That Awful Tea

It happens. That tea you've been avoiding - the one you really dislike - okay, let's say you even hate it - people keep asking for it. Every week someone asks and you know it could be selling well for you. But you don't have it because it just isn't your cup of tea (apologies, pun intended.) You cannot block out the requests forever!

Is it really THAT bad?
Is it really THAT bad?

What do you do? Well, you are going to carry it! Not just because you are missing out on the sales of this despised brew, but for the simple reason that your customers deserve it. They know you will provide them with the best and even though you may not like the tea they are asking you to carry, they trust you will provide the service of locating the best quality for them. They are asking YOU because they don't want to buy it elsewhere, and you shouldn't let them!

The first step is learning about the tea in question. You have likely tasted one in the past and quickly dismissed it, developing an aversion and never looking back. What are the sought after qualities for this tea? For example, this writer's tea nemesis is the dreaded Lapsang Souchong. As a tea taster, it is my job to know what is a good Lapsang, what is bad and hopefully be able to tell the difference. (And hopefully to only have to cup it once a year!) Some things are subjective but quality is not. A poor quality Lapsang likely has had an inferior tea used to blend it and then not smoked in the traditional way. A good one will have a deep intense smoky character, but not be tarry or taste artificial. The tea base should be self-standing and is traditionally very smooth to suit the intense smokiness. Lapsang is one of the most common teas that people use to cook with making quality even more important.

Then the cupping: A few good ones and a few bad ones. Sure they all tasted awful to me but the difference was discernible. All brewed identically, some were very tarry, some rough around the edges. Others were smooth but very, very smoky. Even though this tea would never be something I would seek for myself, I could tell the difference between in quality. The key is to be a bit clinical and as neutral as possible about it. And then reward yourself very well after!

Conquering the enemy!
Conquering the enemy!

Maybe you are not the self-sacrificing type. There is no way you are letting THAT tea cross your taste buds. In this case, you can recruit some of your staff and customers to be on a tasting panel. If they like the tea in question and are willing to help, obtain samples from a few of your best vendors, and have a tea tasting. The more people you use the better. Have the team write reviews of the tea and have them be descriptive. Simply saying "I like it" or "I don't like it" doesn't help much. You can use a rating system if you wish. Discard the most extreme reviews and go with the one most people thought was the best. Make sure the brewing is controlled so all the teas are exactly the same for each taster. To reward your panel, you can offer them a free amount of the tea once it is chosen to get them started and of course, post-tea tasting snacks are always a nice reward.

If all else fails, call you favorite vendor and ask them what they recommend. A good vendor hears lots of feedback about all their teas and can let you know what is a bestseller.

To sell the dreaded tea, make a list of all the qualities described by your tasters or vendors and use them to help you understand what other people like about the stuff. You will then be able to train your staff on it, explain it to your customers and even recommend it - imagine that!

What's your tea kryptonite? Email me and share how you handled it or just let us know what other topics you would like to see covered here in TeaSmart!