Friends in Tea

Last week donors pledged $15,000 to bring Tea Journey to life.

As you read this note our total paid subscriptions will top 325 and our Kickstarter campaign will have reached nearly 30% of the final goal. There are now 30 days left in the campaign. Many Kickstarter ventures are fully funded in a 30-day window but we need to act quickly to draw attention to our “replenish rewards.”

We need to make the most of each day…

Founding sponsors have committed an additional 1,000 packets of tea and several new tea experience rewards totaling $20,000. This boosts the value of Tea Journey rewards to $95,000 USD (our current goal).

The word is getting out. We have 185 Kickstarter subscribers (and another 130 who subscribed direct from the website). They hail from Iceland and Indonesia to Eastern Europe, India, UK and New Zealand. Those who see the prototype tell us they love it.

The combination of support from bloggers, media and social media has brought us this far but reaching goal depends on peer-to-peer appeals to your friends in tea. Eighty-two percent of our Kickstarter donors are friends in tea. They are responding to short personal notes at a rate of 1% – that’s 5 per 500 notes sent.

A simple note is all it takes: 70% of millennials prefer a “peer” endorsement and rely on non-celebrity bloggers over the glitz and glam of stars. Only 3% of the 14,000 consumers surveyed by Collective Bias say they even consider buying a product endorsed by a celebrity.

The articles, images and video in Tea Journey are authentic, unvarnished, detailed and devoted to tea. Your note should be the same.

Do these five things and we will be celebrating our success on June 1.

1) Open a PayPay account and add $30 (for up to 500 names). GreenInbox only accepts PayPal payments.
2) Signup for GreenInbox.com (and select and upload either your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Linkedin connections or email contact list). Click the check box beside the names of everyone you think will be interested in Tea Journey (up to 500).
3) Personalize the note below.
4) Click send.

If you are short of cash I will be happy to reimburse you…. better yet, send a note to dan@tea-biz.com with your Paypal email and I will send you $30 in advance.

I emailed 317 appeals this week and there were 60%+ opens resulting in several donors.

I know a lot of people but not nearly enough to reach the Kickstarter goal.

If you help us by doing this, I am convinced that together the tea community will reach the $96,000 goal but it needs to be done now…. send as many as you can as quickly as practical. It takes donors several days to evaluate the magazine. In many instances it takes appeals from three or four of you to tip the scale.

Tomorrow is too late.

Dan

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear (or Hello, or Hi) <first_name>

Tea Journey magazine presents authentic and elusive tea knowledge translated from publications in China and other tea lands. The mobile app and website is a collaboration between western tea journalists and tea experts to introduce readers to the world’s finest gardens and teas. Choose from these awesome tea rewards: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teajourney/tea-journey-magazine
I did!
Your Name

GreenInbox ADVICE

1) Focus the message on the recipient, not you.
2) Make the message positive
3) Keep the message short.
4) Include a clear call to action.
5) Do not use short links (like bit.ly)

Most email providers (like gmail) will mark your message as spam if it includes bit.ly, goo.gl, tinyurl etc. Moreover, better to use the full link since people like to know what’s the target web page. Using the full link will increase the number of people that actually click on it. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teajourney/tea-journey-magazine

Tea Journey

Tea Journey

Thirty Days

During the past decade I have met thousands of tea drinkers on a path of discovery, a journey to find the special teas that tantalize their sense of taste and reward them with tales of exotic terroir and artisanship so compelling they are eager to share.

I believe that there is a perfect tea for each of us and that finding that tea is the key to fully realizing the health and wellness tea brings.

But finding that tea and preparing it correctly requires knowledge not easily obtained.KICKSTARTER_Higishyama_360px

Ron Studd put it this way: “I have a strong feeling that there are many interested in getting to the next level with tea, but they don’t have a good way to get there specifically with knowledge.  I know that was a problem I had when I returned to the States.  You get people that say they’re enthusiasts, but when their depth of tea knowledge and practice is so shallow, it’s tough to find inspiration and encouragement that can only come from a wider community of other enthusiasts at or beyond your own knowledge.”

In the past year I assembled an awesome team of journalists and tea experts in the tea lands and their counterparts in the west dedicated to obtaining and sharing authentic, elusive and exclusive knowledge. We call our venture Tea Journey. It was christened by Tony Gebely and ratified by a group so passionate about tea I am humbled to stand as their leader.* Together we created something very special, a digital magazine available online, via iOS and Android and downloadable as a PDF.

KICKSTARTER_GlazedTeaCup2_360px

This mobile magazine features articles written in the tea lands by native-speaking writers. The articles are beautifully illustrated and there are informative videos that bring history to life and describe the amazing work that goes into creating tea:

YIXING POTTERY
https://youtu.be/mRu5xdcVRXs

CHIGUSA MEIBUTSU
https://animoto.com/play/5ddO72eWDl5RYi9oxotVxA

Click to view the prototype we created. I know you will find the content compelling. Then join us.

