What do blockbuster movie Black Panther, basketball famous person Steph Curry, and Sophie’s Cuppa Tea have in frequent? One phrase: Oakland. The different metropolis by the bay has come into its personal—Black Panther opens and closes in Oakland, Golden State Warriors nice Curry is a global title, and Sophie’s exemplifies the premium tea locations popping up throughout city, catering to a various clientele.
There is, nevertheless, no precise Sophie. Partners John Brown and Xiaobei Wei, who grabbed up the Montclair neighborhood location after a earlier deal in Palo Alto fell via, merely like the title’s welcoming sound. Brown lived in China from 1979-82 as a professor instructing English, American literature and historical past earlier than returning to the U.S. and launching a profitable data-processing enterprise. Wei is a former restaurateur. “My business background is B2B, while hers is definitely hospitality,” Brown says.
From Crimson Needle to Green Javelin
Sophie’s retails completely Chinese teas, each by the cup and free leaf, and is regionally well-known for its “no milk, no sugar” mantra. Brown and Wei are devoted to serving every tea in the complete assortment (listed on blackboards lining the partitions) brewed completely, with all delicate flavors intact. Both 12-ounce and 16-ounce sizes can be found.
Popular favorites embody pink tea Crimson Needle ($7.25, 16-ounce cup; $27 an oz.), white tea Silver Needle ($6.25, 16-ounce cup; $28 an oz.), oolong Amber Orchid ($8.25, 16-ounce cup; $28 an oz.) and inexperienced tea Green Javelin ($6.75, 16-ounce cup; $26 an oz.). Sophie’s additionally carries conventional Chinese black teas, together with unique Ascending Aura ($5.25, 16-ounce cup; $150, 12-ounce cake), floral jasmines corresponding to Blizzard ($6.25, 16-ounce cup; $23 an oz.), and yellow teas corresponding to First Steps ($6.75, 16-ounce cup; $25 an oz.).
The companions shut Sophie’s each spring for 30 days, visiting China to search for the first choose of inexperienced teas, and to make new contacts. Brown notes that as many as 15 to 30 new teas are added every year, primarily based on these new partnerships with Chinese farmers. The store’s standard one-hour tea tastings are a super approach for regulars to teach themselves, as Brown talks about new teas, exhibits photographs of supply farms, describes processing and greatest preparation. Really devoted tea connoisseurs can accompany Brown and Wei on group journeys to China, throughout which they go to each farms and native cultural websites. Next yr’s group will go to Yunnan province for nearly two weeks.
Yes to Online and Wholesale
Though Brown was initially immune to on-line gross sales, Sophie’s now does a considerable enterprise on-line via its engaging, easy-to-use website. However, he says, “We don’t advertise it, and our approach to it is very low-key.”
On the wholesale facet, Sophie’s at present provides a number of tea retailers and occasion companies, however Brown is very explicit about which of them. “I mostly discourage [potential tea] entrepreneurs who are ‘in love’ as opposed to ‘in business,’” he says.
Fortunately for Brown and Wei, Sophie’s is each a love—and a enterprise.
Sophie’s Advice: Five Smart Ways to Educate Your Customer
- Deflect “sticker shock.”
An $8.25 cup of tea appears excessive to folks new to premium teas, Brown says. Be ready to clarify why a uncommon, rigorously sourced and processed tea might price that a lot.
- Offer tea tastings usually.
Cultivate a “tea playground,” as Sophie’s calls it. Let folks mingle, chat, and see for themselves the contrasting traits of teas as they develop their palates.
- Ensure all customer support workers know the fundamentals of each tea provided.
You might know your teas inside and outside. But do your workers? They’re the ones more likely to be answering (or not) prospects’ typically tough questions.
- Do demos on the greatest methods to arrange completely different teas.
Clay pot? Glass pot? What temperature? Optimum steeping time? Remember a brand new teapot might be an add-on sale for somebody who doesn’t personal the proper one.
- Don’t get too “vineyard” with taste descriptions.
John Brown chuckles over pretentious wine descriptions that go on eternally. “Stick with two-to-three adjectives to describe a tea’s flavor,” he suggests. Crimson Needle, for instance, is described at Sophie’s as evoking “orange blossom and lychee blossom. Slightly sweet.”
Sophie’s Cuppa Tea, 2078 Antioch Ct. Oakland, CA 94611. (510) 500-3404, www.sophiescuppatea.com