Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Reordering Wholesale Teas and Herbs

We recently posted a video on how to quickly reorder products from the Kopius Teas website. If you order from us frequently, give it a look. We're sure it'll save you much time and energy.

3 new organic flowering teas

We just added three NEW organic flowering teas to the menu.

Personally, I like the presentation of the Solstice the best.  We'll be loading some videos of the flowerings opening to the www.kopiusteas.com site shortly.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Contract Tea Formuation Services and Ingredients

Sometimes people view our range of different organic and conventional teas and tea blending ingredients and forget to note that Kopius Teas (www.kopiusteas.com) and its partner QTrade Teas & Herbs are also in the business of contract formulation and manufacturing. In fact the main reason why we even offer our vast selection of herbs spices flowers and fruit pieces is because we use those ingredients in our own contract blending operations. The tea blending ingredients we show on our website are, in fact, only a small portion of the ingredients we actually maintain in our inventories.

Why don't we show all of our inventory for sale? The two main reasons are availability and price stability. Some ingredients may be subject to large price fluctuations based on crop size, climate, and overall demand. In addition we may need to reserve inventory simply to fulfill ongoing, manufacturing commitments.

The other component we do not show on the website are our flavorings. Most of the flavors we use are liquid-based and are shared across the manufacturing of multiple flavored teas. Tea is normally a naturally hydroscopic ingredient, which absorbs and retains applied liquid flavors quite readily.

Now that we know there are many ingredients and flavors to choose from, we can begin to address how new and novel blends are created.

Like many things in life it, product development begins with an idea, a concept. These may be variations of things that we've already tasted, or they can be completely new. I like to think of one company that's brought this to life most recently and that is Jelly Belly. Jelly Belly innovates and introduces completely new and interesting concepts in jelly bean flavors. Buttered popcorn, bubble gum, peanut butter, etc.

You can think of the range of flavors to be at this extreme and even further. Although you may immediately reject the idea of drinking a peanut butter flavored beverage, some of these concepts became immediate hits, just because someone had the foresight and courage and determination to see these items to market.

That same originality can be applied to contract tea formulation. We start with an idea, and build from there. We try different ideas and remain open to variations and subsequent new avenues for pursuit.

As a business, our wholesale custom tea formulation services are geared at working with your ideas and defining a range of alternative recipes that fits your specific pricing needs. We generally offer a series of different alternative sample blends for consideration. Tasting these samples under a range of different steeping conditions is the best way to understand how the product may be accepted by your clients.

Once the formula has been finalized, the manufacturing process then returns to one of sustaining quality and availability.

I should end by noting that not all formulation projects entail the use of flavors. Some of our largest contract formulation projects revolve around the proper blending of pure, natural teas. This is where our expertise in sourcing and cupping becomes paramount. A well balance tea blend, whether served hot or iced, needs to exceed a set range of criteria for flavor, aroma, texture, color, strength and freshness. Tea, being a natural product subject to seasonal variations in rain, moisture, wind, sunshine, soil, and processing, can introduce new considerations from lot to lot.

Seek a business partner who will take a personal interest in the size of your project and can make a commitment to developing and maintaining the resources needed to both formulate and manufacture according to your volume requirements.

Most contract blenders will start with a minimum size order of 50 - 100 lbs of tea. Of course, you may also wish to check how your vendor can accommodate a dramatic increase in scale, should you develop the next blockbuster product in tea and obtain a distribution contract with a large grocery store chain or big box retailer.

Lastly, if you are building an organic tea recipe, you should inquire about Organic Certification with your vendor. This documentation trail is necessary to support the US National Organic Program requirements for use of the USDA Organic Seal on the package label. Similarly, if you are seeking other certifications, such as Fair Trade or Kosher, be sure to mention these to your vendor early on so you select ingredients that maintain these standards.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Teaze Infuser Demonstration

Here is a new video featuring the Teaze infuser in action...

Monday, October 18, 2010

Fair Trade Resource Network

If you're new to Fair Trade or want a fresher on how these programs are designed to assist small farming communities, sign up for a series of seminars offered by the Fair Trade Resource Network.

They are offering a new series called, "Webinar Series "Clarifying Certifications in Fair Trade". A small donation is requested per webinar segment.

You might also want to visit FairTradeUSA or FairTradeCanada for additional resources.

Friday, October 15, 2010

First Pyramid Tea Bags

We just completed our first run of wholesale, bulk pyramid tea bags for food service. I think they came out rather nice!

This particular manufacturing run was made with a slightly larger bag and contains 2.5 grams of tea per bag. The pyramid bagging machine is all digital, so we can set the desired weight per bag and it will constantly monitor the weight per bag to ensure the proper minimum quantity.

Think of it. Any restaurant chef, tea merchant, coffee roaster can now come to us and we can custom formulate and manufacture tea bags for food service. Pretty cool.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Customer Support Live Chat Upgraded

We just completed an upgrade to our live customer support chat rooms. Previously, our chat rooms were rarely monitored, with the chat link located fairly far down the home page left navigation panel. Now we will be offering live support more frequently throughout the week to bring you a higher degree of customer service, especially as we approach the busy holiday season.

Look for the Live Support link (shown above) in the upper left corner, directly above our contact telephone numbers.