Three hundred enthusiasts already have invested $25,000 in making this Kickstarter project a reality.

MARKETING-TJ_SigArt_China_360pxRon Studd continues: “When reading the magazine articles, I kept thinking ‘this is exactly what I need!’ Even for topics that I may be familiar with, there’s so much effort that went into making the content intuitive and interesting that any level of enthusiast will enjoy.  It’s also just nice to know ‘I’m not the only one interested in this!’ ”

There are 30 days left in the campaign. Our goal is 1,000 paid subscribers. Those who donate receive their choice of amazing gifts of tea; tea experiences of a lifetime or splendid teaware.

Choose from hundreds of rewards valued at $95,000.

That’s what it will cost to launch Tea Journey. The deadline is June 1.

Are you in?

Dan's Informal Signature_240px (Blue)

If you already donated or subscribed, please share the news with your friends in tea by clicking the link below: https://www.teajourney.pub/social

KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teajourney/tea-journey-magazine

DOWNLOAD LATEST PROTOTYPE
https://www.teajourney.pub/tea-journey-prototype.pdf

PRESS COVERAGE: YAHOO FINANCE
http://finance.yahoo.com/news/tea-journey-magazine-announces-official-100000148.html

PRESS COVERAGE: WORLD TEA NEWS
http://worldteanews.com/news/tea-writers-plan-to-kickstart-global-magazine-for-premium-tea-drinkers

LATEST PRESS RELEASE
https://www.dropbox.com/s/g4b9fbdkh3cadwa/Tea%20Journey%20Kickstarter%20Launch%20Press%20Release%204-4-16%20extended%20version.docx?dl=0

SUBSCRIBE LINK / FOUNDING SPONSORS
https://www.teajourney.pub/subscribe

*The Tea Journey Team

Dan Bolton, Editor/Publisher
Nan Cui, Associate Publisher
Si Chen, Senior Editor
Hans Niebergall, Business Development
Ashley Sostaric-Finkes, Marketing Director
Suzette Hammond, Education Director
Beibei Lu, Art Director
Jennifer Sauer, Video Editor
Kathe Meseman, Finance Director
________________________________________
Contributing Editors

Ian Chun, Origins
Jennifer English,
Podcast
Jennifer Quail,
Teaware & Antiquities
Cynthia Gold,
Culinary Tea
Bruce Richardson,
Tea Retail
Dan Robertson,
Origins
Jennifer Sauer, 
Videography
Jennifer English,
Tea Journey Podcast
Cynthia Gold,
Tea Cuisine

________________________________________
Contributors

Stephen Carroll
Barbara Fairchild
Jeff Fuchs
Keith Horner
JT Hunter
Nicholas Lozito
Nicole Martin
Frank Miller
Katrina Munichiello
Hans Niebergall
Geoffrey Norman
Stephenie Overman
James Norwood Pratt
Dan Robertson
Felicia Stewart
Peter Surowski
Jason Walker
Nathan Wakeford
________________________________________
Advisors

Victoria Bisogno, El Club Del Te
Kevin Gascoyne,
Camellia Sinensis
Tony Gebely, World of Tea
Austin Hodge
, Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea
Joshua Kaiser, Co-founder Rishi Organic Tea
Brian Keating, Sage Group
Bob Krul
, Boreal Wildcraft
Andrew McNeill, Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea
Dr. Nada Milosavljevic
, Harvard Medical
Elyse Petersen, Tealet
Jane Pettigrew, UK Tea Academy
James Norwood Pratt, Tea Lovers Treasury
Dan Robertson, The Tea House

________________________________________
Founding Sponsors:
Camellia Sinensis | Seven Cups | Mighty Leaf | Mad Monk Tea | Tealet | CrafTea | Tea Squared | Jalam Teas | Misty Peak Tea | Tea Total | Yunomi Tea |Tetulia | Lochan Tea | Teatrade Mart | Rishi Organic Tea | Adagio Teas | World Tea Academy | Hong China Tea | Smacha | Young Mountain Tea | Nothing But Tea | Australian Tea Masters | ITI | Paper & Tea GmbH | International Tea Masters | Wild Tea Qi | The Green Teaist | El Club Del Te |  Rolling Leaf | World Tea Podcast | Tea Lula | Daily  Tea | Conundrum Tea | Tea Vivre (watch for updates as additional founding sponsors sign up every day.)

Companies interested in becoming founding sponsors should contact Suzette Hammond at suzette.hammond@teajourney.pub to inquire.

