, craft the perfect blends, run a successful tea business, determine the costs of having an online tea shop, etc.
Depending on your particular location, you may also be able to avail of tea certification. This can give your brand an additional level of credibility and allow you to prove your expertise in different tea-related subjects.
2. Decide on your niche
At this point, you may already have an idea of what products you want your tea business to sell, but it’s now time to narrow down the list and decide on your niche. Because the market is already filled with existing successful tea businesses, it can be difficult for new brands to break through. Coming up with a stellar product that’s targeted toward a specific group of shoppers is a crucial step in ensuring the success of your business, whether you want to start an online boutique selling clothes, open an online shop to offer a variety of pet products, or launch a company on the web to sell tea.
Your first thought may be to be very general with your product idea, black tea for example, so as to appeal to as many consumers as possible. However, take a walk down the tea aisle of nearly any grocery store or search “black tea” online, and you’ll find that you’ll have loads of competition, including several big-name brands to whom shoppers are already very loyal. Your best bet is to instead focus on a specialty and determine how to make your product and brand stand out to your potential customers.
For instance, perhaps you’ll develop an herbal tea blend featuring unique flavors not currently found in the market. Another option might be to sell tea products that offer specific health benefits. You may alternatively decide to take a completely different angle and create a range of teas for, say, the different astrological signs…feel free to let your creativity go crazy!
3. Research your target market and competitors
After you’ve decided on a great niche for your tea business, you’ll want to begin researching your target market as well as your competitors. It’s important to take your time during this step of the process, as performing thorough research now will better prepare and inform you when making decisions for various aspects of your business. The information you discover throughout this phase can also help save you time and money in the long run.
When researching the people you hope to attract to your tea business, consider creating a buyer persona. This involves thinking about what your ideal customer is like and determining things like their age, location, interests, budget, language, challenges, motivations, etc. The data you obtain when creating your buyer persona will assist you in everything from perfecting your products and designing your packaging to deciding how much to charge for your products, planning your marketing strategy, and more.
4. Work on your tea brand
You’re now ready to develop your brand and the image that you wish to present to the world. A good first step is to think of a name for your new tea business. Keep in mind that your business name plays a pivotal role in your potential customers’ perception of your brand.
A stellar business name is short, easy to pronounce and spell, and unforgettable. It should align with the products that you sell and be relevant to your target market. Even better if you can include keywords that will help to boost your SEO! Don’t hesitate to bounce ideas off of your inner circle or use an online business name generator for inspiration too.
Next, you’ll need to consider what’s important to you and the reasons why you decided to launch your tea business as you create your brand story and your mission statement. While your values should ideally match those of your buyer persona, authenticity is the key element here. These brand values will have an impact on all different areas of your business and should be consistent through everything from your website and products to your marketing and communication efforts.
You’ll also want to work on some of the more visual elements of your brand, such as your colors and logo. Although these might seem like less crucial aspects of launching a business, it’s essential to remember that you’re probably going to be up against a decent amount of competition with your tea brand. Using consistent, high-quality visual elements across your website, social media networks, product packaging, etc. will give your brand a more professional look and make it more memorable in the eyes of consumers.
5. Design your business plan
A carefully developed business plan will serve as a helpful roadmap as you get ready to launch your tea business and then manage it once it’s live and ready for sales. Although the exact structure of your business plan will depend on your specific business needs and the product(s) you plan to sell, there are several elements that you’ll want to be sure to include.
Provide a detailed description of your business, including your product and service offerings, organization and legal structure, vision, and mission. Add a market analysis, analyzing your main competitors and detailing how you plan to have your business stand out from the competition. Explain the major goals you have for your business and give a specific timeline for when you hope to achieve them.
Don’t forget to also include your financial plan, with your startup costs, profit and loss estimates, a break-even analysis, etc. Note that the cost to start an online boutique can vary, as it’ll depend on a variety of factors, so be sure to research this aspect for your company carefully. This part is even more important if you hope to obtain funding from an external source like a bank or investors.
6. Find your suppliers
Locating reliable suppliers who will provide you with high-quality tea is a crucial step in launching your tea business. When researching wholesale tea suppliers, try to get in touch with companies that already have experience in exporting tea to your part of the world. If you happen to know other people in the tea business, check with them to see if they have any particular suppliers that they’d recommend.
However, even if you’re able to obtain a list of highly-recommended suppliers, you’ll still want to vet them yourself to verify that they’re a good fit for your specific business needs. Here are some key questions you’ll likely need to ask each company that you’re considering as you shop around for potential suppliers:
- Are there minimum order requirements? Most wholesalers will require orders to be at least over a certain dollar amount or include a minimum number of products. Knowing this figure will assist you with determining if the supplier is a feasible option for your business.
- Do they offer a discount for larger orders? You may be able to score a significant discount if you place a bulk order with the supplier. If your budget allows it, working with a wholesaler that provides a discounted rate for big orders can reduce costs and save you money in the long term. Just be careful to not buy more tea than you can sell before it expires!
