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Tea Reboot

By Gerry Van der Grift, CEO for The Metropolitan Luxury Tea Company
25 July 2022
5 min read
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Take Charge Luxuriously

The past two years have been hard on the hospitality industry. Having said that though, opportunities abound to reset the dial on some previously overlooked details – such as upping your game on a tea service to reflect guest demands.

Through the looking glass of tea in the general market during the past two years: 

Demand for luxury tea, herbals, and tisanes outside of hospitality has increased by more than 60% and 2022 is pointing to continued double-digit growth (COVID and isolation gave people time to experiment, resulting in nearly ravenous consumption of luxury tea). 

Pedestrian tea brands have languished. 

Supply chains have wreaked havoc on the tea brands due to their JIT (Just In Time) purchasing policies. Tea has become more a matter of importing tonnage to keep packing equipment humming than a concern for a quality standard. 

Astute luxury packers, due to the nature of their high-end quality offerings, covered their needs months before the logistic problems occurred. 

Lipton has sold their tea holdings to a hedge fund. Quality will take a further hit. 

Supply chains are now further exacerbated by the invasion of Ukraine. 

So How Do You Take Charge? 

Take interest in tea, the same as you would with your wine selection. Most everyone thinks tea is tea. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not only is tea complex, but it is also one of the highest margin items in F&B. With the exception of a few enlightened luxury chains, responsibility is downloaded to purchasing at the property level. The result is a cacophony of different teas of varying quality – most not reflecting the standard of the hotel brand. 

Generally, existing brands are retail-centric. Tea that is not luxury or 5 Star centric will create disappointment. The conclusion is, that you need to explore your options more thoroughly. This will not only improve return guest visits but will also improve your F&B revenue stream. 

Find out if your nominated tea brand is sold in Costco or other large retailers. If this is the case – move on. You can rest assured that these retailers will be putting pressure on the brands to lower prices or hold the line during the upcoming inflation cycle. The only way for the packer to retain a margin is the packer needs to use cheaper and lower quality tea. 

Find a domestic packer whose focus is luxury tea and then create an exclusive tea brand that reflects the prestige of your properties, notwithstanding that your teas should be in the top 5% of global quality. The corporate F&B team understands the nuances of the hotels and along with a tea master flavorist they can transform visions into exclusive blends only obtained at the specific hotel brand. 

Understand completely who your supplier is and their environmental policies. 100% compostable tea bags are the leading edge. You should accept nothing less. There are some teas that present well, (imported with inherent supply issues) but if you peel back the layers, you will understand that the tea bag is synthetic and is not a reflection of your group’s mandate for environmental stewardship; nor the ethos of your target market.

Some luxury tea suppliers offer online staff training modules purpose-built to assist F&B with staff training, leading to an improved guest experience. Staff win as well, since engaged and knowledgeable staff are generally rewarded with higher gratuities.

Create an integrated strategy by leveraging the chain’s volume and including the exclusive teas in the group’s retail space – online and at property level. This furthers brand loyalty and enhances group performance since retail is a corporate entity as opposed to an extension of the management agreement.

Engage Chef to create local pairings with your exclusive teas. Successful localized experimentation leads to the probability that consumers in the property’s local market area will be more inclined to visit the property for Afternoon Tea or other offerings F&B has created.

Part of your exclusive tea brand should include wellness options broadening the consuming base beyond F&B to include the property’s Spa and Wellness Salons – a significant revenue and experience driver.

Create a tea vision that addresses all needs throughout the property and do so with a cohesive policy which reinforces the luxury connotation that is inherent in your group.

The Bottom Line

The world is requiring INNOVATIVE THINKING and the COVID reset is presenting you with an opportunity to uncover new revenue streams with Luxury Tea. It is the bold and prescient who will be the winners.

About the author 

Vandergrift is CEO of The Metropolitan Luxury Tea Group, holds an MBA, and is Tea Master Level 5. His career started as a currency and commodity trader, but over the last couple of decades morphed into navigating international and domestic markets as a completely premium tea-centric entity. In addition to this, he acts as an advisor to certain tea-growing companies around the world encouraging them to grow premium and sustainable produce suitable for the high-end markets, furthering his ethos that the whole supply chain must win: from farmworker to consumer.

Learnn more about The Metropolitan Luxury Tea Group by visiting https://www.metrotea.com 

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