Bringing People Together Through Tea: Lessons from West China Tea

If you’re looking for high-quality loose leaf tea and want to enjoy it with a passionate community, then you’ll love West China Tea. Established in 2012, the company has a simple but powerful mission: to bring tea lovers together— from farmers and creators to artisans and consumers — in order to build a vibrant tea community that spans the globe. 

Fast-forward to 2021, and the company is doing just that. We caught up with West China Tea’s Founder So-Han Fan and current CEO Nate Bell and asked them to share the company’s story and what they’re doing to succeed. 

West China Tea’s Story

According to So-Han, West China Tea began as a way of bringing farm-direct tea and artisan tea ware from China to the United States to facilitate the burgeoning Gong Fu Cha community here. 

“Our mission is to connect farmers, consumers, and artisans to build tea culture and community throughout the world,” he says.

One of the things that makes West China Tea unique is that all of the company’s products are directly sourced by the company owners. And it’s this personal and hands-on approach that sets the business apart. 

“All of our different tea and tea wares are unique and exciting. We source them by hand ourselves and know the farmers and artisans directly. We all love tea and our sourcing is driven by our passion — if we don’t love them, and if we wouldn’t want to buy them ourselves, we won’t sell them,” adds So-Han. 

Building a solid community

So-Han and the team at West China Tea take a lot of pride in fostering an authentic tea community, and are eager to pour tea every day. 

As So-Han puts it, “The best thing about having a physical teahouse is the ability to cultivate community around the culture of tea — the friendships that form, the ideas that are co-created, and the experiences that come from people coming together over the simple act of sharing tea.”

He continues, “Our team is not just employees, and our clients aren’t just customers — we are a community of passionate people connecting across social, political, and cultural boundaries in the pursuit of the best cup of tea possible.”

Nate Bell, current CEO and Webmaster, says that the company implements a number of initiatives to cultivate relationships with their customers. For starters, they use Marsello to power the business’ rewards programs and email marketing. 

With the help of the Vend and Marsello integration, West China Tea can reward its customers and launch personalized offers based on shoppers’ purchase history.

At West China Tea, people from all backgrounds can come together to celebrate their common interest in high quality tea while enjoying the freedom to express themselves.   

In addition, team members at West China Tea regularly host Instagram Live sessions and create Gong Fu Cha educational videos on  YouTube, to keep people engaged no matter where they are. 

Managing a large catalog

Thanks to Nate Bell, the company manages everything using Vend and BigCommerce.

Vend’s composite feature, in particular, has been extremely helpful. 

As West China Tea oversees hundreds of teas, many of which are seasonal, and sells numerous unique pieces of tea through its brick and mortar store and website, maintaining such a dynamic stock room can be quite the challenge.

Given that “we stock over 200 hundred different teas, and the compact size of the teahouse, there’s not enough room to have all of them pre-filled into individual sized bags, from 10g,  30g, 50g, to 100g and sometimes more. We use the composite product feature so we can bag to order and still effectively manage the total inventory count of our individual teas.”

Ready to level up your retail community?

West China Tea is a great example of how retailers can thrive with the help of community-building and excellent inventory management.

If you’re looking for ways to keep your shoppers engaged, try taking a leaf out of West China Tea Company’s playbook and cultivate strong relationships and connections with your customers. 

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.