Saturday, May 31, 2008

World Tea Expo New Business Boot Camp is a Blast

The New Business Boot Camp, at the 2008 World Tea Expo, was a great success!

Attendees, primarily from the US and Canada, attended this 2 day, 16 hour, intensive tea business training learning from 8 speakers on various aspects of opening a tea business.

Speakers and topics included;

Jane Pettigrew - Tea 101
Karen Durkin - Creating a Business Plan
Elisabeth Knottingham - Hiring Staff
Charles Cain - Buying and Merchandising
Bruce Richardson - Reality Check
Ronald Eng - Technology
Karen Schnieder- Basic Legal
Me - Marketing

Attendees were enthusiastic and ready to learn. Marketing is such a huge topic and tough to cover in a short 2 hour time frame. I stuck to simple techniques that are inexpensive and easy to implement.

In the last 15 minutes of my presentations we broke into mini groups, each assigned to create a marketing piece on a random product, this was the fun! I had the pleasure of watching these very creative people work together to come up with the most interesting ideas and great marketing content. It was clear that they got it!

Each group selected a "Vanna" to display the product and we had some real stand outs! Some of the product uses were amazing and hysterical; Weight Loss Waistband Clips (paper clips), Orange Marmalade Facials, The Single Mans Mayo, and a mustard presentation that included the tag line "Mayo will need to work hard to Ketchup with Mustard" great stuff!

I was honored to be included in such an elite group of speakers for the first ever NBBC. I was overwhelmed by attendees positive feedback and energy levels that continued throughout the show as they stopped by our booth taking pictures and giving out hugs. This was truly an amazing experience for me both personally and professionally.

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, May 11, 2008

World Tea Competition at the World Tea Expo

We have 6 finalists in the World Tea Competition at the World Tea Expo!

We entered 10 tea & herbal house blends into the first ever World Tea Competition in the end of March. With the late harvests in China I really stepped out of my comfort zone, my first submission choices would have been the more purist, specialty teas like Dragon Well, Bai Hao Yinzhen, Qi Lan etc which I am completely confident that we are offering superior quality and some of the finest in the US.

I always say "for every problem there is a solution" so I sat down with the Teas Etc team prior to flying out to China to discuss what would be good alternatives.

The following blends we selected ended up in the finals in the categories indicated;
Black Blended & Flavored Category
Citrus Berry
Organic Mint Fusion

Green Blended & Flavored Category
Organic Lemon Ginger, this tea blend (no flavor)has been one of our most popular for a few years both commercially and for retail customers.

Herbal - Chamomile
Organic Cold Comfort Herbal
Organic Chamomile Lavender Herbal

Oolong Blended & Flavored
Ginseng Oolong

As you can see our organic selections did well. The only submission that is not a house blend is the Ginseng oolong and all but the Citrus Berry are blended with no flavoring, something that we as a company, and I personally, am more fond of.

The 4 entries that did not make the finals received honorable mention as well as high ratings, in the categories indicated;
White Blended & Flavored both of these were awarded a rating of 80 or higher!
Organic White Rose
Strawberry White

Earl Grey
Rosy Earl Grey we took a real chance with this entry and were fully aware of that prior to the competition. This house blend includes jasmine green tea which is a real twist on a black earl grey!

Rooibos Blended & Flavored
Mango Nut

The most interesting part of this process for me is that unfamilar feeling of stepping out of my comfort zone, something I don't do to often. When forced to do so, with the late harvests in China and not wanting to enter 2007 teas, it opened a whole new arena for Teas Etc with our delicious house blends that don't always get the same "air" time from me. Just goes to show you I really don't know everything.

The World Tea Competition (WTC) and World Tea Ratings (WTR) are going to change the face of the US Tea Industry. It is a good thing, in my opinion, for the industry and especially for consumers. WTR is a buyers guide, similar to the wine rating guide, listing all finalists, 5 in each of the 25 categories. All WTE attendees, the show is in Las Vegas May 30th, 31st and June 1st, will receive a copy of the WTR Buyers guide.

Another thing I found curious, of all of the tea companies in the US only 30 entered teas into WTC. You would think that this is the perfect venue to showcase and promote what they do well? Maing me wonder why?