Several new features include:
  • include initial contact information so we can immediately locate your account records
  • print or email chat transcripts
  • transfer files without leaving the chat window 
  • participate in optional exit satisfaction surveys 
  • quick link to our customer support ticket resolution system during non-monitored sessions
We hope you will like this new tool. We know your time is valuable.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New Over the Cup Teaze Infuser for Elegant Tea Preparation

Elegantly steep tea by the cup with our new clear Teaze Infuser. These designs came on the market a few years ago, but we really like this latest design, with its natural curves and modest functional size.
The Teaze Infuser holds up to 16 ounces and is made of medical grade Eastman Tritan to remain clear and durable. BPA Free and dish washer safe, this infuser will transform steeping of loose leaf tea into a uniquely captivating preparation for home, office, and fine restaurants.

To use, simply add tea and hot water to the Teaze Infuser. When your tea is ready, place the Teaze Infuser over the cup and the Teaze automatically dispenses filtered tea into your cup.

The key is the water tight seal which is released as soon as you place the infuser on top of a cup. I've used it several times and it does a good job with minimizing dripping, which is something I have to deal with frequently with basket type infusers.

Our first shipment is expected towards the end of October 2010. Order today in time for the holidays. Comes 24 to a case.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

T-sac disposable tea filters now available

We very pleased to introduce 5 different t-sac tea filters - ready for retail sale. The natural tea filters are portable, perfect for to go cups and convenient steeping of larger quantities of loose leaf tea.

The five options we now offer include:

#1: 100 cup tea bags per box
#2: 100 mug tea bags per box
#2 bulk: 1000 mug sized tea in non-retail box for food service
#4: 100 pot tea bags per box
#5: 40 slim carafe tea bags per box

This range of filter sizes allow flexibility for not only food service, but also for consumers who wish to select the proper sized bag for the personal, family or entertainment audiences.

I usually travel with loose tea and a few disposable t-sac tea filters. This lets me enjoy quality tea in my hotel room, on the airplane, and anywhere I can find hot water.

Here's a hint...you can fill these tea bags and heat seal them yourself in advance of an event. Offer them to your friends who may not be familiar with how to steep loose leaf tea. When the bags are sealed, you can just drop them in a cup, pot, or thermos without worrying about the tea floating out of the bag.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

QTrade Teas & Herbs Awarded Five First Place Winners at North America Tea Championship 2010

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif., Aug. 31 /PRNewswire/ -- World Tea Media has awarded QTrade Teas & Herbs five first place awards from over 200 submissions at the North America Tea Championship - Hot Tea Class. An independent, expert panel of seasoned tea professionals granted top honors to QTrade across a wide range of tea categories and origins.

QTrade's first place finishers included:

Best Ceylon - New Vithanakande Supreme, Sri Lanka
Best Darjeeling - Jungpana 2nd Flush, India (3rd year as Best Darjeeling)
Best Blended White Tea - Organic & Fair Trade Silver Serenity
Best White Tea - Organic & Fair Trade Silver Needle Supreme
Best Pan-Fired Green Tea - Tunxi Green Tea, China

"We're quite pleased the panel selected not only five exceptional teas from QTrade, but that two of the entries originated from Certified Organic and Fair Trade tea gardens," explains Manik Jayakumar, President, QTrade. He adds, "QTrade continues to work at the forefront of socially responsible, sustainable agricultural methods. Organic Silver Serenity and Organic Silver Needle Supreme finished top in their class, signifying how organic methods can often lead to superior tasting teas."

"We wish to commend QTrade on their continued participation and success in these tasting competitions," exclaims Ronald Eng, President, Kopius Teas. "If you look at the thirteen first place awards and the twenty-eight total awards from the past three years, it's clear that QTrade not only has the global network to acquire some of the world's finest teas, but that they also have the expertise to consistently identify best-in-class entrants."

About QTrade Teas

QTrade Teas & Herbs (www.qtradeteas.com) is a direct from source importer of quality ingredients serving the middle to upper tier food and beverage industries for over fifteen years. QTrade is the largest importer of organic teas in the United States, and also offers a growing selection of organic herbs, spices, fruits and flowers. Augmenting the products is a complementary set of custom formulation, blending, and private label services.

About Kopius Teas

Kopius Teas (www.kopiusteas.com) specializes in providing premium teas, herbs, and accessories for the startup to middle tier wholesale markets. The website features a broad selection of over 400 teas and blending ingredients from QTrade Teas & Herbs and is designed for tea merchants, coffee roasters, cafes, and specialty retailers.

Contact: Ronald Eng, 1-949-766-0070 x500.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Kopius Teas can now contract manufacture your own tea inside pyramid tea bags

We have a new Fuso tea bagging machine in the warehouse! Yeah!

This means we can not only create custom tea blends, but we can also manufacture the pyramid tea bags directly from the same facility in Los Angeles, CA.

At present, we are only making bulk tea bags - bags without individual wrappers. Nevertheless, I think this is a significant step towards offering restaurants and cafes their own signature line of pyramid tea bags for food service and retail applications.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thoughts on the World Tea Expo

We had a great time at the World Tea Expo 2010. This was the second time we've exhibited and the first time the conference was held in the Las Vegas Convention Center. At first I was a little concerned that the venue was not as appealing as the Mandalay Bay, but perhaps the only difference was that we had further to travel to go to a nice place for drinks or meals.

Our overall traffic was a little off from last year - this was expected. We continue to see strong interest in our organic teas, contract blends, and private label tea bags.

We did have a chance to go out on the Las Vegas strip more than last year. We visited the new Aria at City Center TWICE! It's such a nice hotel - we hope to stay there next time we're up in Vegas. There's a great british pub, Todd English at City Center. Give it a try. I liked the Arbor beer from England, and I wouldn't even consider myself a beer drinker.