World Tea Expo Opens – Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of May 26, 2014 —

World Tea Expo opens in Long Beach this week with a very strong educational program and an exciting show floor with several new exhibitors… see all the finalists for the Best New Products Awards listed below… Teavana co-located its newest concept store with a landmark Starbucks in Beverly Hills… two lucky Scots lost at sea credit a lifesaving flask of tea and biscuits for their survival…

Teavana Opens in Beverly Hills

The fourth Teavana Fine Tea + Tea Bar that opened Beverly Hills last week revealed two significant innovations.

Tea_Bar_LA_4

Beverly Hills Teavana Fine Tea + Tea Bar

The store is co-located with a Starbucks Clover-reserve,  Teavana benefits greatly from the remodel where it has the more visible facade a the busy intersection of Santa Monica and Wilshire Boulevards.

The new store shares a courtyard with a landmark store that offers every imaginable service and coffee in the mermaid’s lineup. The remodeled store offers the La Boulange menu with oven-warmed food, features a Clover single-serve brewer, the Verismo System capsule coffees and the latest in mobile payment systems.

The latest Teavana introduces a range of tea-inspired food and beverage items including an apple Oolong chia fresca and a Genmaicha miso tea soup. A matcha avocado tea smoothie blended with Green yogurt and a fresh fruit Banana Chai are also new.

The fresca is a blend of oolong and Pu-erh tea shaken with cold-pressed apple juice and hydrated white chia seeds.

On the cold drink menu there is a Sparkling Kona Breeze Iced Tea: Pineapple Kona Pop and Peach Tranquility Tea blended and lightly carbonated with pineapple coconut water.

SBX20140317_23379.tif

Veggie Sandwich and Tea Soup at Teavana

The addition of snacks like the Butternut Squash Couscous Salad: Israeli couscous, red quinoa, butternut squash, yellow curry and currants in a citrus vinaigrette and the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich: made with savory herb and garlic cheese, quartered artichoke hearts, fire-roasted red peppers, chopped kalamata olives, and fresh baby spinach warmed on a panini roll – signal a new level of sophistication.

These food and beverage innovations are expected to appear on menus in New York, Seattle and Chicago locations.

World Tea Expo

The World Tea Expo opens this week in Long Beach, a new locale for old friends in tea.

The show is at the Long Beach Convention Center this year, a move that will bring many new attendees from the health food and beverage industry. Southern California is dense with natural food stores, innovative beverage manufacturers and tea blenders.

LOGO-WorldTeaExpo

But no matter which city they choose to gather, the accumulation of a dozen years of first greetings and great meetings is apparent on opening day. World Tea Expo introduces tea retailers to producers, traders, scientists and experts in every aspect of the business. The education program is superb and the opportunity to see the latest equipment and build tasting skills with the help of some of the world’s most knowledgeable experts makes this a vital gathering in my view.

On Tuesday the Tea Business Boot Camp marks the official beginning of the week as tea retailers, from near and far, come together to refine their understanding of the business essentials.

This is a good time to be selling tea no matter where you set up shop which explains why so many attendees travel from Asia, South America and Europe to attend a day of lectures on best business practices followed on Wednesday by the World Origin Tasting Tour, a hands-on opportunity to taste exquisite teas, professional prepared. Attending graduation ceremonies is inspiring. During the past five years I have tracked many of these graduating entrepreneurs and can attest to the fact they enjoy a higher rate of success.

The conference, which begins Thursday, is overseen by Operations Manager Kaye Polivka. The Educational Program, overseen by Education Manager Monique Hatchett, offers five tracks: Tea Knowledge; Tea & Health; Sales & Marketing; Pioneering and Business Development.

There is much more to offer that I can cover here so be sure to click here for a view of the entire educational schedule. Click here for complete conference session descriptions.

My short list highlights three sessions each day:

Thursday, May 29

Current and Future Outlook for Tea
A must attend in my view for all as it brings into focus the global marketplace and the diverse factors catalyzing the industry by market segment.

Presenters include: David Sprinkle, Publisher, Packaged Facts; Lynn Dornblaser, Director of Innovation & Insights, Mintel International; Jonas Feliciano, Industry Analyst – Beverages, Euromonitor International.
The discussion is moderated by Brian Keating, Sage Group.

Success from the Front Lines
Investors have placed a billion dollar bet on tea retail in the past 18 months but success is far from guaranteed. These shop owners are succeeding with both single store and small chain formats because they have developed a sixth sense of what pleases customers and sweat the retail details to insure good service.

Presenters include: David Barenholtz, Owner, American Tea Room; Julee Rosanoff, Owner, Perennial Tea Room; Emeric Harney, Store Manager, Harney & Sons Fine Teas; Shabnam Weber, Owner, The Tea Emporium Inc.

