Recently, we tried a new concept.
Tea as art.
The idea was to make a phenomenal tea: something a cut above our stable of blends. Something that would take a lot more work; something unique; something that would take far more effort and time than could be recouped. Something highly individual.
You may have read of our “Love of My Life 2014” blend.
Now that Valentine’s Day has been and gone, I’ll share a little of the experience.
The blend was available only in a little tin. The little tin was quite expensive as these things go. Gram for gram, it was ten times the price of our usual blends.
For starters, little tins cost a lot more than our usual packaging. But the price really reflected nothing more than the time that went into it.
A standard blend may take months to develop, but then is unlimited in its future sales if it is good. This was different. It was limited to twenty tins of ten grams each.
Selling such a tiny quantity – in fact, I only ever created about 250 grams – was never about money. It was about the experience.
It might seem like the height of conceit for a blender to sign and number tins of tea. Sometimes I think that myself. But anyway, I did, and presented tin number 1 to Lady Devotea.
Since then, I’ve been able to see first hand how the market has taken to this. The first order was amazingly from America, and whilst I won’t break a confidence by saying who it was, it was a person who has a strong involvement with the arts and I think who totally understood what I was doing.
Since then, we’ve taken the tins along to many markets. Side-by-side with great tea at one-tenth the price, there has been a fair amount of resistance. Sales were a little slow.
That makes sense to me, our retail tables are for tea, not art, and here we are mixing up the concepts.
Last week, we held a tea tasting at an art exhibition, an opening for Adelaide artist Samantha Tipler. That was very different.
A different crowd: Hipsters. Advertising creatives. Small business owners. Other artists. Semi-naked people covered in body paint. Comedians. Musicians.
Whilst I only fit into two of the above categories – and a third in my own mind – it instantly seemed to be a tea drinking crowd. All good news.
Over the next few hours, Love of My Life attracted attracted quite a bit of the right sort of attention. The idea of numbering and signing each tin, which tea buyers couldn’t seem to grasp, made sense to many of these folk.
It sold quite well. It just goes to show context.
The next day was Valentine’s Day, and at the end of the meal I created for Lady D, we had a cup of Love of My Life.
It was phenomenal. The carefully selected flavours had mingled after 4 weeks in the tin, creating something that was far better than what went in.
So at the end of the day, the tea was art and the art was tea, and the tea repaid those who had faith in the art by being worth the price. Not just for the concept, not just for the packaging, not just for the exclusivity, but because it’s great tea.
Even if it’s also the height of conceit to mention that.