Reach Your Customers with a Tea Festival

Sara Stewart Martinelli in front of the Dushanbe Teahouse, photo by Beth Dobos

Tea festivals create an effective outreach arena for tea retailers. The Rocky Mountain Tea Festival, which took place July 29-30 at the Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse in Colorado provides one such example of how even a small tea festival can help tea retailers and educators connect with a variety of people.

The owners of the Dushanbe Teahouse, Sara Stewart Martinelli and Lenny Martinelli, founded the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival 19 years ago. “I had this idea that I would invite industry leaders to speak and they all said, ‘Yes;’ so we made a weekend out of it and turned it into this tea festival,” Sara said. “We didn’t want to make it like a trade show.”

Both intimate and eclectic, the tea festival offered workshops with tea industry experts on subjects ranging from blending botanicals to brewing techniques from ancient tea cultures. Retailers set up booths showcasing teaware and offering samples of specialty teas to attendees. Additionally, on the second day, the teahouse played host to a Teddy Bear Tea Party for children.

Sara expressed how a tea festival is a great way to enable people to explore the vast world of tea. Tea is significant to people for different reasons relating to health, culture and spirituality.

“It’s a pretty unique gift from Mother Nature and it has had such a huge impact on history, and it’s just a leaf,” Sara said.

Babette Donaldson gave a workshop called “What’s Brewing? Learn Simple Techniques from Ancient Tea Cultures” at the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival, photo by Beth Dobos

A tea festival gives attendees the chance to explore and learn about tea on each of these levels.

“The average tea consumer craves more information,” she said. “Anything a retailer can do to increase information about the product is a valuable marketing tool.”

Sara emphasized how tea festivals position retailers as educators in the tea world and reflect a conscious outreach effort at a time when tea is becoming increasingly entrenched in American culture.

Babette Donaldson, a tea educator and author of several books about tea who had a booth at the Rocky Mountain Tea Festival, talked about how each tea festivals are catching on in cities across the U.S. and Canada and how each one has its own character and unique benefits. For example, a tea festival that used to take place in Victoria, British Columbia, raised money for a child-care program. Though the goal of that festival was different from Boulder’s, “both are important,” Donaldson said.

Donaldson shed light on the increasing popularity of tea festivals. Tea Fest PDX, Portland, Oregon’s first tea festival, drew more than 2,000 attendees this July. The Northwest Tea Festival in Seattle draws 3,000 to 4,000 attendees.

Babette Donaldson, photo by Beth Dobos

Donaldson said tea festivals give consumers insight into the bigger picture of the tea industry. Donaldson has noticed that people who understand more about tea buy more. They also become more comfortable trying new tea.

“Furthermore, tea festivals give authority to the retailers who participate. It catapults your clients’ image of you,” added Donaldson, who said festivals create more engagement with clients and recommends sending festival invitations to clientele. “There are a lot of big tea businesses here and it’s nice to be on their turf.”

“Festivals are a family event,” Donaldson said. Referencing the children at the Teddy Bear Tea Party, she added, “These kids are our future tea drinkers. Festivals allow us to interact with all ages in a meaningful way. We’re investing in our own futures.”