Tea & Health
The revelation that tea “does a body good” underlies the remarkable growth of this segment. Understanding the relationship is complicated but essential when communicating with consumers. Dr. Jeffrey B. Blumberg is remarkably well versed in the health benefits and research describing tea’s impact on chronic conditions like cancer, diabetes, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and obesity. Emerging research suggests tea may also play a positive role in cognitive performance, immune function, and bone health.

Presenter: Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, FASN, FACN, CNS

Also: How to Source & Select Your Teas

Federal Trademark Registration: Are You Ready?

Cultivating the Next Generation of Tea Connoisseur

Friday, May 30

David & Goliath: Building Your Own Successful Tea Business Close to a Teavana
Learn how you can carve out niches in the specialty tea business that elevate customers’ tea experiences beyond that of shopping at a large chain store.

Presenter: Peter Martino

20 Marketing Angles You Might Be Missing or Afraid to Use
Consider 20 new or under-utilized marketing messages and learn to personalize your strongest possible tea message – the connection you want with your best customers.

Presenter: Babette Donaldson

Impactful Visual Merchandising for Retail & Online Stores!
Ever wonder how some stores like Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel, or Williams-Sonoma create an instant buying reaction for their customers? Here you’ll learn how to create attractive, impactful displays for your store and you’re on line presence.

Presenter: Ellen Leaf-Moore

Also:
Current and Emerging Regulatory Issues in the Tea & Infusion Products Industry

A Social History of Tea in the UK and the USA

Tea Room Survival

Saturday, May 31

The New Face of Retail

Retail innovations from online marketplaces and in-store blending to popup retail and decisions about accepting digital currency like bitcoins are dividing lines in the world of retail. Which trends to adopt and which innovations to ignore is the challenge.

Panelists: Austin Hodge, David Edwards, Christopher Coccagna and Naomi Rosen. Moderated by Elyse Petersen.

Keeping the Customer Engaged
Successful retailers, online and in brick-and-mortar locations, must learn to continually engage customers through promotions, events and educational programs.

Presenter: Anupa Mueller

Wellness Teas: Why Ignoring Herbs Could be Costing Your Business
Too often overlooked by Canellia sinensis devotees, herbal teas with wellness claims are central to the success of retailers.

Presenter: Toffler Niemuth

Also:

The Science Behind Health Claims on Tea Beverages: What are we really drinking?

The Crowdfunding Success Pattern

Building Communi-TEA with your Customers Online

Focused Tastings
The Evolution of Flavor
By Chris Johnston
A Taste of Hunan
By Hunan Tea Company
Teas that Depend on Nature’s Intervention
By Jane Pettigrew

The Chemical Mysteries of Puer Tea, the ‘Fat Burner’
By Kevin Gascoyne
Sensory Evaluation of Tea
By Victoria Bosogno & Jane Pettigrew
Discover the Artful Pairing of Japanese Teas & Wagashi Tea Sweets
By Rona Tison
Mixology 101: Using Tea Infused Cocktails to Grow Your Brand
By Abigail St. Clair
Detecting Defects in Tea Manufacture
By David Walker
The Keys to Matcha
By James Oliveira
Teas From Thailand
By David DeCandia
Pairing Teas with Chocolate & Cheese
By Robert Wemischner
Tea & Scotch – The Perfect Match of Two Worlds
By Shabnam Weber

Skill Building Workshops
Tisane, Herbal Tea & Herbal Infusion: An Exploration From Seed to Cup
By Scott Svihula
Tea Cupping 101
By Mo Sardella
Blending Award Winning Teas
By David DeCandia
Tea Processing – An Experiential Lab, Day 1
By Donna Fellman & Bill Waddington
Tea Cupping 201: The Next Level
By Mo Sardella
Blending Award Winning Teas
By David DeCandia
Tea Processing – An Experiential Lab, Day 2
By Donna Fellman & Bill Waddington
Bringing 3rd Wave Coffee Innovation & Excitement to Tea
By Joshua Russert
Tea Baking Basics
By Thomas Shu & Jerry Liu

Lost at Sea

Tea is well known for its health benefits but rarely under as dramatic circumstances as the North Sea rescue of fishermen who credit a flask of tea and biscuits for keeping them alive.

James Reid, 75, and his grandson David Irvine, 35, were rescued Thursday after their “miracle” discovery by another boat off the Aberdeenshire coast of Scotland, according to The Independent.

The two men were due in port Tuesday and feared lost. A large-scale search was launched that very day but called off Wednesday at dark. The following day a passing boat discovered their disabled craft about 46 miles off the coast of Scotland.

The two men from Inverbervie survived on a small flask of tea “enough for two and a half cups” and two biscuits, “that was it” they told rescuers in a lifeboat launched from the Sylvia Bowers around 8 a.m. The fishermen’s boat sunk shortly afterward.

“It’s times like these that really brings home how dangerous a job our fishermen do, day after day, to provide fresh fish for us all to enjoy and I am delighted that this incident has had a happy ending,” Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead told The Guardian.

