By Aaron Kiel, World Tea News
Fresh Cup Magazine has spent more than two decades covering the stories of specialty tea and coffee. The publication routinely showcased tea-growing regions and cutting-edge coffee towns, “giving voice to stalwart veterans and visionary newcomers, digging into issues important to owners and those vital to employees,” as the magazine’s online description explains.
Fresh Cup’s purpose was to educate its international readership on best business practices and developments across the industry. However, now the magazine is preparing for its final issue, which will be the November/December 2020 edition.
A recent message to Fresh Cup readers – about the publication ceasing its operations – said, “During unsettling times, it is more important than ever to lift each other up and be supportive of one another. The Fresh Cup staff wants to express how grateful we have been for all of you these past 28 years.”
Creating a Sense of Community
World Tea News spoke with Jan Weigel – the publisher of Fresh Cup Magazine since 2006 – who shared that she is most proud of how the magazine supported the industry’s sense of community. “Fresh Cup gave people an opportunity to find out what is happening in the industry, what new products are out there, how to run their businesses in a more efficient manner,” she said. “I feel we have helped so many in the industry go from an entrepreneur’s idea to a multi-million-dollar business, by spreading the word of these products in stories, press releases, advertising and, most important, by connecting people.”
Fresh Cup Magazine was started in Weigel’s home in 1992, and it just celebrated its 28th Anniversary in 2020. “I started learning about tea and coffee in 1992, explains Weigel. “Before that, I was a coffee drinker in the early ‘70s during my college days. Ward Barbee [the first publisher of the magazine] came to me with an idea about putting together a tea and coffee publication. I became a financial supporter and cheerleader for the idea. Ward started the magazine in the downstairs family room of my home.”
Over the years, Weigel contributed to Fresh Cup’s success in many ways – first as the director of the magazine’s trade shows NASCORE (North American Specialty Coffee Retailers Exposition) and the Fresh Cup Road shows, event planning for various events in the industry and managing the day-to-day business tasks of magazine ownership. Thus, she has a deep appreciation and dedication to the specialty tea and coffee industry, and she’ enjoyed watching it grow. In 2006, Weigel became the publisher of Fresh Cup, after the passing of Barbee.
“In my 28 years in the industry, I have seen a lot of changes, better brewing methods, new products introduced from faraway lands and product lines expanding and just getting better,” says Weigel. “This will continue, but much of what we learn will be through virtual seminars, virtual tastings, social media and the internet – for now.
“A Very Special Place”
Weigel believes that the Fresh Cup team worked hard to report in an honest and fair way and with integrity. “We were actively traveling, making friends, searching for products and reporting to help the success of the industry,” she shares. “We were fortunate to have comradery with people in all segments of the industry. We were in a very special place.”
Weigel notes she will miss the people at trade shows the most – the fun dinners in the evenings, getting to know the personal side of people, the stories of how they started their businesses or of their tea and coffee travels. “The most rewarding part of this industry is the friends you make and watching the industry grow, and seeing more people appreciate a good cuppa tea,” she says.
Tea industry events – like the World Tea Conference + Expo – gave Weigel the opportunity to make true friendships for the rest of my life. “I love to see people accomplish their dreams,” she says. “I love to see people helping one another by sharing their success stories. This happens through seminars and making friends at these tea shows. I am saddened by COVID-19 because I feel isolated from everyone and the energy I get from being around these wonderful entrepreneurs.”
For Weigel, her favorite tea industry experience was in the early ‘90s in California, on a business trip with the entire Fresh Cup team to accept an editorial and design award for the magazine. Devan Shah – the creator and owner of International Tea Importers and Chado Tea Rooms, who died in 2016 – invited them to his Beverly Hills Chado House for lunch and afternoon tea.
“We all arrived around noon and Devan said, ‘For your first pot of tea, what would you like to try?’ I said, ‘I’ll share a pot,’” remembers Weigel. “I had never had a good cup of tea, so my thought was, I was going to get through a couple of cups at best. I was thinking of the lowest grades of tea I had bought in the grocery store. He insisted that we each have a pot and some beautiful tea sandwiches. My favorite tea sandwich was made with Lapsang Souchong Tea. Devon continued to send me that tea for many years, so I could have those sandwiches at home. We enjoyed the afternoon and about 4:30 p.m. – after many pots of tea and a great education – we all left totally on a beautiful tea high. That was the beginning of my love for tea.”
Advice for the Tea Industry
As Fresh Cup prepares to wrap-up, Weigel is looking forward to travelling with her husband by car and spending time with family who live in other parts of the United States. She’ll also still be a part of the Café Femenino Foundation board, raising funds to help coffee communities around the world, and she’ll continue as a partner with the Golden Bean Coffee Roasters Competition when that resumes.
Weigel’s parting thoughts and advice to the tea industry? “Keep the lines of communication open,” she says. “Help one another, cherish the friendships you have, and constantly be open and welcoming to the new people coming into the tea arena. You have a lot to learn from each other.”
Editor’s Note: Thank you to the Fresh Cup Magazine team and Jan Weigel for all of their work within the tea industry, and for being a valued media partner and supporter of the World Tea Conference + Expo for many years. While the November/December 2020 issue will be Fresh Cup’s last, their website will be updated through the end of 2020 with new content. Each month until the New Year, they will be sending out a monthly recap of their fresh digital stories to subscribers. World Tea News wishes Weigel and her team much success in all of their future endeavors.