What is TeaVendor? What happed to International Tea Importers (ITI)?
ITI hasn't gone anywhere. We are just changing our e-commerce presence a bit. For decades, ITI has been one of the few tea suppliers with an e-commerce presence. We realize as the world changes, buying tea online needs to be easier. So ITI is rebranding our website and the items we sell on this website to TeaVendor.
Don't worry, you'll still be working with the same team and even get invoices from ITI, but we're changing our online presence to match the vision we want to put out there.
Big whoop, you changed the website. So what? What changes?
You're right! This might just come off as a facelift of the brand. And in large part, it is. But we are also making some fundamental changes to the way we do business. ITI's goal was always to help build a sustainable specialty tea industry in the US. TeaVendor renews that goal, with the added goal of making tea sourcing easier for people who are new to the tea industry.
For over 30 years, ITI has taken a very hands-on approach to getting specialty tea education out there. We want to continue doing that, but we especially want to make tea more accessible. Tea is a drink that brings people together, and while we want to make sure that people understand what tea is, becoming a "tea sommelier" isn't a realistic goal for every business owner. Especially as the health and wellness space is booming, people want to get easy-to-digest information, buy some tea, and go.
That being said, there are some major changes that may be coming, some that you may have struggled with already. We hope this page can help you find answers to the questions you have, but our team is available by phone at (562) 801-9600 and email at email@example.com if you need to talk to someone.
What happened to all the teas you used to sell?
This is probably the biggest question we receive. It has the hardest and probably most complex answer. Since our founder, Devan Shah, passed in 2016, we've had to undergo several operational changes. We've changed staff, endured the implementation of national food safety legislation, and survived the COVID-19 pandemic. The answer to the question comes in a few parts.
We've had to modernize the operations of the company. When Devan passed, a lot of his knowledge passed with him. He knew exactly where everything was in the warehouse, when he bought it, what it cost, and how it tasted. When he did take time to record those things, he did so in composition notebooks.
After his passing, we struggled for a long time just getting an inventory management system in place. We'll spare you the details, but our warehouse now operates more efficiently than ever with the technology that we've implemented. We now have accurate digital records of every tea we buy, blend we make, item we ship, and product we sell. Pretty standard, but the work getting there was anything but easy.
Food Safety Standards
In 2016, the landscape of food companies looked remarkably different. In particular, smaller niche manufacturers like ITI fell under the Food Safety Modernization Act. This meant that we had to do a much better job of tracking and reporting our food safety data. We were tracking all of our blends on paper at the time, and in order to be sustainable for our team, this all moved into the system described above. In particular, we had to make really big changes to the services we offered.
Before this change, we offered customization on every blend we sold. This was a huge burden on our team, and led to a lot of errors when it came time to report lot tracking. We needed to be able to have consistent formulas that didn't change, and this level of customization is just not possible at the scale at which we need to operate. In removing this service, as well as increasing our custom blend minimums, we know we disrupted the operations of many of our customers. We understand how challenging that must have been, but it is not a decision we made lightly, and it is not one we intend to roll back.
Sourcing and Inventory Challenges
The pandemic fundamentally changed the world and really disrupted our ability to source teas and herbs globally. While many of those challenges have subsided, in particular the massive increase to international freight prices, we have not been able to recover fully from the disruption.
We have done a poor job of keeping many of the teas we buy in stock. This is unacceptable, and the truth is we are still in the midst of rebuilding our global supply chain. We are implementing many decisions about our products that may be unpopular, but are needed.
To begin, while we are going to source as many single origin teas as possible, we do not think we will be able to source from every garden we used to buy from. For example, we won't be able to ensure that these gardens are available in our smaller 2 pound and 25 pound packaging - products we intend to make the focus of TeaVendor.
In addition, we have to drastically decrease the number of products we offer. Sustainability has become top of our mind, and to have sustainable operations, we just can't offer everything we used to offer. This means that some of the teas and blends you love, some that may be critical for your business, will not be available. We know this is hard, and that it may be a dealbreaker for many of our customers, as it has been already. For those customers, we want to say that those were not easy decisions for us, but we wouldn't have made them unless they were absolutely necessary.
Change of Mission
This last point is more forward looking. As already mentioned earlier, the mission of ITI was to help create the specialty tea industry in the US by providing valuable information that motivated people to create tea businesses that thrive, and to be a singular resource that entrepreneurs and enthusiasts could turn to for all their tea needs, no matter the complexity.
TeaVendor's mission shares the same spirit - educating business owners on tea and how to use it to build tea programs that add real value to their businesses. Where the mission differs is by understanding that most business owners looking to get into tea are not looking for complexity. Running a business, no matter the type, is complex enough. Offering too many choices - as is the nature of most tea suppliers - is overwhelming. To combat this, we are still offering hundreds of teas, but making choices simpler and focusing on teas that will work for a wider variety of businesses.
Ugh. I'm not reading all that.
What you need to know is:
We've had to make significant changes to our operations in response to new food safety laws, the pandemic, and sustainability of our business. This means that we can't offer the level of customization we used to and we can't offer all the teas that we used to.
We've implemented tons of technology changes that make us better at tracking our products from sourcing to sale, and that means we can offer a smaller, higher-quality list of teas and blends.
We are looking to make specialty tea more accessible and sustainable. The business decisions that we've made so far and are going to make in the future will be to that end.
What are all these brands on your website?
We love all of our friends in the tea industry. We decided that TeaVendor is going to be a place where we highlight specific suppliers and brands that are doing cool and innovative things in the tea industry.
What services DO you offer?
Right now, we want to focus on making sure the buying experience on teavendor.com is the best that it can be. To do that, we have created pre-selected kits for different business types with teas that we think will work really well. In addition, we have a team that's constantly creating new recipes, guides, and educational material that make it really easy to get started with tea, expand your knowledge, or hone your expertise.
We have members of the team that can help you formulate new blends, however our custom blending and packaging minimums are substantial. If you have a custom project that you'd like consultation on, drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are also currently running a beta program of third-party fulfillment services. We connect directly with client websites and fulfill their orders from our warehouse in Southern California. If you're interested in joining the beta, email us at email@example.com.
Apart from that, our team is growing and can help you answer most questions about what teas you should carry and which of our teas will work for your business. You can get in contact with them at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling us at (562) 801-9600.
Do you ship internationally?
We ship internationally to select countries. We are also happy to work with your shipping provider to ensure your order gets to you.
We are constantly trying to improve our international shipping, and we will make you aware of when you can order from us. Our specialty is in shipping to North America.
Can I visit your facilties?
We are currently offering limited visits to our warehouse and blending facility. Let our team know if you are interested, however, we can't guarantee the availability of an immediate visit.
Do you offer payment terms?
Currently, we are only able to accept payment prior to shipping on our website. We are actively looking into incorporating payment terms on the website, and will update you when those options become available.
Do you offer free shipping?
We currently do not offer free shipping. Shipping charges will be calculated at checkout. Sign up for our mailing list to know when we are offering a free shipping promotion.
Where can I get documentation about the products I buy?
We offer documentation on request. Please email email@example.com to get yours.