Sources: The Independent and The Guardian.

World Tea Expo Best New Product Award Finalists

Winners will be announced during the show. Click here for a complete list of entries

“Best New Product – Tea as an Ingredient” Finalists:

  • Butterflies in the Tummy, Dethlefsen & Balk – A melange of exotic fruit paired with subtle vanilla, this tea makes a full-bodied, refreshing iced tea and delights in a hot cup, too.
  • Tea India: Chai Moments Cardomon Latte Mix, Harris Tea Company – This mix provides an authentic Chai experience that captivates taste buds, in a convenient on-the-go format.
  • Lumbini Ladalu Chakra, Lumbini Tea Factory Sri Lanka – A hand-made tea with a light and sweet taste, Lumbini Ladalu Chakra is part of the exclusive collection of Lumbini Tea Factory.
  • Jin Xuan Milk Oolong, Octavia Tea – From the mountains of Taiwan, this tea is unforgettable with the alluring taste of sweet cream and freesia with a tropical fruit finish.

“Best New Product – Innovation” Finalists:

  • Matcha to Go, Aiya America – A tea ceremony remade for modern speed; simply add to a water bottle and shake or stir into hot water.
  • Bonavita Porcelain Immersion Dripper, Bonavita – This porcelain dripper is the perfect single-cup (16 oz.) steeper for teas and tisanes.
  • Biotre, Pacific Bag, Inc. – Pacific Bag spent two years developing Biotre film, a biodegradable barrier material for packaging, which protects products and is ideal for the tea industry.
  • Teart Infuser, Teart  – This disposable paper infuser is inspired by the art of origami, designed to assure optimum leaf expansion.
TEABIZ-TAKEYA_DeluxeIcedTeaMaker_NewProduct

Takeya USA Deluxe Iced Tea Beverage System

“Best New Product – Tea Ware” Finalists:

  • FLOWTEA, EIGENart – Designed in Germany, this double-walled glass tea-maker for on-the-go tea lovers is available in five designs with filter, steel lid, neoprene cover and carrying loop.
  • Hospitality Tea Pot, FORLIFE – Designed for both commercial and home use, this un-chippable, stackable tea pot is perfect for the food service industry and tea enthusiasts.
  • Deluxe Iced Tea Beverage System, Takeya USA – Create and enjoy hand-crafted beverages in three simple steps with Takeya’s patented Flash Chill Iced Tea System.
  • Stainless Mug with Tea Leaf Filter, Zojirushi – This mug allows drinkers to steep fresh tea and drink without getting a mouth full of loose tea, while keeping the drink hot or cold for hours.

“Best New Product – Open Class” Finalists:

  • Asian Ginger Tea & Cookies, McCoy Ceylon Commodities – This combo is for those who appreciate a quality tea blend with a cookie, specially baked to complement the tea’s flavor.
  • Earl Grey Strong, teapigs – In need of a sophisticated boost? This strong black tea with delicate Darjeeling and fancy bergamot is an early grey but with wallop.
  • Everything Healthy Tea Book, Blue Gate Books – An introduction to teas and their healing qualities, this book covers buying and brewing the most healthful teas.
  • Tea Pee – Prostate Support Tea, Nuwati Herbals – The herbs in Tea Pee have been traditionally used to assist with discomfort and frequent urination, and to support healthy bladders.

Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.


Tea Biz posts are available to use in your company newsletter or website. Purchase reprint and distribution rights for single articles or commission original content.  Click here for details.

Tea Magazine Evolves…

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Tea Magazine® a 20-year-old consumer publication for tea enthusiasts is replacing its bi-monthly print edition with a combined print +online content package for its readers, including a new book-style softcover guide to tea published annually.

In mid-April ITEM Media will launch The Daily Tea (www.thedailytea.com) a subscription-based tea portal replacing www.teamag.com. Visitors to the site will see a mix of free and paid content, along with new articles each month, and some previously published in Tea Magazine. Subscribers have their choice of several different newsletters — for example, newsletters targeted to those interested in cooking with tea; Yoga and tea; tea travel and terroir.

Chief Media Officer Graham Kilshaw

Chief Media Officer Graham Kilshaw

Subscribers will get at least three new feature articles a month, “…the articles will be accompanied by video, behind-the-scenes interviews and picture galleries, which is a lot more than we could do in print,” said Chief Media Officer Graham Kilshaw.

Since acquiring the magazine in January 2012, “we have built the audience from just a couple of thousand to more than 30,000. Most of this growth has come from our digital platforms, and very little has come from our print media,” said Kilshaw.

“We now see an opportunity to grow our audience significantly beyond its current 30,000 people – digitally. Consequently we are going to make several changes starting in May 2014,” he said.