Any time innovative change is occurring it tends to make people uncomfortable, good, bad or indifferent. There is no doubt that educating consumers on quality and guiding them to terrific teas and companies that consistently provide buyers with fine choices can only be a positive thing.

Hats off to Kim Jage and the Wordl Tea Expo staff for working so hard to make this critical competition happen!! The World Tea Competition is here to stay! YEAH!!!!!

In addition we have 2 entries in the Iced Tea Shake Off which is being held at the World Tea Expo. We have a black tea and rooibos entry and some interesting preparation techniques that should be delicious and fun!

Look for my post on the Shanghai Tea Expo. With pictures!

Until next time, Beth

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Traveling throughout China by Air, Rail and Road

Traveling in China may not be as difficult as you imagine, even if you don't speak Mandarin Chinese. Modern day China is much more welcoming to foreign guests and many Chinese are especially considerate and accommodating to western visitors.

Airline travel within the country is particularly easy as announcements in most airports are in Chinese and English and getting through security is not as much of hassle as it is here at home.

Train travel can be challenging but is still very doable and very affordable. The biggest challenge lies in what you carry. Many stations require going up and down stairways to and from trains which can be difficult with heavy bags. Trains can be crowded especially in major cities like Shanghai. Be forewarned the Chinese are all in a hurry to get on the train and courtesy is not at its best in this environment.

Regardless to your load or destination I suggest always booking train travel in advance. Most good hotels have ticketing services and schedules can be easily found online. Select "soft" seats or cars depending on what is available and the length of your trip. Soft seats are the equivalent of first class. In some cases you must choose between "first class" or "regular" soft seats. Soft cars are semi-private sleeping cars with a total of 4 bunks a small table and a shared bathroom, in the hall. Soft car is the best choice and considered first class even if it is not by western standards.

When possible choose bullet trains with their new cars and fast service!

Hotels may not be as reliable as travel and trust me you definitely get what you pay for! Top hotel chains which may be a safe bet in the states are not necessarily the way to go in China. If available and you like clean accommodations always select 5 or 4 stars, anything less and you are going to be disappointed. Even 4 stars can be sketchy at times and I suggest that you request a look at your room before making a final decision.

Having said that there are really nice hotels in China as well. The Sofitel in Suzhou and the Hangzhou Hyatt are marvelous! The Sofitel in Hangzhou on the other hand is not! A perfect example of why you cannot rely on a name.

When booking a room ask if breakfast is included in the price, pretty standard all over the country. Also be sure to ask whether you will be charged for an internet connection. Many times it is included but if not prices range from flat daily fees to per minute charges.

With the 2008 summer Olympics in store China is anxious to show the world the China of today with its booming economy, wealthy neighborhoods and technological advances. A great example of "modern" China is the new Beijing airport a masterpiece of function and design.

If you do visit China I recommend adding Hangzhou to your list of stops for a visit to the beautiful West Lake area. West Lake is easily going to take one day to walk the perimeter and spring is a lovely time to do that. One of my personal favorites not only because of the natural beauty of the gardens surrounding the lake but also because of the terrific spa at the Hangzhou Hyatt! This full service spa has a variety of treatments and I will be back to take advantage of the great spa values! Try the 4 1/2 package of services for under $200 that includes non stop massage, exfoliation and pampering. It was a great time out for me especially after traveling so much.

Until next time, Beth

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Unfortunate Happenings

I was feeling really good about our progress in the new location. Newman and I left on Saturday around 6:30 pm leaving the place spotless and ready for Monday.

Around 7:30 am on Monday we got a call from Suzanne B that the doors and windows had been broken out!

We were not alone, 5 other offices in the business park were vandilized. Thankfully nothing was missing and everything was still CLEAN, I am so grateful.

It is unfortunate but really just another challenge that we will meet and overcome. Everyone is fine and life goes on.

Until next time, Beth

Sunday, May 04, 2008

More China Posts

With the schedule I have been keeping since arriving home this is the first opportunity I have had to publish more of my pictures from my China trip.

Enjoy the post and images and keep an eye out for pictures of the new office as well as pre 2008 World Tea Expo happenings.

Anhui Province
Green Tea Triangle Gardens

Amy on the way up

Life at the top of the mountain

Until next time, Beth