Last month, Starbucks’ Chief Operating Officer, Troy Alstead, said that the business would be focusing on growing its tea business because tea accounted for “a high single digit percentage of sales last year”.
As the second most consumed beverage in the world, there are ample opportunities to capitalise on tea, and retailers from Tetley to Teapigs have done so.
So how to stand out amongst all those celebrated tea brands? With some inspiration from overseas and a new way of doings things, that’s how.
A little over two years ago, Krisi Smith and Mike Turner (who met at University), returned to the UK after a stint in Canada where Turner worked as a skiing instructor. The trip was intended as an escape from the rat-race but became the stimulus Smith needed. She had always intended to start her own business and decided the maxim that ‘actions speak louder than words’ would might help.
In Canada, a ‘bluebird day’ is a day as close to perfect as one can be: with clear blue skies just right for skiing. Generally only around once a year, to have a bluebird day is to pack up, put on the skiing gear, and embrace the day. And that’s what Smith and Turner did. It seemed only right that the somewhat dynamic duo name their business after it.
Bluebird Tea is a leading tea mixology company that is fast gaining recognition, so much so that it was chosen by iZettle last month to be a part of its ’12 hour store’ campaign and have the chance to trade from prominent location South Molton Street for a period of 12 hours.
Following a decade of being surrounded by tea, whether waiting in on tables in an English tearoom or managing a chain of tea bars, Smith studied blending and mixology whilst abroad et voilà, an idea was born.
“In the UK, we love to sit down and take our time with ‘afternoon tea’, whereas over in North America, there’s a lot more of a ‘takeaway tea’ culture” Smith explains. “We decided that Britain, a nation of tea lovers, simply had to try some new blends.”
Once back in Britain, Smith began experimenting with innovative combinations of ingredients imported from around the world, while Turner oversaw the logistics and operations of starting a business. The pair started small, testing their new flavours at events and festivals. Along with a wealth of market research, they gave themselves six months to see their idea through. It wasn’t enough.
After trying pop-ups in Richmond and in Nottingham, where Smith and Turner considered opening stores, the couple opened their first Bluebird Tea Co. shop in Brighton earlier this year.
“Our approach to tea is to do it the way no-one else does” Smith tells us proudly.
“If we could open a new store, it would be in London, but for now our focus is on the brand.”
Of this, there is no doubt. The duo work hard to ensure the personalised experience is there online, with filters such as ‘lifestyle choice’, ‘gluten free’, ‘sweet teas’ and ‘icy tea’ available to help customers sift through the abundance in tea options. In addition, the website has a light-hearted ‘tea-matcher’ to help customers find the perfect teabags for them and a ‘universitea’ page offering recipes, tea teaching and posts on various tea related musings.
Specialising in mixology, Bluebird tea concepts are completely Smith and Turner’s own. While other brands repackage tea, Bluebird doesn’t sell single estate teas eg. Assam, but Smith and Turner make their own. To add to the mix, a workshop is available for customers to learn how to blend themselves.
Serving up imaginatively named blends like MojiTEA (a refreshing blend of green tea, peppermint + lime) and Coco Chai no. 5 (a classic spiced chai tea with a dash of coconut), Bluebird certainly offers a brew like no other.