The 150-page book-style magazine, often referred to as a “bookazine” will have longer in-depth feature articles on science, geography and history and “great photography,” said Kilshaw. There will also be a catalog of tea products, said Kilshaw. The publication will be mailed to all subscribers and sold nationally in bookstores and by grocers including Whole Foods Market.

Annual subscriptions are $24.99 and include the new $9.99 “Tea Magazine 2015 Tea Guide” mailed annually in September.
Kilshaw was upbeat about the new direction which he described as “evolving from predominately print with a little bit of digital to becoming predominately digital with a little bit of print.”

“This is all about aligning our goals and strategy with our resources. Producing the print magazine required us to spend 80 percent of our resources on 20 percent of the content. During the past 24 months print subscriptions increased by a couple of thousand while our digital audience has grown by five times,” he said.

LOGO_TeaMagazine_400px“The change in the mix of media is driven by our readers,” said Kilshaw. “Print generally-speaking attracts an older demographic and we want to reach a broad audience. Younger tea drinkers are forming their tea habits now, experimenting widely and trying out lots of different teas. They represent the future customers of our media clients,” he said, adding , “We want to build a very large audience for the tea community.”

The company expects to soon announce a new content manager to replace Kate Sullivan who left in December.

Learn more: www.thedailytea.com

Bitcoin Update

Last week trading was halted on three crypto currency exchanges after it was revealed hackers stole 4,474 Bitcoins from the Silk Road 2.0 website.  Silk Road is a drug-selling black market whose technical staff blamed the loss on a “transaction malleability” bug in the Bitcoin software. The loss was valued at $2.6 million, according to an article in  Forbes.

Bitcoin developer Greg Maxell responded to concerns about Bitcoin security in a Q&A with Coin Desk News. He said coding done by the exchange is to blame. He admitted there is a known bug in early versions of the Bitcoin software, first identified in 2011. The bug has been fixed and old versions previously installed on servers are gradually being replaced but “this wouldn’t make the top ten list of dangers in the Bitcoin technology.”

Experts advise against keeping digital coins in an exchange or other online wallet services. Keep your coins in your own encrypted wallet to keep them safe from hackers. An escrow account with millions of coins is a tempting target for hackers.

Bitcoin has a current market valuation of nearly $1 billion but this is highly volatile. The valuation spiked in December then plummeted on regulatory concerns voiced by several governments. In January Bitcoins were listed at more than $900.

The incident involving Silk Road 2.0 has since led to questions about Bitcoin’s ability to prevent fraud. Last week the value of the currency fell 10% percent in a single day. TechCrunch writer Alex Wilhelm noted the “price of Bitcoin on Mt.Gox has cratered, again. It now rests just above $110. That’s down from around $260 the day before. Users are betting more heavily now that their Bitcoin on the exchange is never coming back.” The weighted value of Bitcoins based on multiple exchanges was $621.1 Feb. 23. Mt.Gox was excluded from the calculation as of Feb. 10.

Mt.Gox is a Tokyo, Japan-based firm that claims to be the largest of several exchanges trading Bitcoins. Mt.Gox suspended trading in mid-February due to technical difficulties leading to security concerns.

In a Feb. 17 open letter to its customers Mt.Gox announced it has a workaround that will use a unique identifier created by Blockchain to show whether transactions have been modified or not. This will prevent any fraudulent use of the malleability bug and “protect the assets of our customers.”

Mt.Gox added a new login system that emails customers accessing the account and advised customers to use two-step authorization.

Withdrawals will be permitted at “a moderate pace” and with new daily and monthly limits in place “to prevent any problems with the new system and to take into account current market conditions,” according to Mt.Gox.

Mishaps like the above will either strengthen merchant and consumer confidence in the ability of Bitcoin and similar currencies to address security issues or lingering uncertainty will sink them.

Learn more: Reddit, Tea Biz and Crypto Coin Talk

In January India’s central bank warned against the use of Bitcoins shutting down several exchanges and China has directed its banks and other financial institutions not to deal in virtual currencies. Germany’s Bundesbank voiced a similar warning while in Canada the first of five Bitcoin ATMs opened in a Vancouver coffee shop.

TEABIZ-BitCoin_StackGermany’s central bank later joined several other European banks in warning of the “enormous” risks due to speculation but regulators have not banned the trade of digital currency.

The Reserve Bank of India expressed concern that trading Bitcoins could violate the country’s Foreign Exchange and Payment Systems laws and regulations since the currency has yet to be authorized by the central bank. Last week several Bitcoin exchanges halted trade in response.

Following these news reports India’s Commerce Ministry and Tea Board announced a review of transactions by tea growers accepting Bitcoins as payment for small consignments of tea. The country permits shipments of up to 4 kilos of tea without mandatory surveillance if sent by International courier.  Tea growers selling direct benefit using Bitcoin by avoiding currency and bank fees and service charges for credit cards.