Let me know if you have questions about our experiences at the WTE. Overall, it's a time to meet our clients and talk tea. We've already signed up for next year - exhibiting at the same booth space slightly later in June 2011.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tea Clubs

Our website and business is designed for business to business transaction. Having said that, our minimums are only 2 lbs per item. If you have a tea club and group of friends who really enjoy tasting new, quality teas and want to purchase tea at a significant discount, please contact us to set up an account. The savings would be very significant over retail prices.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Is that coffee with your tea? Or tea with your coffee?

Coffee drinker. Tea drinker. Why not both - at the same time?!

Our latest blends cross the chasm by blending tea with real roasted coffee beans. Three exciting flavors:

- White Chocolate Mousse Cafe
- Toasted Coffee Almond
- Cafe Naranja

Make peace between the divisions. And let tea take the first step.

Visit Kopius Teas at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. June 11-13, Las Vegas Convention Center. Booth 302.

Kopius Teas - Tea with an Attitude.

Just what I am talking about at the World Tea Expo New Business Boot Camp?

People always laugh when I try to describe my contribution to the World Tea Expo's New Business Boot Camp. Technology and Tea - could we have selected a set of more diametrically opposite topics?!!

As I mention in my introductory remarks, my background is in biotechnology and I used to live in Silicon Valley. Technology is in my blood, whether I like it or not. Actually, I'm very adamant about using only what you need.

For a retail tea shop or online tea business, this might mean one or more of the following:
  • Point of Sale system (a computer) or basic cash register (dedicated cash register)
  • Accounting system
  • E-commerce domain, hosting, and cart
  • Merchant account
  • Electronic postage
  • Digital camera and photo editing software
  • Gift and loyalty cards
  • Security cameras and digital recording systems
  • Wireless hotspot
  • Social networking strategy
  • Data security plan
  • Scorecards
Mostly, we look for ways to optimize and automate what we do. This means finding ways to simply management tasks so you can focus on what's really important in your business.

The above lists are just some of the tools we've implemented. The end result is we know what we've done, what we're doing, and where we're going. I remember one of my old employers had a high paid consulting team come in and tell us the core of what they try to discover is simply "what's working" and "what's not working".

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Getting the most out of your visit to the World Tea Expo

We have been attending the World Tea Expo (WTE) in Las Vegas since its first inception as the Take Me to Tea conference. The event is always well attended and if you're still on the fence in terms of deciding whether to go or not, I would certainly encourage you to go.

So what makes the WTE so attractive? Believe it or not, I would have to say its organizers. George and Kim Jage and the team at SFG Group, LLC are really dedicated to making a good experience for all. Sure they try a few ideas that don't work so well, but you can easily tell they truly want everyone to walk away thinking they will attend next year, too. I've attended similar coffee shows where they just randomly throw up a bunch of speakers and open an exhibit hall to vendors. On the contrary, the organizers of the World Tea Expo are always trying to keep you engaged, offering lots of activities and sidebar type opportunities.

While the World Tea Expo has been conducted for probably near 7 years now, it's much more than a "seen that" "done that" experience. The format of education and exhibits and cultural demonstrations and workshops offers a nice balance between the pure fact finding about tea and the practical world of how we can all share our love for this healthy, simple beverage.

The event is scheduled for June 11-13 at the Las Vegas Convention Center with a New Business Boot Camp (where I am an instructor) offered immediately before and the Specialty Tea Institute certification courses offered immediately after. It will certainly be a long show if you run the whole span, but I've know people to have done it!

To get the most from the World Tea Expo, here are my list of top recommendations (not in any particular order):

1. Network, network, network. Bring your business cards and get to know as many people in the industry as possible. Whether you are just starting out or have been in the business for awhile, you quickly realize there aren't too many formats that allow us to meet face to face. Certainly, once you've opened your tea room it becomes even harder to break away for several days in a row. I recommend you take the time now to make at several hundred business cards and try to make it a point to hand them all out! Of course, a business relationship is more than exchanging business cards, but at the very least, you don't want to run out of cards at the show.

2. Sign up for courses that best suit your needs. The seminars in the morning run concurrently, so you will need to find the classes that best match your interests. If this is a repeat visit for you at the WTE, don't feel as if you have to revisit a class that you've taken before just to see if there's anything new. Chances are you'd be better served attending a class that's completely a new experience. For me, I think many new ideas are sparked by the unexpected. Putting yourself if a new, unexplored situation is the best way to feed the creative fire.

3. Manage your exhibit time. The exhibit floor is generally buzzing every minute of the show. Last year as an exhibitor, we were constantly swamped with so many show attendees that we hardly had time to take a break, let alone see the other events scheduled throughout the afternoon. This year we're a little smarter and will have additional staff at the show. If you're attending, you should have ample time to visit all the exhibit booths without a problem. You shouldn't feel rushed at all, especially if you're going to be there all three days.

On the other hand, if you're only going to be at the show for a single day, I would certainly encourage you to visit the exhibits for the entire time it's open. Manage your time wisely and know that if you're planning on attending a guided tasting or afternoon cultural demonstration, this is time you will not be on the exhibit floor.

4. Taste a few teas, but know it's the relationship that counts. Many of the exhibitors will offer a few teas to sample. While this can give you an idea of a new tea that they are introducing, don't take it as an indication of whether you will work with that vendor or not. For each vendor offering tea, there are probably about 100 or more teas that aren't being offered for sampling. Furthermore, will you really be able to make a decision about tea quality when you're sampling out of a small paper or plastic cup, standing in a loud conference hall while holding a bag of conference materials over your shoulder? No, it's much better to select a few vendors to work with and get a catalog or website to examine when you get home.

