This is the first interview in a series of interviews called Tea Company Spotlight that I’d like to do with tea owners from all the tea companies around the world. If you’re interested in being interviewed for this series, please contact me!
My first interview is with Mike Morton, the owner and founder of TeaFrog, founded in 2006 and based online out of Oakville, Ontario with distributors throughout Canada. I’ve spoken with Mike through reviewing many of his teas for the STeaP podcast since late 2007, and he was all too happy to answer a few questions about his company. Enjoy!
Tell us a bit about starting your company.
I have been a tea drinker for all of my life, and until about 4 years ago, the only tea I knew was Orange Pekoe Tetley Teabags. :) My daughter visited Japan in 2004 and the family that she stayed with sent back a gift package of good green tea. At the time I had no idea how to brew it, taste it, etc, and we could not even read the packaging because it was all in Japanese! We figured out how to make it eventually, and were surprised at how amazing it was compared to the teabag store bought that we had been drinking.
As I started to research and explore tea, I grew a passion for finding good tea, and sharing what I knew with friends and family. As I grew evermore – lets say, *obsessed* with it, I started to notice that tea was getting more popular, but the outlets for different varieties and flavors for experimenting with were limited. I just naturally took what I knew about business from previous experience, paired it with a passion, and lo and behold, TeaFrog was born! :)
What are your company’s specialties?
While we offer a wide variety of blends and single source teas, I think that most of my customers would say that we are best known for our friendly natures and willingness to educate! So many people are just not familiar with tea, but want to get into it from what they have heard of. They do not have a frame of reference or a starting point, and lets be honest, it CAN be a bit intimidating! So we provide education through tastings, and through talking to individuals one by one, be it on the phone, at craft shows, or online. So I would say that our ability to teach people how to explore and enjoy tea is what we are known for.
Oh, and our Rooibos Love blend – customers just cannot get enough of that! :)
What do you sell the most of?
Rooibos Love, by far and away is our most popular, tho our flavored white tea blends are quickly gaining popularity and nipping at the heels of our Rooibos blends! In particular the Blueberry White and Coconut Vanilla White teas are almost always out of, or close to out of stock!
What tea would you recommend to a novice tea drinker, and why?
I never recommend only one tea. We offer small, 10g sample packs, and if someone truly does not know where to start, I build them a pack of China Moon Palace, Kiyoto Lemon, Assam Banaspaty (when in stock…;0 ), 1001 Nights, Rooibos Love, Rooibos Caramel Cream, Stress Reliever, Hawaii Cocktail and Blueberry White to get them started. Inevitably they find a type of tea that they enjoy, and from there I can start recommending the direction that they take to grow their love for tea. There are so many different teas, and different experiences to be had, that there is never enough time for one person to explore them all!
What is your process? How does your company work?
We are always exploring all different avenues for different teas, and different blends, whether it is making our own blends, or sourcing and sampling blends and single estate teas from around the world. As a tea company we are always approached by different wholesalers to purchase their products. As such much of my day is spent tasting these samples, and evaluating quality for my customers.
Once we have found a tea or a blend that we think our customers will enjoy, we carefully scrutinize the source of these products to ensure that we can consistently get a high quality product, at a low price and that the company is a responsible business that is environmentally aware and works to preserve and protect through accepted methods of production. Whether this means they use only food grade blending materials, or that they follow standard and/or above standard fiscal practice for their region, we ensure that all aspects of that product are safe for our customers before we even consider selling it.
What is YOUR favorite tea?
Ahh, so many to choose from and so little time….
Let me see, in the mornings, I have been enjoying a brand new estate that is not even on the website yet (gimme about a week or so) – the Rani estate that will be listed as an Assam Organic/Biodynamic SFTGFOP – it is so tasty and complex that it challenges my tastebuds to get active for the day!
With lunch it is inevitably a white tea, specially in the summer, something light such as a Pai Mu Tan or a Coconut Vanilla. Dinner is green – Genmaicha most usually or maybe a Sencha.
This past summer, I have made a great deal of iced tea, it has been so darn HOT! The most refreshing recipe that I make is our Canadian Berry tea, brewed at double strength, then cooled, and blended 1/2 and 1/2 with a good lemonade – unbelievable.
Uhhhh, you just wanted one right?
Do you offer purchasable samples of your teas?
Yes. Each bag is 10g of tea, enough for between 3 and 4 cups of tea. The price for any sample is the same – $2 CDN.
Do you have anything new that you’re currently offering?
We always have tea on sale, anywhere from 25 – 50% off. We also offer promotions all the time to enthusiast sites or productions that never expire, and are always valid! Everyday customers can get free shipping in our local area (hand delivered by me, with a smile!!!!) and for all orders to anywhere in North America over $75 shipping is always free.
Oh, and we are now offering a similar product to the ingenuiTEA – the BrewT – similar in operation with an improvement in execution – higher quality body and filter that do not discolor as the ingenuiTEA does (very quickly with my rooibos consumption I may add ;) )
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
STeaP ROCKS! ;) I faithfully tune in every Monday, whether STeaP is reviewing a TeaFrog tea or not, and if you are, I even enjoy the not-so-positive reactions as much as the positive ones.
Thanks to Mike for a great interview and for the passion and enthusiasm he clearly brings to his tea company. Keep an eye out for more Tea Company Spotlight interviews in the future!