- What safety and quality protocols do they have in place? As there’s a good chance that your suppliers will be located far away, you may not be able to visit them in person before signing a contract. Ask for certificates, licenses, or other documents demonstrating that they’re committed to providing a safe working environment and quality tea.
- How long is their order turnaround time? Even if a wholesaler offers amazing prices, that won’t do you much good if it takes 6 months for you to receive an order. While shipping delays will no doubt occur from time to time, your suppliers should be able to offer reasonable shipping timeframes.
When contacting potential suppliers for your tea business, pay close attention to how they respond. Do they take ages to get back to you and/or seem hesitant to be forthcoming with information? Keep in mind that this can be indicative of how they’ll respond to any customer service queries you may have down the road.
7. Manufacture and package your tea
Once you have your initial shipment of tea on hand from your suppliers, you’ll then need to work on manufacturing and packaging the final product. Remember that because tea is a food item, you’ll have to follow stricter guidelines for the manufacturing and packaging processes, all of which will depend on your particular location. Be sure to check and follow these rules carefully, as not doing so could harm your business’s reputation or even cause it to have to be shut down.
You can choose to blend and flavor your tea on your own in a commercial kitchen or hire a reputable manufacturer to do it for you. Whichever option you select, don’t forget to label your tea in accordance with your country’s laws concerning food goods. In addition, decide if you’re going to store your products at home or rent a separate storage or warehouse space.
Next comes your product packaging. Besides keeping your products safe, your packaging is also another way to differentiate your brand from the competition. This includes both the packaging you use to contain each product as well as the packaging you use to ship orders to customers.
Aim to provide your customers with an enjoyable unboxing experience every time they receive an order from you. Tissue paper to match your brand’s colors, stickers, colored tape, a handwritten thank-you note, free samples, etc. can all help add to the fun of opening a package!
8. Build your online store
After you’ve built up your inventory, you’ll need to decide how you want to sell your various tea products and start making money. While you of course have the option of opening up a physical store or selling your goods wholesale to other retailers, building your very own online store will likely be the easiest way to go about launching your tea business. Plus, this strategy will provide you with much more flexibility and control!
If you choose to create your own website to sell your tea, you’ll want to be sure to select a high-quality ecommerce platform to start your business off on the right foot. While building an online store is generally much easier today than it was in the past, not all platforms are created equally. How easy it is to manage an ecommerce site can vary depending on the solution.
With the WiziShop ecommerce solution, you’ll be able to pick from numerous design templates to ensure a homepage that matches your brand and your vision for your business. What’s more, we provide you with 50+ technical SEO optimizations to help your site perform better on search engines like Google and attract more traffic.
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9. Promote your tea business
When you’re just starting out with your new tea business, you may not have a significant budget to devote to advertising. Never fear, though—there are plenty of inexpensive and even free ways to promote your online store!
- Social media
An extremely effective marketing tool when used correctly, social media allows you to promote your products while connecting with your target audience and spreading awareness about your brand. There are all kinds of social media platforms out there today, but don’t feel like you need to be on every single one.
Head to the networks where your buyer persona is most likely to hang out. If your marketing funds are limited, you can start by creating and sharing high-quality content on your pages and later expand to paid advertising.
Although writing blog articles can be a more time-consuming activity compared to other marketing methods, it’s a powerful method for boosting your brand authority and growing consumer trust. What’s more, when you perform careful keyword research and optimize your posts for SEO, you’ll help your online store climb the rankings on search engines like Google and start to attract more traffic to your website.
If you’re worried about having enough time for your blog, you may want to consider hiring a freelancer to write articles for you or begin by limiting your posts to once a week. Just aim to be consistent about your posting frequency.
- Email marketing
Connect with current and potential customers alike by sending them thoughtfully crafted email newsletters filled with helpful content. As with any form of content marketing, the goal is less about promoting your business directly in your emails but instead to solve potential issues your subscribers may be facing and assist in making their lives easier.
Content like industry news, tips, relevant blog posts, memes, videos, etc. is all fair game when it comes to your newsletters. To build your subscriber list, consider creating a landing page on your website, including an opt-in box at checkout, and offering a discount or free gift in exchange for the user providing their contact details.
- Customer testimonials
While you obviously won’t have loads of reviews from people when you first start your ecommerce business selling tea, you’ll be able to gradually collect them over time as your sales increase and the number of happy shoppers purchasing from your store grows.
Once customer testimonials start coming in for your business, think about featuring them in various areas to help boost confidence in your brand. For instance, you can add them to a special section of your website or highlight them in your social media posts.
- Offline marketing
Even if you have an online store and plan on using the internet for the majority of your marketing efforts, it doesn’t hurt to head offline to get the word out about your business too. After all, there’s still a lot to be said for face-to-face interactions when it comes to promotion.
The types of offline opportunities available to you will vary according to your location. However, possible options include doing product demos at farmers’ markets, visiting trade shows, giving out free samples to your family and friends, and partnering with local businesses.