Globally there are about 100,000 Bitcoin transactions a month according to the Bitcoins Association of India (BAI) but fewer than 1000 are made in India. Billions of transactions are concluded daily making it unlikely trade in Bitcoins and other cryptocurrencies threaten the stability of world currencies, provided that money creation remains at a low level. The BAI’s legal advisers said that trading in Bitcoins is not illegal, citing legal precedent in the U.S. and U.K.

Last month Ben Bernake, chairman of the U.S. Federal Reserve, echoed concerns that digital currencies present speculative risks but said “there are also areas where they may hold long-term promise.”

The Canadian ATM is operated by Vancouver-based Bitcoiniacs using a kiosk designed by Nevada-based Robocoin. It converts Bitcoins into Canadian currency and accepts Canadian bills, according to a report by CBC News. The ATM scans the user’s palm before transferring money from an online wallet via a QR code read by your smartphone. It then issues a paper voucher for the transaction. The machine is installed at the Waves Coffee House. Bitcoins are accepted by at least two dozen Vancouver retailers.

The machines “make it easier for people to buy and sell Bitcoins and hopefully will drive the adoption of Bitcoin, and make it more accessible,” Bitcoiniacs owner Mitchell Demeter told CBC News. The company plans to install four additional ATMs in major cities including Toronto and Montreal. Rules of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada — also known as FINTRAC — aren’t as strict as regulators in the U.S. The coins are traded on Canada’s VirtEx exchange.

While not against the law, trading in Bitcoins is speculative. In December Bitcoins demonstrated their volatility after rising to a high of $1242 (the price of gold) before falling to $600 in 48 hours between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7 on word the Chinese government would not allow its banks to trade directly in Bitcoins. China blocked the country’s Bitcoin exchanges from accepting new cash in what has been Bitcoin’s largest market.

In February Bitcoins are trading at $621 making the cumulative value of the 12 million outstanding Bitcoins about $13 billion in U.S. dollars.

See: Bitcoin Primer

To insure scarcity the supply is capped at 21 million coins, a number that is expected to take 126 years to digitally mine. All currencies are volatile and subject to inflation over time but few could fall to zero since they are backed by governments large and small.

Meanwhile an increasing number of retailers are accepting Bitcoins. To minimize risk the coins are quickly exchanged by online ventures such as www.bitplay.com which processes payments for more than 12,000 retailers in 30 countries. Participating retailers are typically online ventures that range from small companies like Mad Over Coins and the Bitcoin Mega Store to Hawaii-based Tealet and giants like Overstock.com with more than $1 billion in annual revenue.

Timothy Lee in Forbes argues that Bitcoin is less useful as a retail currency and more likely to find its place serving niche segments like transferring funds without the expense of hiring Western Union or as a meta currency facilitating the exchange of world currencies since Bitcoin allows wealth to be transferred across international borders without the expense or government scrutiny that comes with traditional wire transfers.

Are you considering accepting Bitcoins? Click this link to see TIME Magazine’s informative video introduction and share your thoughts with Tea Biz readers below.

Sources: Bloomberg BusinessWeek, TIME, CBC News, The Hindu Business Line, Forbes

Learn more at:
Bitcoin.org and Bitpay.com and BitcoinFoundation.org and BitcoingCharts.com and BitcoinMagazine.com

Last updated: Feb. 24, 2014

Bitcoin Primer

World Tea News recently published an article on the emergence of many popular tea brands on offer in Bitcoin’s new online MegaStore. 

Larger retailers with a thorough understanding of the risks should definitely consider accepting Bitcoins as this digital currency promises to significantly lower the cost of online transactions. BusinessWeek reported Dec. 27 that Overstock.com will accept Bitcoins beginning in mid 2014. With 2012 revenue of $1.1 billion Overstock is the largest retailer to accept the world’s leading cryptocurrency. There are now 12.1 million Bitcoins in circulation, valued at $13 billion.

Should your venture accept Bitcoins?

The novelty of buying things with Bitcoins has a certain appeal to consumers but most of those who own Bitcoins are holding them tight anticipating an increase in value greater than current savings rates.

Prices for tea in the MegaStore (which lists 100,000 items and went live in August) are displayed as a percent of the current value of a Bitcoin. A single coin was trading for $858 last week when the article was published. At that rate ฿0.0842 was the equivalent of $72 (all dollars US unless otherwise stated). Between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7 Bitcoins dropped from $1242 (the price of gold) to $600 in 48 hours. On Dec. 23 Bitcoins were trading for $634 making a dollar worth ฿0.00157. On Dec. 31 the buy price was $735.80. On Jan. 4 the buy price topped $1000.

This volatility illustrates one of the obstacles to widespread use of any peer-to-peer payment system. To insure that Bitcoins remain “rare” there will ultimately be only 21 million in circulation. This means that even small numbers of speculators trading Bitcoins will alter its value in the market.

