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Tea and coffee serveware continue to be important categories for Gourmet Insiders, with most being pleased with the amount of product innovation on the market for both categories. The level to which coffee outrivals tea or vice versa depends on the focus of the individual store’s assortment. With all the innovative products available, even for stores without space for a breadth of categories— or for those stores not viewed as coffee or tea destinations, the basics— solid-color ceramic teapots and mugs and French presses for example— still sell well.
Rob Navarino, owner of The Chef’s Shop, in Great Barrington, MA, said that coffee is the hotter of the two categories at his store: “It seems like [vendors] are coming up with new things all the time. I think the manufacturers may be ahead of the market in many ways. For a delicious cup of brew, there’s nothing desperately called for that isn’t readily available.” The store staff “constantly” demonstrates its coffeemakers and uses those demonstrations to cross-merchandise serveware and accessories such as frothing pitchers, and espresso and cappuccino cups. “We sell espresso cups and sets for housewarming or hostess gifts. It is also a nice add-on to anyone purchasing an espresso set,” said Navarino. Yedi-branded cups and saucers that come packaged in a hatbox add to the gift appeal. “It’s a small add-on that people can indulge on without spending a lot of money,” he said. The French Press category also drives a lot of sales, said Navarino, with brands such as BonJour.
At Allyson’s Kitchen, in Ashland, OR, new general manager Cecilia Osborne said that in the three months she has been gm, she has been surprised by “just the sheer volume of coffee and tea things that we sell.” She said coffee mugs are popular at the store and she echoed other retailers’ sentiments that neutral colors, such as cobalt blue and white seem to be most sought after.
KC Lapiana, owner of In the Kitchen said tea serveware and accessories are an important part of Wexford, PA’s In the Kitchen assortment as well, noting that it compliments her growing tea selection. Lapiana devotes eight feet to tea accessories, including tea strainers, tea balls and demitasse spoons, she said. In the Kitchen’s wish list for tea items from vendors include “utilitarian” items such as “better” French presses designed for loose leaf tea and newness in tea bag holders and squeezers. Allyson’s Kitchen’s Osborne said she utilizes a local tea distributor called Devi, and she said her only wish is to have more local companies to choose from.
Solid colors drive sales in tea and coffee serveware, said retailers. Lapiana said, “People love silicone; the colors are great,” adding silicone infuser mugs from Hues and Brews and tea infusers from William Bounds and Trudeau are popular. Color also drives Lapiana’s teapot assortment; she carries Hues and Brews’ i-pot teapots in 12 colors.
The Chef’s Shop also offers ceramic teapots in basic colors from brands such as RSVP, Harold, Chantal and LeCreuset. “Ceramic teapots are a constant seller. People are getting used to the old idea of steeping their tea in a pot. It makes a nice presentation and it enhances the flavor of the tea,” added Navarino. He added that tea sticks are “one of the most innovative tea products around. They don’t allow the tea leaves to float out.”
One novelty doing well at Allyson’s Kitchen is a thermal teapot from Evaco. It is a porcelain teapot with a thermal lid in either stainless or copper. It keeps the tea warm without the needing a tea cozy, said Osborne, for those who want the functionality and a modern look. Another new tea item at Allyson’s Kitchen is a Tea Spot mug, with a porcelain tea infuser in pastel green and purple.
This year, Lapiana expanded her tea assortment to include Republic of Tea Little Citizens caffeine-free teas with kid-friendly flavors and carries tea sets designed for these younger consumers.
On the flip side, for the adults, Lapiana has tapped into what she calls a “hot” trend: cocktail-infused teas led by the company Tea Forte, adding liquor instead of boiling water to brew teas. The liquor has a similar chemical reaction with the tea bags , she said. It was one of the store’s popular demonstrations this summer, she said. Tea Forte also supplies the serveware for the cocktail concoctions. “It’s beautiful; they look really fantastic,” said Lapiana.
While tea and coffee aren’t a large category for some stores, offering a basic assortment seems to work well. At A Cook’s Wares, in Beaver Falls, PA, they feature a “pretty narrow assortment” of tea and coffee serveware. “I think our focus has always been on things you need in the kitchen to cook with [rather than serve with],” said owner Gail Bitar. The store carries ceramic pots from Chantal and a teapot from Joyce Chen that’s new in the marketplace. The store does offer a variety of teakettles from brands such as LeCreuset, Bodum and Oxo.
“Our market isn’t too much into tea and coffee,” said Liz Smalley, owner of Kitchenworks & Gourmet Gifts in Litchfield, CT, devoting only a “small corner” of the 1200-ft store to the categories. “We stick to the basics here and they seem to do pretty well.”
Hawthorne Gilt is new from Caskata’s luxury line Insignia C, and features jewelry-inspired bands of weaves and crosshatches in a matte gold color way. The dinnerware is bone china, and it is made in the USA.