Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Turning a passion for tea into an award-winning business - TeaSource

By Phyllis Louise Harris
July 2015

It all started in a spare bedroom 20 years ago. Bill Waddington was a tea fan. So much so, that when he travelled across the country in his job for a supermarket chain he would seek out tea vendors, tea rooms, tea importers – anyone who could broaden his understanding and enjoyment of the world’s most popular beverage (next to water). But, that wasn’t enough for Bill.
Soon he was writing to owners of tea plantations around the world – Ceylon, China, Japan, Bhutan, Nepal, India  – asking about their particular tea. Not only did he get responses, but he also started receiving samples. So many that he emptied a bedroom in his home and began assembling his collection of tea. Since there are 3,000 kinds of tea in the world he needed lots of space.
With his background in the grocery business the next step was a natural. Bill created a catalog and began selling tea by mail. Now he was taking trips abroad to meet plantation owners and to see tea processing first hand. That still was not enough so he quit his fulltime job and in 1997 opened the first TeaSource in St. Paul’s Highland neighborhood. As the business grew so did the varieties of tea he handled until today he has three TeaSource stores in the Twin Cities, a separate tea warehouse, a complete catalog and an informative website all promoting the 250 varieties of tea he now offers. And, he still travels around the world seeking out new sources and interesting flavors.
In May, TeaSource was named “Best Tea Business” at the World Tea Expo in Long Beach, California, the world’s largest international specialty tea show. More than 5,000 thousand attendees along with the show’s exhibitors determined the winner. Not bad for a company that started in a spare bedroom!
If you haven’t been to TeaSource you are missing a whole world of flavors and aromas. I am currently limited to black tea and only drink caffeine-free so of course Bill has something for me as well. It is an English breakfast tea and is delicious yet still soothing as tea should be…just as it was for the first tea drinker in China five thousand years ago.
To learn more about the amazing world of tea visit any TeaSource or the website and do plan to attend one of Bill’s many classes in the art of tea. Also pick up his free pamphlets filled with all of the tea information you will ever need. (After being immersed in the proper ways of tea you will never look at it the same way again. No more tea bags for me!) You will find TeaSource stores in St. Paul, St. Anthony and Eden Prairie where Bill promises to offer special events this fall celebrating his “Best Tea Business” award.


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