The fact that the currency lacks liquidity and is accepted by only a small (albeit fast-growing) number of vendors suggests Bitcoin will emerge as the strongest of the cryptocurrencies but anyone can create a competing product, make it equally scarce and useful provided enough vendors accept it as payment.

To reduce this risk Bitpay and Coinbase were established as Bitcoin wallets willing to immediately convert the digital currency into dollars (and other local currencies). Retailers use these wallets to accept Bitcoins and generally sell the Bitcoins they collect every night to minimize risk. At Coinbase there are no chargebacks or exchange rate risk and no fees on the first $1 million in transactions with 1% fee to cash out Bitcoins after $1 million in sales. Bitpay charges $300 per month for accepting Bitcoins on up to three domains with no transaction fees. A single domain account is $30 per month and accommodates 20 shopping cart plugins.

Other advantages include the fact that retailers can accept mobile payments from any country in the world without PCI Compliance; direct deposit to your bank daily and accept payments over wi-fi and 3G/4G without the need for NFC terminals.

Critics point out that Bitcoins are not legal tender and therefore are not regulated by legal tender laws. Bitcoins have no intrinsic value which means if they fall in value, unlike gold and silver, they could fall to zero. There is no government backing, no Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. rescue plan. Bitcoins are not going to replace the U.S. dollar.

All that said, there is value in a frictionless exchange of a universal currency that is not subject to geopolitical influence. The payment system is transparent and math-based, not subject to government manipulation. It protects against identity theft. It is private but not anonymous to guard against money laundering and fraud. Bitcoins will grow in popularity so long as online purchases require credit card authentication with its requirements of a billing address and the burden of fees and onerous service charges.

Compared to existing payment systems Bitcoin is almost as handy and frictionless as cash.

Learn more at: Bitcoin.org and BitcoinFoundation.org and BitcoingCharts.com and BitcoinMagazine.com

Service and Innovation

Service and innovation differentiate tea retailers. At its core, specialty tea is a commodity since most blends use similarly sourced mid-grade green or black tea enhanced with ingredients and flavor.

The lowest tier in the sector consists of tea-only blends that are bagged and retail for less than $300 a kilo. The entry point is $5 for 200 grams (equivalent to a 100 ct. box of 2-gram teabags) or $25 per kilo with many supermarket teas selling for $7 to $8 per box ($35-$40 per kilo). This tea costs $2 per kilo at origin and is blended with similarly priced teas for consistency. It costs $1 to ship a kilo to the U.S. and less than $1 to fill, tag and box 100 tea bags. Marketing established blends is a rising cost. Store-brand competitors pressure national brands but there will always be a place for bottom-shelf tagless tea bags selling around a nickel to a dime.

The upper tier is loose leaf with fruit, spice and floral inclusions, pyramid bagged, gift boxed or in tins. A 25-gram pouch of specialty blend sells for $15, earning retailers $300 per kilo. Retailers get only 5-cents a tea bag selling Lipton but they sell a lot of Lipton. Nearly every home in the country has a nationally branded tea in the pantry. Fewer than one in ten are willing to pay $1 a tea bag for a foil-wrapped Tea Forté pyramid (with 4 to 6 grams of tea) but grocers selling Adagio, Rishi, Numi and Republic of Tea are getting $250 a kilo a ten-fold premium.

The core component of these teas arrives in shipping containers warehoused and blended by a few gateway importers with entrenched (often family) supply chains originating in China, Taiwan, Japan, Sri Lanka, Kenya and India. Raw materials for blending are very similarly sourced and priced with tea often the least expensive component. There are an infinite number of blends and taste sensations but remarkably little variance in a warehouse stacked to the ceiling with four million pounds of tea.

This is why service and innovation are critical to retail success. Service is the key point of differentiation. It begins with that first impression, the cold-call presentation that gives buyers a reason to believe that working with you as a wholesaler will benefit their business. There are often two or three wholesalers with identical price points pitching a retailer whose first concern must be to meet the needs (within limitations) of his or her customers. The fact that sales of these similar teas are growing is due to the nearly continuous introduction of new formulations and experimental blends and the presence of color, texture (chunks and leaves, not dust) and intense flavor (often added).

This suggests the path forward is to innovate with taste and convenience foremost. Cultivate in those who show interest a more sophisticated appreciation of the profitable, highest quality teas. Tell the story, let them taste the tea. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Retailer and customer advance in step with sellers bringing ever-larger numbers of specialty tea drinkers into the tent where a growing percentage of newly-converted tea lovers share and spread the joy of discovery after readily paying the always-reasonable price for the pleasure of a fine cup of tea.

LinkedIN: Share you thoughts on the importance of service and innovation.

—- Dan Bolton