4a. Establish a relationship with your vendors. We have owned our own retail storefront for over 6 years now. We used to see the World Tea Expo in terms of a buyer. Now we see the World Tea Expo in terms of both a buyer and seller. Since overall there are fewer sellers than buyers, let me share a secret with you. Vendors can often be your source for much more than providing product. Since they work with so many independent retailers, they can also be a source of guidance on which teas might work best in your environment. If they have direct retail experience, they will also know much more about the hurdles you will need to overcome in a retail environment - anything from business plan, to staff management, to product margins. While you don't want to use the time at the show to pound vendors for information, it's an ideal time to quickly describe your business and what makes it unique. The vendor will appreciate and remember your individual story and be able to note that for future interactions after you get home.

As a wholesaler, we often receive inquiries from start-up business owners, but if a start-up entrepreneur has taken the time to introduce themselves at the show, to share their vision and a little of their personality, it goes a long way in terms of understanding timeframe, range of teas, typical client demographics, seasonality and much more.

5. Consider attending the pre show New Business Boot Camp and the STI Certification Classes. I lump these together, but they are really quite different animals. The bootcamp is designed more for the fundamentals of setting up your own storefront. The STI Certifcation Classes are dedicated to educating you in the appreciation of a specific set of teas. Both are quite valuable. If you have never attended an STI class, you will probably wish you had a chance to attend even before the exhibition had started. Both pre and post courses are very practically oriented, loaded with lots of tips and hints you will be able to immediately bring back with you once you get home and your head stops spinning. By all means, consider the STI Certification class if there is not a class offered in your region some other time throughout the year. The time and cost you'll save by not having to travel to another location will be well worth it. FYI, the Boot Camp is only offered once a year.

6. Consider scheduling meetings at the conference. Let's say there is an open slot in the morning that's not taken up by a class or perhaps you will want time to sit down some time throughout the busy exhibition schedule. Why not set up a time to meet with someone you'd like to have some face-to-face time with? Perhaps it's someone you've just met at the show, or even a vendor who you'd like to discuss some specialized blending or packaging project with. Chances are they'd be more than happy to meet with you, especially when they're going to be giving you their complete attention and not looking to help a new client who's been waiting patiently at the booth for 5 minutes.

7. Practice your 15 second elevator speech. You know the story. What would you say to a rich investor if you bumped into them in an elevator? Practice this script so it will aid you in transmitting your vision and act as a base for discovering who you will be able to partner with after the show. "I'm starting a tea shop." while possibly accurate and succinct isn't going to get the same reaction as "We're launching a new, retail and online resource for the world's freshest organic teas, SensitiviTea. SensitiviTea be sold across the country and will include home recipes for adding seasonal fresh fruit and flowers to freshly brewed tea." What you're doing is getting others excited by your idea, leading them to want to help you be successful. What about divulging too much? Believe me, if your idea is that easy to copy, you probably won't last long in a competitive environment where some parties will have much deeper investment resources than you. Who knows, maybe your idea is unique enough to attract investors at the show - wouldn't that be great?!

8. Be prepared to blog/facebook/twitter about your experience. Nothing can be more viral than the net. Your enthusiasm, your new venture, your overall impressions at the World Tea Expo, when shared with others who participate in your success, can only help fuel your expertise and dedication to the field. Let's face it, no one really cares if you're the type of person who bounces from one interest to another without really accomplishing anything. For many of us, tea is a life long journey. Whether we stay in the field professionally or not, we will always be loyal to the leaf and the many facets of its appeal.

9. Consider all contacts valuable. Maybe this comment has more to do with how you manage your contact information when you get home, but take note of the fact that the industry is always bigger than you are. Today you may have specific needs to launch your business. Next year you may stumble upon a big corporate client who wants to use your brand to make tea bags in every national health food store across the country. How could you do that? Would you have the connections to pull this off? Or did you just shop for new tea blends, tea cups, and novel infusers for 6 hours?

10. Give back. My last recommendation is to take a few moments to contemplate how you can give back to the tea community. Whether it's a donation of tea, or hosting a few tea seminars, or even becoming a featured speaker at next year's World Tea Expo, it's a great feeling to help those who were in your position a year or two from now. That's why I'm speaking at the Expo. That's why we're exhibiting. That's why I'm so interested in helping you. This industry has always been so supportive - everyone wants you to do well.

11. I leave #11, 12, 13 and on to you. Share you ideas on our blog or consider cooperatively linking with us at Kopius Teas (kopiusteas.blogspot.com).


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Yame Matcha (new!)

Today we are announcing a new variety of matcha - Yame Matcha from Japan's southern island of Kyushu. This matcha features a vivid, bright, natural green matcha tea at an affordable price. To ensure freshness, the matcha is packaged in 30 gram sealed canister.

Matcha is extremely healthy. When you make a fresh bowl, you are consuming all the goodness of the entire tea leaf, and not just those antioxidants which dissolve in water.

To make matcha, place about 2 grams into a bowl or cup. Add hot water. Traditionally the beverage is made by creating a tea suspension with a bamboo whisk (see left), but you can also blend by hand with a spoon or whisk. A good quality bowl of matcha ready to serve is shown above.

You can also add matcha to your favorite smoothie or dessert recipe. In fact, we went to dinner to a sushi restaurant where they offered matcha salt!

We recommend you store opened matcha tightly sealed in the refrigerator to preserve freshness. The matcha will begin to clump as it gets repeatedly exposed to cold and warm temperatures, so it is best to limit exposure at room temperature. Typically we just scoop what we need and quickly return the matcha back to the refrigerator. Some retailers sell matcha sifters to help disperse the matcha back to a fine powder - particularly useful if you are having a hard time whisking a proper bowl.

