A visit to a Paris café. Quiet reflection by a lake. A conversation between best friends. Like those memorable moments, a journey that begins with one of Tea Forté's pyramid-shaped tea bags is a personalized, full-leafed sensory experience. That’s what CEO Michael Gebrael wants customers visiting the company's first retail store to understand.
“Sometimes you really need to touch, and you need to be in the environment to feel what the brand is all about,” Gebrael said, sitting inside his storefront, an ornate arched window with bright pink cherry blossoms painted on the exterior. All around him are gift boxes in ribbons, tea sets made of glass, silver, and copper, and clear containers holding tea leaves curated from 35 countries.
Until the store opened its door on Boston’s Newbury Street in April, Tea Forté’s signature pyramid was available only through independent shops around the country, hotels worldwide, and for the past five years on Amazon.
“Since the first day, we've had triple-digit growth, and we keep on growing,” Gebrael said. “We would absolutely not be here without Amazon.”
The journey to his brick-and-mortar location began 13 years ago, an hour’s drive north of Boston, at 23 Bradford Street in Concord. The memory of the office space doesn’t conjure up floral notes for Vice President of Hospitality Sales Jane Whitman, one of Tea Forté’s first employees.
“It was a dump!” Whitman said with a laugh. “Cracks in the building. It was freezing in the winter. Boiling in the summer. We didn’t care.”
Enthusiasm for founder Peter Hewitt’s vision — creating a unique tea experience in a pyramid-shaped tea bag — brought Whitman and three others to work in the early days, hoping to find street parking and success.
“There were always challenges,” Whitman remembered. “Our supply chain was always handcrafted, so managing volume was a big challenge.” Other stumbles included branding without enough resources, no outside funding, and personnel disappointments.
Today, the company employs 240 and plans to open more stores, possibly in New York, Dallas, or Miami.
“We've had triple-digit growth, and we keep on growing. We would absolutely not be here without Amazon.”
First, Gebrael and his team are tea-ing up for a critical 36-hour time period, what Gebrael expects will be the biggest single sales day in Tea Forté’s history: Prime Day 2018.
Prime members ordered more than 40 million units from small- and medium-sized businesses during Prime Day 2017. This growth during a historically slow time of year enables small- and medium-sized businesses selling on Amazon to reinvest locally, by creating new jobs and expanding local operations.
“We are absolutely nervous, but we're excited,” he said. “Are we bringing enough quantities? We need to scramble and make it happen and support this incredible opportunity.”
Tea Forté’s new Tea Over Ice will be the special offering on Prime Day. The company is preparing “tens of thousands” of items. Tea is the most consumed drink on Earth after water, after all, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations which also says consumption by millennials is on the rise.
“You have great brands out there, but we want to be the brand that teaches every consumer about tea,” Gebrael said. “Prime Day gives us the opportunity to reach out to new consumers, to get into someone else's home and be able to share an experience with them.”
Gebrael finishes his cup of tea. The Green Mango Peach is one of his favorites; it takes him back to his Latin roots. Indulging in the timeless ritual of sipping tea transports him to memories of the kitchen, where the lengthy process of blending, testing, re-blending, and finding the perfect balance in the world’s top one percent of tea leaves brings a storied appreciation for each sip.
In Gebrael's words: “Tea should never be ordinary.”
Learn to make flash-chilled iced tea
Tea Over Ice will be Tea Forté's special offering on Prime Day. Watch this video to learn how the set works.