The Tea Haus has a clear and unhindered message to bring high-quality tea to in-store and online customers. It turns out the message itself is just as important as the way it’s accomplished. Through ethical practices, real passion, and authenticity, the founders of The Tea Haus have cultivated a unique business that’s about amazing tea and the people that enjoy it.
Stefanie Stolzel and Michael Schmidt were both born in Germany and moved to Canada at different times in their lives. Stefanie recounts her early days at the age of eight, wandering into humble tea shops in Germany and aspiring to one day work there. Stefanie grew up in her family home in Germany to the scent of freshly brewed coffee in the morning and a steeped cup of tea waiting for her in the afternoon.
Stefanie moved to Canada in 1998 and went searching for high-quality tea with Michael, an equally passionate tea connoisseur. They entered a tea shop where the loose leaf tea was being kept in spice jars. The spice stained jars only hinted at the sullied flavour of the loose leaves. They decidedly chose to try out store-bought bags of tea. Soon the Michael and Stefanie found themselves indulging in German loose leaf tea when they would travel back to visit family: “We started thinking that surely Canadians would be craving this kind of high-quality tea here.”
Michael and Stefanie were living in London, Ontario when the Covent Garden Market had been demolished and was in the process of being rebuilt. The new beginning for the market conceded their inception into the small-business world. When the new building was up and running, an opportunity presented itself for Stefanie and Michael to come in every Thursday evening with their own IKEA shelves, 60 loose leaf teas, and a few accessories. This was the modest beginning of a brand.
Michael and Stefanie would sell their tea over the weekend and take apart their station every Sunday evening, simply for the opportunity to sell high-quality loose leaf tea to the local London community. The Covent Garden Market came to Michael and Stefanie and offered up a space in the upstairs of the market. In 2000 The Tea Haus was born with a real space, real teas, by real people.
Since the opening of The Tea Haus in 2000, other tea retailers have sprouted up in Canada and across North America, indicating the increasing demand for better loose leaf tea. When asked what set The Tea Haus apart from other tea retailers Stefanie’s first answer was, “the personal experience”. The personal experience customers receive when interacting with The Tea Haus is refreshingly authentic.
You’re not interacting with just a business; you’re interacting with people. The Tea Haus currently employs 6 people, including Stefanie and Michael. Michael and Stefanie recognize that the people are the face of the company. They want people to love working there and channel that passion into every customer interaction.
The online experience has been made personal by means of a custom note with each order. Stefanie shared the story of a customer who would visit Canada once a year and stop into the store. She wrote Stefanie and Michael a two-page letter thanking them for their commitment to customers like herself, and the welcoming experience she had with The Tea Haus. It’s these moments and relationships that make owning and running the business special.
The Tea Haus’ commitment to positive relationships cannot be mentioned without their connection to the local community. The Covent Garden Market itself is a space for local business owners to share their individual contributions to the greater community. Michael and Stefanie decided they wanted to give back. The Tea Haus is currently involved with a number of passion projects including ReForest London, Bullfrog Power, Soi Dog, the Abused Women’s Shelter, and Canadian Red Cross.
The Tea Haus was hesitant to introduce the highly requested to-go cups in-store. Michael and Stefanie are mindful of the environment and didn’t want to contribute to more waste. They decided to charge customers 50 cents when they requested a to-go cup. Not only did this encourage people to bring their own reusable mugs to reduce waste, Michael and Stefanie also donate 10 cents of every to-go cup to ReForest London. ReForest London is a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing environmental and human health by planting trees.
Picture from www.reforestlondon.ca
The Tea Haus runs on Bullfrog Power. Bullfrog Power is a source of green energy that reduces emissions and supports renewable energy in Canada. The commitment to clean energy may mean additional cost for The Tea Haus, but it also means energy from green sources, contributions to green energy projects across Canada, participation in fighting climate change, and an alignment with Michael and Stefanie’s brand and values.
Picture from www.bullfrogpower.com
The Tea Haus has also actively worked with the Canadian Red Cross, yet another incredible organization that has a mission to improve the lives of vulnerable people by mobilizing the power of humanity. When the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in 2011, The Tea Haus saw an opportunity to mobilize humanity within their own store. The Tea Haus committed to donating 100% of the sales from Japanese tea to The Canadian Red Cross to assist in humanitarian efforts; this amounted to over $3000.
Picture from www.redcross.org
Stefanie and Michael have done their fair share of traveling in pursuit of tea and its places of origin. They made a trip to Japan and South Korea in 2010 and gained a fresh perspective on the production and processing of tea. Stefanie recently travelled to Sri Lanka to see the production of tea first-hand.
Stefanie at the birthplace of tea in Japan
Upon her arrival in the country of Sri Lanka, Stefanie marveled over the mountainous regions, the outstretching beaches, and the deep green tea fields. The prices of Sri Lankan tea are beginning to steadily increase. “We need to relay to customers that the prices may go up because workers should be fairly compensated for the hard work they are doing” Stefanie says. She observed tea being hand picked and carefully produced to result in the highest-quality taste.
What is the future of The Tea Haus? When asked about the potential expansion of the store into a chain of stores across Canada, Stefanie replied with a small laugh, “more stores means more headaches.” The Tea Haus wants to maintain the personal customer service that is possible with one store. Stefanie went on to say, “We want to make sure our customers are looked after. We always want to be able to give the best first impression, quick shipping, accurate orders, and maintain personal customer relationships.” Michael and Stefanie’s commitment to the community and the people they meet through their passion for tea is what has made The Tea Haus what it is today.
Picture from Pinterest
Visit The Tea Haus in the Covent Garden Market in London, Ontario or visit the online store to have tea shipped to you. Although we may not see more stores pop up, we can be sure to see the tireless commitment the brand has to its ethical and moral code, one that was modeled after Michael and Stefanie’s own.
There are many ways to get involved with Reforest London. Volunteer as a tree planter, tree specialist, community liaison, office assistant, or other available position. Donate or simply celebrate with Reforest London at their festivals and various events.
You can use green energy at your house or in your small or large business. Bullfrog Power supports the growth of renewable energy in Canada. This company gives Canadians an easy way to take action and help the environment.
Soi Dog Foundation are on a mission to provide humane and sustainable solutions to the management of stray dog and cat populations and help address their medical needs. You can help by sponsoring a dog, adopting an animal, volunteering or donating.
The Red Cross is committed to using humanity as a force for good. This organization helps vulnerable populations in times of need. You can help by volunteering in your community, taking a certification course, or donating.
The London Abused Women’s Shelter (LAWC) offers abused women and children over the age of 12 hope and help. Women are provided with trauma counseling, advocacy, and support in a safe place. You can help by volunteering, participating in projects, or donating.