VaniTEA Blends may be a neophyte to the online retail tea market but its owners are not short on ambition and zeal. Christian Low and his wife, Kavita Panchoo, are the creators of VaniTEA's brand. They both hail from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, and moved to Canada in 2019.
Let's delve into the process that sparked the idea that is now a reality. A few thought provoking questions were posed to Kavita and here's what she had to say.
What's the meaning of VaniTEA? Is it part of someone's name?
VaniTEA = Vanity. So many people have asked if Vani is a person's name or if they need to start calling me that. But it's simply just a play on the word vanity rather than it's actual meaning. We would never want to imply that tea drinking is a conceited act.
Why choose to sell tea?
When we moved from a tropical country to a temperate one, there is a notable change in seasons. Quite frankly, Canada is cold three quarters of the year and hot beverages are a daily staple. Teas are versatile enough to also be served cold. Just throw in a lemon wedge and dial up the depth of flavour with a fruity blend and you have a backyard favourite to accompany your grilling get togethers. We felt that tea could be sold all year round.
Is tea the only focus?
No, Christian purposefully added on "Blends" to the business name, so that we could eventually implement our future ideas. I have a growing list of things that I want to do to expand and give our consumers variety. One of those items involves combining and creating our own blends. As well as, tea in a different format, used in confectionery or cooking. The brand also has the capacity to broaden the types of teaware to cater to our customers who really want to collect something beautiful or delicate to their homes and tea services.
How has your background influenced this start up and what do you bring that's unique to this industry?
Christian and I are from completely different backgrounds career-wise. He has always managed brick and mortar businesses, both retail and fast food. This endeavour is very new for him to launch something that's entirely e-commerce. That's a personal challenge for him. In a good way, because he is driven and wants to understand how to make online retail successful.
My background is in healthcare and I feel like that allows me to look at little more into the science of teas. I'm inclined to reading the evidence that surrounds calendula in skin health for instance, or oolongs that are rich in neurotransmitters that help anxiety. I want to be able to disclose that to consumers so they understand why it's been used for medicinal purposes for millennia. I have also been looking for an outlet for my creativity and I'm using this as a platform to give myself a bit of a crash course in marketing to different demographics, social listening and understanding the needs of this type of consumer.
What's your first memory of tea?
I remember always making tea (and coffee) for my dad as a child. It could be 40C outside and he would still have several cups of hot tea a day. Nothing fancy, it was the same caffeinated, yellow boxed pre packaged black tea, in his usual Corelle cup with a green trim. I always added two sugars and a dash of full cream milk. The smell makes me so nostalgic that recently I hunted for the specific grocery stores that sold the brand just so I could have it daily too 30 years later.
What's the most surprising thing you have learned about tea since you got involved?
Tea is like a hidden kingdom with labyrinthine levels that we have just unearthed. In the last few weeks we have come across so much new terminology, definitions and the existence of organizations that help you certify and become an expert at tea (tea sommelier). We are seeing tea used in so many ways from recipes to bath salts. For the unsophisticated palate, it's quite overwhelming to take in and yet exciting to discover.
To launch things off with a bang, VaniTEA Blends is having an end of summer sale. SHOP NOW!
Stay tuned for a follow up article with these business owners as they chat about the challenges they faced creating this start-up company. Click here for the article 5 fears of starting up a small business.