Mark Webster shares the traditions and philosophy behind Webster’s Tea, and discusses having an authentic point of difference and the merits of educating customers.
Mark comes from a tea-loving family, where tea drinking is considered more than a means of quenching thirst — it’s a ritual. The vision for Webster’s Tea stemmed from when Mark, fresh out of university, found himself working for a tea company in the Rocky Mountains.
Returning home to New Zealand in 2016, he was re-introduced to local tea-drinking, where the common standard was a low-quality, bland beverage brewed from ‘bagged dust’.
“As a nation we drink a lot of tea, so we really should care and enjoy what’s going in our cups.”
Looking to challenge the status quo, Mark established his small operation in Te Puna, tinkering with different combinations and continuous brewing, tasting and blending. The early years started by selling through local cafes and at The Little Big Markets, a beginning that secured the future shape of the business.
Customers now have the option of purchasing at the bricks and mortar store, online, and at cafes throughout New Zealand. There’s also a wholesale option that offers staff training, test jars, customised tea menu and branded tins, providing the full experience for stockists and their customers. All operations, including hand packing and shipping, are in-house, with an emphasis on the highest quality and care.
A point of difference steeped in tradition
Creating ‘occasion’ around the ritual of tea drinking is Webster Tea’s point of difference, and this means taking care to choose quality tea and prepare it correctly, says Mark.
“Drinking tea is a simple ritual, but it can also be a meaningful one.”
“Stopping for tea is nothing new, but somewhere along the way, convenience took over and our tea breaks became a dunk-and-go, or ‘bag in or bag out’? type situation. We want to encourage people to be intentional, slow down, and enjoy the tea they’re drinking.”
Telling a sustainable story
Growing the business is a mindful operation, reflecting core values of sourcing the highest quality, organically grown tea leaves, and herbal ingredients from New Zealand and overseas, with a clear focus on sustainability and continuing education.
From sourcing, growing and harvesting, the travelling process, tasting and blending, operating sustainably is top of mind for the Webster’s Tea team. Ordering tea in the largest unit possible helps to minimise unnecessary packaging and waste, and through partnership with Eden Reforestation Projects one of its freight forwarders offset carbon emissions by planting trees.
The value of education
Education is where our value lies, says Mark, especially in an industry where differentiating quality from inferior products can be a tricky task for consumers.
“Education is huge for us. The current standard of tea at home is dusty tea bags, so educating our audience on just why our tea tastes so much better, and this is why they should want to elevate their tea experience is vital.”
A scroll through the website’s blog the ‘Journal’ reveals articles on what tea bags are made of, cold brewing, the merits of green tea, why organic is the best choice, loose leaf tea, and, of course, a tea brewing guide. Content is also distributed via an email newsletter that lets subscribers know about new products, deals, and delicious recipes, and social channels Facebook and Instagram.
Being part of the Tauranga Business Chamber offers Mark and the Webster’s Tea team another way to share their passion for tea.
“As a member we’re an integral part of the business community that we operate in,” says Mark. “Not to mention the wealth of resources provided for us as members.”