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My Road to The Tea Table

By John Rice, General Manager.


Anyone who has read the About The Tea Table page will know that I initially started working here doing photography for magazine ads, then eventually for the first version of the web site.  Commercial Photography is actually what my education is in, so it’s hard to believe that was also my first work with digital photography, after a lifetime of shooting on film.  It’s amazing how photography has changed (mostly for the worse, I think, but that’s another story) in the roughly 11 years since then.

What the info page does not say is that prior to my career in Commercial Photography, I worked for several years, right out of school, for a large, global corporation.  It was that experience which has shaped how I run The Tea Table more than anything else.  Maybe not in the way you would expect, however.

Like so many people, I came out of college ready to take on the world.  I was hired for my Corporate job the day before graduation.  What I didn’t expect is that my time in the corporate world would leave me so disillusioned and even a little disgusted.  I was probably naive, but I didn’t expect the business world to be more about appearance, ego and immediate sales at all costs, rather than simply conducting business in a sensible way.  I certainly didn’t expect it to be so short sighted.

What struck me the most is how bloated businesses tend to be.  At The Tea Table, I have made a point of operating in a manner where we are agile, streamlined and extremely efficient.  Many tea sellers have elaborate packaging and marketing programs, requiring them to make long-term commitments and produce expensive materials prior to adding a new tea to their line-up.  With our simpler approach, when we find a new tea we like, we can be selling it later that day.  This also keeps our operating costs and selling prices much lower.  A more “Corporate” approach would also require that all teas meet minimum sales requirements.  While there are many teas we purchase in large volume and sell hundreds of pounds of per year, there are still others we insist on offering simply because we think they are spectacular, even if we only sell a few pounds.

The bottom line is, our goal at The Tea Table is rather simple.  We seek out the best teas we can find and sell them at a reasonable price.  We are not marketing an attitude or appearance and we are not in the tea business to be “trendy”.  We don’t have high paid executives or expensive marketing, all of which simply would increase our prices and lower the value of the product we provide.  I never expected my corporate experience to be so useful as a bad example, but what I learned not to do there benefits all our customers at The Tea Table.

4 comments to My Road to The Tea Table

  • Sam

    John, I also have experience in the corporate world, and what you have said about appearance, ego, and the rest was my experience as well. I’m so happy you have found a home with a smaller business where people have a genuine commitment to a simple goal. They are also the places where you find the unwritten commitment to treating each other in a fair and compassionate way. Granted, you need to be more flexible with the variety of tasks you do, but small businesses can be such great places to work!

  • Pat

    As a consumer, tea drinker, and new small business owner, I appreciate your honesty John, as well as your enlightenment, and commitment to your values and The Tea Table. Sounds like a good move in many ways. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • John, I’d love to know which teas you are referring to as the spectacular ones that don’t sell well. Clue me in, please.

  • Well Phil, they tend to be the more exotic ones. A couple that come immediately to mind are Keemun Mao Feng and Bai Hao White Tip Oolong. I think I would probably also include Yunnan Golden Buds.

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