The Reality Behind Some Tea Brands

Do you like a tea brand because of their online image as a small company that is out to save the planet with their exceptional tea? Well, it’s probably just that – an image. All show and no reality. At least for some of them. I recently came across this image while researching something else about tea. Recognize two of those brands? I do. They are very much into creating an image (small, caring for the earth, healthy tea) designed to appeal to millennials. The reality is that they are part of mega company Tata Global Beverages. Personally, I don’t have a problem with that, but I don’t like the fakery. So, here’s a bit of mask removal for you all.

Tata Tea Brands

Good Earth

From their Facebook page:

We’re Good Earth and we make tea. But we don’t just stick to the ordinary stuff. We seek out the exotic. The unexpected. The moments where you can really let loose. Because that’s what tea should do. And so that’s how we make it.

We’ve been at this for 40+ years. We were one of the first herbal tea companies in America, planting our roots in the 1970s with our Sweet & Spicy® which went from a local favorite to a country-wide “tell my friends but don’t take mine” tea. Good Earth now has teas that span all sorts of tea varietals, herbs, botanicals and flavors … naturally good things carefully chosen and masterfully blended together for a one-of-a-kind taste experience.

We’ve traveled many roads over the years. But at the heart of it, we want tea to be a wonderful adventure with endless possibilities to explore. Come join us on this journey.

The reality:

  • Elizabeth Falkner, celebrity chef and collaborator, is the only name I could find on their site. No owners’ names.
  • Founding info: “Good Earth is one of the first herbal tea companies in the USA. In the late 1970s, it began developing trademark teas, especially its signature Original Sweet and Spicy Tea, for Good Earth restaurants. Thanks to the overwhelming popularity of Good Earth teas, in 1988, the brand began selling Good Earth tea in a bag format in California. Good Earth joined the Tata Global Beverages family in 2005. … The brand was re-launched in the US in 2013, with breakthrough packaging.” [This means that they redesigned packages, etc., to get millennials to think they were all about natural.]
  • From Wikipedia: “Good Earth was acquired by Tetley US Holdings Limited in October 2005, and is a subsidiary of Tata Global Beverages. … In November 2013, Tata Global Beverages rebranded Good Earth to diversify it in the competitive tea market. The new “Untamed Tea” brand message and marketing strategy redesigned the brand’s Web site, launched extensive social media outreach and celebrity chef partnership.[3] It also included new flavors with new taste profiles, some with Stevia, and discontinued older flavors. In January of 2014 Good Earth Tea collaborated with celebrity chef Elizabeth Falkner from Bravo’s Top Chef. Chef Falkner’s adventurous palate led to the creation of recipes infused with Good Earth Tea. Facebook fans had an opportunity to enter the “Taste The Tea Untamed Sweepstakes” for a chance to meet Chef Falkner and embark on a culinary excursion.”

Basically, a company that made its fortune through public image, got bought up by a larger company, and then by an even larger company that bought them, as a effort for these companies to get people to thinking of them as one of those small, cares-for-people-and-the-planet companies. It’s all about public image. I’d rather have good tea, and their stuff is a bunch of odd plant matter and very little true tea (Camellia sinensis). Now, their teas are in those K-cups, which are overpriced, wasteful, and rather inadequate for delivering a good tasting cuppa. What’s good about that? And using the term “herbal tea” has created a very confusing situation for many people who want to start drinking tea.

Teapigs

From their Facebook page:

We met while working for a really big tea company [they mean Tata Global Beverages]. We loved it. It’s where we learnt a lot about tea and where we drank even more. And the more we learnt (and the more we drank) the more we realised there’s a whole world of teas out there that are just not getting the attention they deserve.

And so teapigs was born.

Nick describes himself as a tea evangelist (although much nicer than those shouty ones on American TV). While Louise, an experienced tea taster who has travelled the world tasting teas is a self-confessed tea addict not seeking rehab. (Keep up with her latest rantings in Louise’s Blog.)

Together we founded teapigs, a company that can best be summed up by the words.

no airs. no graces. just fine tea.

The reality:

  • They are in several countries (UK, US, Australia).
  • Co-founders: Nick Kilby and Louise Cheadle [the names are on the Tata site, not on the Teapigs site – why the mystery?]
  • Founding info: “With funding by Tata Global Beverages, teapigs was launched in 2006 by self-confessed tea enthusiasts, Louise Cheadle and Nick Kilby. Their aim was to get the UK drinking better quality tea and introduce a brand that was more relevant to 21st century tea drinkers. The duo successfully launched their tea temples, essentially a roomy, biodegradable pyramid mesh bag containing high quality, whole leaf tea into the UK market. teapigs is now the leading super-premium brand of tea in the UK with distribution in thousands of independent quality food stores, coffee bars, restaurants, pubs, hotels and more recently major supermarkets. The brand also has a significant ecommerce business and a strong presence with social media. The company based in Brentford, West London employs over 20 tea obsessed staff and have opened an office in Manhattan to further drive sales in the rapidly expanding quality tea market in the USA. It also sells to over 30 countries worldwide including China, Japan, Russia, Norway, Sweden and France. The teapigs range of tea temples has grown to 28 varieties of teas and herbal infusions. The brand also launched matcha in the UK in 2008 and more recently introduced ready-to-drink matcha juice drinks into the UK and USA markets.”

Contrary to the image they try to portray, they are not a couple of struggling tea lovers with a dream of helping the world drink great tea. Instead, they front for a global corporation. Do you buy from them because you want to help little guys succeed? Don’t worry about it. Tata is there to catch them if they fall and also provides them with various logistical support that only such a large company can do. How do the real little guys compete with this? They don’t.

Bottom Line

Public image is often all you see, but take some time to go behind the scenes and find out who those people really are. In both of these cases, I’m extremely disappointed. Good Earth has no info about the founders and the people currently on staff. Teapigs didn’t have the last names of the founders (I got them off of the Tata site).

Be honest. Be upfront. Be yourself. And your customers will love you all the better for it. As is, I wouldn’t touch either brand with a 10-foot pole.

© 2015 A.C. Cargill photos and text

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