The Artisan Tea Hut evolved out of The Artisan Tea Club - a social club with an idealistic vision that you could bring people together from all walks of life through a humble tea leaf, and you could enlarge people's social lives by encouraging them to become artisan tea advocates and start their own artisan tea club. We envisaged dozens, if not hundreds, of tea clubs like ours across Canberra and its surrounding towns.
During our 6-month run, we arranged free weekly artisan tea tasting gatherings to facilitate strangers meeting each other, expecting there would be enough voluntary purchases of our teas and teawares to help recover the costs of running and promoting the club.
Whilst we did receive a lot of positive feedback and happy moments, after 6 months of experimentation we finally decided to modify our vision due to 6 main issues.
The first issue was that only a few people were interested in advancing their knowledge of Chinese tea culture and refining their palate to obtain a greater appreciation for this amazing beverage.
The second issue was that, of those who were interested in tea culture, there were very few people who considered starting up a tea club in their own home. This was because most people were looking for social activities outside of their home and also, understandably, there were some safety concerns with having strangers in one's home.
The third issue was that very few people brought their friends along to our tea tastings. This meant it was harder and more costly for us to spread our message and vision, as we didn't have the benefit of word-of-mouth.
The fourth issue was that, with the exception of the Australian Tea Cultural Seminar, none of Australia's peak tea industry bodies responded to our requests for help with promotion.
The fifth issue was that the diversity of attendees' political views and cultural/religious values made it difficult to continuously maintain an inclusive and harmonious setting. Tensions would sometimes arise among attendees with opposing political views when conversation took an unavoidable turn to politics. Also attendees who were from a minority group within a minority group were reluctant to interact with attendees of a majority group within their minority group due to unwanted judgments and gossip within their small community.
The sixth issue was that there were not enough sales to cover the costs of running and promoting the club.
In the end we concluded that such a voluntary not-for-profit community development project was best suited for a community organisation with corporate, industry or government funding to cover the costs of tackling the above issues. In the meantime we have moved on - under a new name - to what we believe is a more sustainable business model.
For those who did support the vision of The Artisan Tea Club, we thank you and hope for your continued interest in Chinese tea culture through The Artisan Tea Hut.
About the Author
Jaq James is the Founder of The Artisan Tea Hut and is a Contributing Editor for Tea Journey Magazine. She splits her time between China's tea regions and Australia's capital.