In our retail store, people have told us matcha helps them concentrate better (for poker and studying), become more regular in their metabolism, and generally feel much healthier than drinking coffee.

Kopius Teas offers Yame Matcha in your choice of :
  • TeaSentials retail ready tins
  • Private label tins
  • Unlabeled tins

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Top Tools We Rely on for Our Wholesale, Retail, and E-commerce Businesses (cont.)

5. Gotomypc. Nothing says "I don't need to be there" more than remote access to your network. When you need to be away from your business, having direct access to your files and desktop is such a blessing. Gotomypc give us simple, dual password access to multiple computers on our network. For us, that means knowing how our retail tea store is performing in real time with real numbers. It give us that and much, much more (can't give away all our secrets!).

What we like best is the flexibility of printing all kinds of documents in our choice of locations. Real simple. Very cool.

gotomypc.com. Check it out.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Top Tools We Rely on for Our Wholesale, Retail, and E-commerce Businesses (cont.)

4. Philips Electric Kettle. Who this said this list had to be about software?

Philips Electric Kettle HD4651We love this lightweight portable and efficient countertop water kettle. While we don't use it in the store, we do use it every day to heat water for our tea tastings. Because the unit is so lightweight and durable, we've used it out of number of off-site functions. We've tried a number of different more modern, stainless steel models, but somehow, even though this is a plastic device, it just fits well on our hands and is easy to use. We don't care much for some of the other designs which are made to look like a traditional kettle you'd put on the stove.

Speaking of that we had one customer who had a relative visiting from out of town and thought the electric kettle was actually a traditional kettle that you would put on the stove. The smell of burning plastic soon engulfed their kitchen.

For those of you who haven't tried an electric kettle before, you've got to give this a try. The water boils so much faster than a gas stove or microwave oven. It's safer. Plus I can easily open the top to view the surface of the water, which allows me the chance to turn the heater off at right time.

Aroma AWK-161 Clar-i-Tea 1.7-Liter Electric Water Kettle and Tea BrewerWe've had this Philips electric kettle for about eight or nine years. We've undoubtedly used it thousands of times. We recently purchased a glass based on the water kettle by Aroma (shown on the right) for my parents. This model is also nice because it's made primarily of glass. I doubt if I'd use the tea strainer but if so it's a nice invitation to make a fresh pot of tea.

So I think about the thousands of teas we've made one a common denominators that we've come to rely on as her electric kettle from Philips.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Cinco de Mayo coming up next week

Cinco de Mayo is coming up next week. Hibiscus (jamaica) is very popular in Mexico, where it is referred to as, "agua de jamaica".

Hibiscus is a very popular component in iced teas, where it is favored for its deep ruby red color. The taste is relatively sour, but it easily brightened with a good helping of sweetner. The combination of sweet and sour makes for a thirst quenching beverage.

Not only does hibiscus taste good, but it's also good for you. Some studies have shown hibiscus to be beneficial in managing blood pressure and cholesterol.

Our house blend, Rosa de Jamaica, features hibiscus, lemon myrtle and rose petals.

Now that's we're gearing up for the summer and Cinco de Mayo is nearly here, this is a great time to prepare a pitcher of aqua de jamaica. To make a 32 oz pitcher, take about 3 tablespoons of Rosa de Jamaica and steep for a good 7 - 10 minutes water which has been brought to a boil. Be generous with the sweetner with this drink, as it needs the sweetness to offset the pungency. If you prefer, try sweetening with stevia or another natural sugar substitute.

Kopius Teas


Monday, April 26, 2010

How Quickly Products Can Move

Mondays are always the busiest days for new tea orders for us. We implemented a more structured allocation process to manage our inventories earlier this year, both received and in transit (literally on the water). Even with this in place, it never ceases to amaze me how our inventory levels can change so quickly.

Early in the week, as we do every week, we synchronize our website to reflect current inventory levels. Today being Monday, we completed the update in the late morning. Within 30 minutes of the posting, over a hundred pounds of product had already sold out.

If we start to see this more frequently, we will move to a shorter interval for refreshing our website.

Pretty amazing...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Top Tools We Rely on for Our Wholesale, Retail, and E-commerce Businesses (cont.)

To continue with my list of top resources...

3. A solid Point of Sale system. I have spoken about this at the World Tea Expo on numerous occasions. There are many vendors out there that can walk you through all the features and functions of their systems. Before you go shopping, you should carefully write out what your requirements are. If you don't know what you'll need, try to speak with someone who has configured a similar system for a parallel business.

In the tea industry, we typically have types two types of transactions: food service and retail. The food service component will rely heavily on ease, speed and accuracy of the transaction. The retail component will need to track inventory and price changes so at the end of the day, month, quarter, so you will have an accurate picture of profitability. If you are in a high traffic area such as our retail store, Infusions of Tea, you may need to store and return to multiple in-progress transactions throughout the day.

On the food service side, customizable touch screen with programmable menus is a big plus, as is the ability to print a food order on a secondary printer in the food prep area.

On the retail side, it is easier to generate purchase orders in pounds yet sell in ounces. Also, the system should automatically generate price tags for you based on purchased quantities. Do you intend to build gift baskets or tea gift sets? You don't really want to be entering individual component prices during the holiday rush, do you? It's more likely these prebuilt sets will be sold at a discount so it is best if they are assigned their own product numbers.

Whether you choose to implement a true Point of Sale system or a simple cash register, all your data should flow into Quickbooks or whatever accounting system you are using. 

