Welcome to the start of a new blog post series, "Overheard at The Tea Mavens"!
In this series, you'll get a glimpse into the inner workings of our team and see a bit of how we work with tea companies around the world to improve their businesses on many levels.
This post's focus is on a topic that has created a LOT of confusion within the tea industry: tea bags. Last week, I was speaking with a consulting client, a high-end brand with a focus on tea and health, about tea packaging options. We came to the topic of offering tea bags. It went like this:
Client: It seems like some people want tea bags. Should I offer them?
Lindsey: Have people requested tea bags?
Lindsey: Do you find tea bags are in line with your branding?
Client: No. They're about convenience. So I guess I shouldn't use them! But what about pyramid bags? They seem more luxurious.
Lindsey: How would you feel if I recommended that your clients drink hot tea from plastic cups?
Client: I wouldn't like that.
Lindsey: Me, either! Could you tell me what are pyramid tea bags made from?
Client: Silk or muslin.
Lindsey: Some sachets are made from muslin. Let's focus on the 'silk' tea bags. They're often sold as 'silky' or 'silken,' which is confusing, because it's like saying 'velvety'... They're not made from silk. They just feel like silk. They're actually made from plastic.
Client: [expression of shock]
Lindsey: Worse yet, there are ones that market themselves as eco-friendly. They're made from corn as the base material, and yet the end product is a polymer chain, a plastic. Through heat and processing, they basically skip the whole 'wait a million years to become oil' thing that plant matter and dinosaurs did to become oil that gets made into plastic. These supposedly eco-friendly tea bags are even marketed as GMO-free. That's not because they are made from non-GMO corn. It's because they're that heavily processed... they no longer contain genetic material. And the claim that they're biodegradable is pretty dubious, too. So while you COULD fall in with the tea industry trend of selling all that greenwashing, I don't recommend following suit, especially since you care whether your clients are drinking tea that was infused with plastic. What do you think?
Client: I agree!
Lindsey: How do you feel about muslin tea bags?
Client: I don't like them. It feels like there's something in my tea that shouldn't be there.
Lindsey: OK, I hear you. How would you like to proceed?
Client: I'll stick with loose-leaf tea!
Lindsey: Makes sense.
Client: This is all so much clearer now...
Some of you may be surprised by the information I shared about 'silken' tea bags. It's a common misunderstanding (ahem, greenwashing) in the industry! And it's just the kind of thing I love to cut through with simple, actionable guidance on consulting calls.
For those who weren't derailed by that news, you may have noticed something subtler going on. Did you see that I didn't just tell the client, "Don't do tea bags. They stink for your branding"? Instead, we talked through the motivation and the reasons behind it to find the best solution FOR THAT BRAND. Each situation is unique. For your brand, it may be that convenience matters most (so traditional tea bags are a great solution) or that a luxe style matters more than health (in which case, plastic tea bags may be an option). If you're an eco-chic brand with convenience leanings, muslin bags might be the solution. And otherwise, loose-leaf tea and branded teaware can be great options, too.
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