Tea Makes Everything Better…
Today’s guest interview features husband and wife team, Joe and Andrea Raetzer, founders of Steepologie loose leaf tea company.
Being a Brit I drink A LOT of tea, so I was super excited when this store opened only a couple of blocks from where I live. Here’s an exclusive look behind the scenes of my new local…
Names: Joe and Andrea Raetzer
Location: 1905 4th Avenue, Seattle and Steepologie.com
What makes Steepologie different? Our company philosophy is “Tea Makes Us Better”. This belief drives us to offer a wide range of accessible, high quality, loose leaf teas.
Steepologie offers an unparalleled variety in loose leaf tea and herbal blend offerings: over 250 custom tea and herbal blends in fact! Whether you’re looking for something high in caffeine like our “Need for Speed” or “Super Pekoe Strong” or something fruity like “Grapa Delight” or “Hawaiian Lei”, Steepologie will have the perfect tea for you. We don’t know of any other tea store that has as many offerings as we do.
More importantly, we don’t use a stockroom, our entire stock is on the shop floor. In this way, through careful inventory tracking and regular inbound deliveries, we can guarantee that our tea is always fresh and in peak condition. Each of our teas has a sniffer jar so the customer can not only see the tea, but smell its’ unique aromas. We also display the full list of ingredients for each of our teas and clearly display all of our prices – our prices are so reasonable!
For those who are not local to Seattle, we also have an online store Steepologie.com from which customers can place one-time orders or sign up to our new subscription box service Steep Crate – again, we pack and ship all online orders from the fresh loose leaf teas in from our store.
What sparked your interest in the tea industry? Andrea and I have always had a keen interest in tea and have used tea to benefit our health. Andrea drinks tea to reduce inflammation associated with her RA and I use it to help with my high blood pressure. Our previous business venture was a luxury yarns subscription box service, in which we regularly included a “soothing extra” that was often tea. During that time we learnt a lot about tea and discovered our passion for it.
How did you turn your passion for tea into a business/career? We sold our subscription box service in May 2016 and quickly concluded that we should do something that we loved. So we contacted the friends that we had made in the tea industry and started developing the concept that became Steepologie. In early June 2016 we started working on Steepologie full time. We launched Steepologie.com in October 2016 and opened our first retail location in April 2017.
What was the biggest lesson you learnt while setting up the business? How much more work it is to set up a retail “real world” brick-and-mortar business as opposed to an online business. There is simply no comparison – the amount of effort, detail, planning and coordinating is immense, and that’s for just one Steepologie retail store!
What is the best part of your job? Seeing people light up when they find “their tea” at Steepologie and also hearing stories of how tea has changed someone’s life for the better. Due to our unique, high quality offering and genuine service, new customers often become long-term “regulars” who we enjoy connecting with. These are just a few “bests” that will never get old for us.
What is the worst aspect of your day/job? Every now and then we’ll have someone come in to the store and say “I only drink X tea”. There are SO many varieties of tea to explore and that new perfect cup of tea is out there just waiting to be discovered. Not being able to help someone “get there” is kind of a let down, but we do succeed the vast majority of the time!
What is your proudest achievement so far? Personally our 3 children and the fact that we’ve been married for almost 20 years. Professionally the fact that we both left the “corporate world” – Joe was a corporate lawyer on Wall Street in New York and Andrea worked in Gucci Corporate on 5th Ave in New York – and started our own successful business together.
What’s your favorite tea? Andrea’s favorite blend is an herbal (technically not a tea) called “Raspberry Lavender” which has raspberry leaves, lavender leaves, lemon peels and hibiscus. However, her favorite tea is Andrea’s Rose, which is a black tea with rose petals, jasmine, and large rose buds. Joe’s favorite tea is “Love Me Tender” which is a black tea with jasmine green and rose congou.
What’s your tip for making the perfect cup of tea? At Steepologie we use fresh filtered water every time (not water sitting in a kettle that’s already been boiled), use fresh high quality loose leaf tea, and we use the proper temperature and time settings for the type of tea we’re steeping. All of our teas include proper steeping instructions to ensure our customers have the best possible tea steeping experience!
How should tea be properly stored? Tea that is improperly stored will quickly lose its quality. Light, air and moisture are the enemies here! Always store loose leaf tea in an airtight container that is not transparent, away from moisture and excessive heat.
From where do you find inspiration when creating a new tea flavour? First and foremost from customer feedback. After that it comes down to what we like to experience in the culinary world.
What item in the kitchen could you never live without? Our Steepologie Teasy Tea Infuser to steep tea of course!
What is your best piece of advice for couples working together? Stay strong and remember that your personal relationship shouldn’t suffer due to the strains imposed by your business relationship. At the end of the day you need to be able to go home together and enjoy each other.
What is your best piece of advice to someone wanting to start their own business? After you’ve built out your concept have a long enough runway to ensure you can stay the course and prove it out. It takes years for people to even “discover” you regardless of the amount spent on marketing – don’t expect to be paid anything substantial for several years (and hope to be pleasantly surprised if you’re able to start paying yourself sooner!).
What’s next for you? To open more Steepologie stores and continue to reach people through our Seattle store and Steepologie.com. We are in the “tea world” for the duration and we believe that we can have a positive impact on a lot of people by exposing them to high quality and reasonably priced tea.
You can try and buy Steepologie’s expansive range of loose leaf teas and tea accessories at their Seattle store – 1905, 4th Avenue- or by visiting their online store at steepologie.com. You can also contact Joe and Andrea directly by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.