Piece of cake, right? I'll just conclude by repeating what I said at the beginning. Make a list of your requirements based upon your business. This will keep you focused as you compare various POS systems.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Top Tools We Rely on for Our Wholesale, Retail, and E-commerce Businesses (cont.)

To continue with my list of top resources...

2. Quickbooks. Now you know I'm a dweeb. If Volusion is the airplane that your customers ride, then Quickbooks is the pilot's navigation panel -- or it's kind of close. Many small business owners (I would guess over 98%) are already comfortably familiar with Quickbooks. If nothing else, an accountant or friend has set the system up so the business owners can make a few routine bookkeeping entries.

I guess the reason I love Quickbooks so much is most third party vendors integrate with Quickbooks. This means less time doing data entry. With either our wholesale or retail businesses, we transfer data automatically into Quickbooks. Whether it's a journal entry balancing sales, cogs, inventory, tax, and credit card data, or itemized transactions, it's all a blessing to look at when the mundane part of data entry has been resolved.

So what do we really use QuickBooks for?  Yes, of course tracking money flowing in and out of our business. But the real plus is basically two areas:
- business decision support
- tax preparation

Business decision support. Where have we been, how are we doing, where are we going? Accurate data to support critical business decisions. Late last year I gave a workshop on dashboards and scorecards as it applies to the specialty beverage industry (in this case - coffee, cafes, delis). It's not enough to have the information, you need to find a way to predetermine a core set of regular parameters (eg cash flow, sales year over year) and hypothetical parameters (eg effectiveness of marketing campaigns, # employees per shift on sales). These reports or "dashboards" automatically populate once you open your report application.

Tax preparation. It's April 13. Can I say it now? I hate taxes. It's tedious and time consuming. Yes, we can have an accountant prepare everything, but Quickbooks is a core starting point. It's like a filing cabinet. The more things are in order throughout the year, the easier it will be to find things - no matter what time of year. People forget how Quickbooks makes everything easier come tax time. For us in the retail area, we actually use our POS more for sales tax calculations, but overall Quickbooks is a good base.

I'm sure all of you new business owners will end up with QuickBooks eventually. Within the first year, you'll think you know this program and a new situation will arise for which you won't know how to address in Quickbooks. My main recommendation is to find a pool of at least 3 people you can ask questions of when you get stuck. Even searching the internet for answers might take longer than just calling a few friends. Besides, there must be a gazillion users out there for Quickbooks.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Calories calories...how many calories

On a related topic, those of you in California eating in your favorite chain restaurants have noticed calorie counts appearing on menus. Apparently this law will be enforced starting Jan 1, 2011 for all restaurants with 20 or more units in the state. So even if you don't want to know how many calories are in that order of chili fries, you're going to know anyway.

California has been on the cutting edge when it comes to anti-smoking legislation. By putting calories onto menus, I think this is a good step towards fighting obesity.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Food Labeling Guide

Ever wonder what's actually required on the outside of package of food sold in the US? The best resource is to check out the FDA's website on labeling and nutrition. Some text is in the form of requirements, other text is in the form of guidelines. A lot of the thinking for such "rules" is food safety and consumer protection. By having a more accurate description of the product, consumers are able to shop with greater confidence, particularly when comparison shopping. It's funny how marketers are smart to capture your focus and attention with colors, fonts, graphics and more. Whatever the design, the final product label should be consistent with the above regulations and guidelines for food labeling.

Within the FDA's site is a section Food Labeling Guide. I think the biggest mistake people make for packaging tea is probably not knowing about the very basics - General Food Labeling Requirements. That is, people forget the simple things such as ingredients, weight, manufacturer name & address. Note that the labeling requirements are specific when defining placement of this information on a food label.

Another good section to keep in mind is the food allergens statement. See the FDA's Guidance for Industry: Questions and Answers.

Lastly, if you're going to be selling your product internationally, be sure to review labeling requirements of these other countries. For example, certain parts of your statements may need to appear in more than one language.

With a bit of planning, you can save yourself the headache of having to reprint labels or canisters. You know the labeling game...the first several thousand cost per label is extremely high and then it ramps down quite quickly with quantity.

The more standardized the labels, even across food categories, the easier it will be for consumers to quickly locate the information that is relevant to their purchasing decision, whether it is for health or curiosity reasons.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Top Tools We Rely on for Our Wholesale, Retail, and E-commerce Businesses

As many of you may know, we manage a series of wholesale, retail and e-commerce stores all focused on tea. We would not be up to do this effectively (with minimal payroll expenses) without the use of computers and related technologies. It is odd to find myself drawn to technology when in actuality my main motivation to move into the tea sector was to escape high technology.

But my affinity for technological solutions is really geared at finding practical solutions for the problem at hand. I know this to be the case because one need only look at my cell phone, which by the way does not have any smartphone features, to know that I don't just buy technology for the sake of having it. Even my MP3 player still uses a standard rechargeable AA battery.

Having said that, here a list of essential tools that I would consider now to be indispensable.

1. Volusion. Volusion (www.volusion.com)  is our core e-commerce platform which includes web hosting, website design, and shopping cart functions. Volusion represents our third cycle of e-commerce platforms. The first was Microsoft bCentral, which was promptly dropped by Microsoft several years ago. The second was eBay's ProStore, which was more or less a template design nightmare. Volusion's  interface, customization capabilities, and total breath of functions has really been a blessing for our small business. Add on top of that true 24/7 customer support and you have a solution that is really built for around-the-clock maintenance and upgrades.

I know if you read some of the forums within Volusion, you will find a series of disgruntled clients. But overall I believe if you are truly focused on business and not a software developer at heart, you will quickly come to realize how this one tool can open up your imagination for marketing new products on the Internet.

Another subset of technologies we've come to rely on through our use of Volusion is SQL. I'm definitely not a computer programmer by any means, but learning a few stored queries (SELECT queries) has really helped harness the power of this system. By stored queries, I mean a routine way of pulling relevant data from a relational database. For example, we have stored queries we use to transfer data between the e-commerce system and our Sales/MRP system. This might include customer shipping address, item codes, prices, quantities, etc. We also use stored queries to view purchasing data and manage product pricing and descriptions. We can pull customer data automatically for creation of our product sample labels. We even have stored queries to grab data related to customer returns and feed it directly into excel and word.

Lastly, we use Volusion's implementation of Intuit's web connections to link this system with Quickbooks. In short, it automatically creates an itemized sales receipt for every transaction. By some standards, this is low tech. For us, it's just cool. Who wants to enter all this data manually?

I will continue with this list in future postings shortly.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Change in Foil Pouches

We are slowly beginning to transition to using foil pouches with a natural, green paper exterior. You'll start to see these changes implemented throughout all the different wholesale foils we use in production.

The new foils are the equivalent strength to the old ones but are more ecologically friendly. We hope you enjoy the change.

Disruption in Supply of Lemon Myrtle

We recently put a temporary hold on our supply of lemon myrtle as a result of a recent cyclone that hit Australia's northern coast. This may also impact the availability of blends containing lemon myrtle.

We will keep you apprised of changes in availability as soon as we have more information.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Manufacturing Your Own Brand of Certified Organic Teas

Organic production is a system that is managed in accordance with the Organic Foods Production Act (OFPA) of 1990 and regulations in Title 7, Part 205 of the Code of Federal Regulations to respond to site-specific conditions by integrating cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity. The National Organic Program (NOP) develops, implements, and administers national production, handling, and labeling standards.

Clients call us every day to ask how they can have their own brand of teas packaged with the USDA Organic Seal on the outside. The first thing I mention is that use of the Organic Seal is not only an indication of a product that was grown organically, but that the product has continued to be handled and processed through the supply chain in accordance with CFR Title 7, Part 205.

To ensure compliance, wholesalers, distributors, and retailers will contract with a certifying agent who will conduct the necessary reviews, inspections and reports. If you intend to physically handle organic products and marketing them with the USDA Seal, I strongly suggest you speak with a consultant who can help you prepare an Organic System Plan. Consultants in this area can also help you plan and allocate resources, as the responsibility for compliance continues without interruption throughout the year.

A faster, more streamlined approach to offering certified organic products is to establish a contract with a packer, sometimes referred to as a co-packer, that already participates in the National Organic Program. They will be very familiar with organic standards, can facilitate filing of required documents, and will physically pack your tea into retail ready boxes, canisters, and foils. In a nutshell, the process is simpler because in the end you are handling the finished goods just like a retail shopper. Should you choose this route, do your homework and make sure the packer you choose is currently in good standing with the National Organic Program and that their license has not been surrendered, suspended, or revoked.

Still interested? Here are some good reference materials to start with:

If you are looking to market your organic products internationally, your packaging will need to adhere to the requirements (including written language) of these other countries.

Your local state may also have their own State Organic Program (SOP) which you should research in addition to the above.

Lastly, it is possible through your review of the above regulations to think this is your only responsibility in terms of package labeling. Of course, this is not the case. More on this next time...


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Placing New Organic and Fair Trade Teas into the National Food Distribution Channels

Our typical customers buy from us in bulk and repackage for resale under their own brand name. This works fine for smaller companies and regional distribution centers, but our capacity at Kopius Teas also allows us to contract pack for much larger, food service distributors, especially those seeking to private label organic teas with their own signature blends of teas.

Major food distributors carry a large selection of ready to retail tea products, from boxed loose and tea bag forms all the way to ready to drink national brands. Is there room for private label recognition without a heavy investment in marketing? I think there is, especially when one looks at price. The typical grocery store brand of tea bag may be 5 - 15% lower in cost than a similar name brand product. With tea there's almost a limitless range of flavors to help carve out a healthy following. Even if you go with an Earl Grey, just how many Earl Grey's does one find on the grocery shelves today? Five, six or more? Why not make one of those your own brand, especially if you are carrying other health oriented lines, such as spices or water or soda.

Most of my comments on this blog relate to capacity to build something - make a premium organic, fair trade certified blend, incorporate spearmint and lemons and tangerine with touches of crystalized honey and pink amaranth - take the blend and put it into retail or food service pouches - limit the packaging to instructions, ingredients, weight and tracking information. Not too complicated, you're right. It just takes a bit of initiative and vision.

Let's hear about a line of tea you've created or are thinking about creating? How was it formulated? How quickly can you work the products into distribution channels. Is it all about selling up in the distribution chain? And if you're a current regional distribution, do you think there's a potential to build a natural product from scratch and immediately distribute in along side national brands?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Curtis Tea Brewers


We had a nice tour of the Wilbur Curtis Company in Los Angeles, CA. Curtis manufactures a complete line of quick service to restaurant to large scale hospitality hot water, coffee and tea brewers. I was surprised to learn they produce so many different models from the same facility. Particularly impressive was the manufacturing process engineering and quality control. Modular, efficient, clean, well organized, synchronized. This would make an informative tour for any university or post graduate program studying lean, six sigma, kaisen, scorecard methodologies.

Of course, we were there to view the iced tea and hot tea brewers. There are many models to choose from, depending upon throughput and desired quality/price of the end product. Most consumers would be amazed by degree of engineering, chemistry, and overall product development required to design and produce each product. I would almost consider these brewers more of "a fine tuned instrument" that a generic "brewer".

The large scale coffee brewer (and variations not shown) was designed more than 50 years ago. I love the rounded corners on this design - really classic! The fact that Curtis kept this stainless steel design is a testament to not muck with a good thing. I get tired of looking at the latest, bright colored, vibrant kitchen appliances coming out for the home market today. In a commercial kitchen, rounded stainless, functional is the way to go.

We wish the team at Wilbur Curtis all the best and thanked them graciously for their hospitality.

Ceylon Super Pekoe

Enjoying the Ceylon Super Pekoe. Very reasonably priced, low astringency, sweet ceylon. I recommend enjoying late morning without milk and without food. It's just a pleasant refresher - not too heavy, yet satisfying.

One of our reviewers writes, "Handsome, glossy, well-finished semi-balled leaf yields a deep, warm baritone flavor redolent of wood and grass." I agree.

The aroma has a hint of malt.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Price Adjustsments - Good News?

Our prices have changed - effective about 1:30am (yes, it was a late night). Volume discounts have been improved dramatically. Previously, our highest discount rate was 12%. We have now boosted this to 25% for case quantities.You can even order in increments above the case quantities and still enjoy the fully discounted price per pound.

As many of you know, most of our blends are available in your choice of conventional or organic ingredients. We noticed that our front page was defaulting to show the price of the organic version. This has been changed to show the conventional price. This makes it easier to view how the organic version adds a premium, as opposed to the conventional version providing a discount.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beat the Winter Doldrums

Sunny San Diego isn't sunny today. It's cold and wet. We're all still licking our wounds from the Chargers loss / blunder.

What kind of tea should I reach for today?

Rooibos White Chocolate. I'm in the mood for something comforting and satisfying. I don't want caffeine, as my head's in a little bit of a funk today.

The white chocolate is light on the palate, but enticing in its aroma. Sometimes I just want something simple, not overly flavored. If I were serving this with food, I would think of a lighter snack, perhaps a small raspberry sorbet with fresh mint or a pear tart with a light vanilla cream sauce.

On the savory side, perhaps along side sliced melon and prosciutto. Any lightly cured, smoked sweet or semi-sweet ham should go nicely.

I think my headache is subsiding. Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Receive emails automatically when out of stock items are replenished

Previously when an item was out of stock, that item was removed from the website.

Now we are showing out of stock items on the website and you can add your email address to automatically receive an email when the product is back in stock.

We hope this will help keep our customers notified of the latest shipments.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Antioxidants in Tea

There are four widely accepted methods of measuring the antioxidant potential in beverages:

1. TEAC. Trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity. See Reference #1 below.

2. ORAC. Total Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity. See Reference #1 below.

3. DPPH. Free Radical Scavenging capacity by 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl. See Reference #2-3 below,

4. FRAP. Ferric reducing antioxidant power. See Reference #4 below.

These methods are used to measure the antioxidant capacity in vitro, or out of the living system (eg in a test tube). The use of multiple assay methods is preferred because antioxidant molecules have their own affinity (preferential interactions) with the predetermined reactive species dictated by each assay.

While many marketing departments may tout the total antioxidant benefits of a particular commercial beverage, it is the inherent set of active antioxidants - both their overall free radical scavenging properties and their ability to remain in sufficient quantities over time throughout the organism that may ultimately dictate its benefit over an extended period of consumption. In tea, EGCG appears to undergo a form of polymerization which may also influence its stability and activity.


1. Seeram,N.P.;Henning,S.M.;Lee,R.;Niu,Y.;Scheuller,H.S.; Heber,D.Catechin and caffeine contents of green tea dietary supplements and correlation with antioxidant activity. J.Agric.FoodChem. 2006, 54,1599–1603.

2. Malterud,K.E.;Farbrot,T.L.;Huse,A.E.;Sund,R.B. Antioxidant and radical scavenging effects of anthraquinones and anthrones. Pharmacology 1993, 47,77–85.

3.Nenseter,M.S.;Halvorsen,B.;Rosvold,Q.;Rustan,A.C; Drevon,C.A.Paracetamol inhibits copper ion-induced,azo compound initiated, and mononuclear cells-mediated-oxidative modiļ¬cation of LDL. Arterioscler.Thromb.Vasc.Biol. 1995, 15, 1338–1344.

4. Huang,D.;Ou,B.;Prior,R.L.The chemistry behind antioxidant capacity assays. J.Agric.FoodChem. 2005, 53,1841–1856.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy New Year - 2010

We wish everyone a Happy New Year. No doubt you're in the midst of reordering following the heavy holiday season. We are embarking on some new offerings and changes to the website.

1. Kopius Teas website. We performed a system upgrade this past week. You can now show more easily by adding products to your cart without having to constantly view the cart itself. Instead, a small popup window with your cart contents will appear and it will update as you continue to shop. Way cool!

2. Price changes. We haven't implemented planned price changes, but know that they are coming. We expect prices to increase for smaller quantities and decrease for larger quantities. In addition, we will be posting some very attractive buys for those resellers buying in intact case quantity sizes.

3. Teas, teas, teas. We know you want more pictures and better descriptions. We have many new teas to post to the website and we will be eliminating some older products that we will no longer carry. Having said that, we often can help you source both unique teas and herbs not found on our website, provided you wish to order in somewhat substantial quantities (eg more than 20 lbs for herbs, and more than 50 lbs for teas).

4. New blends. Do you have any blends you felt we just had to offer, but for whatever reason, we don't? Let us know! With hundreds of blending ingredients and flavors and base teas, our unique blends often start with your ideas.