Wholesale Tea: The Role of Value Added Wholesalers in the Tea Distribution Chain

by Jon Stout - Date: 2007-03-04 - Word Count: 623 Share This!

As tea grows in popularity in the United States, channels of distribution of this fine product are expanding and becoming more efficient. A major part of the entire distribution channel is the tea wholesaler that provides value added products and services to the tea offering.

The Tea Distribution Channel

Like most food products, tea is distributed through three major channels:

• Retail

• Wholesale

• Distributors


Retail channels deliver tea directly to the consumer for consumption without involvement of a third party, Retail channels generally involve gourmet markets, high end grocery stores, health food stores and other outlets where the consumer can visit and make an informed tea selection.

Retail also includes mail order and the internet equivalent e-commerce shopping. E commerce has grown dramatically as web sites become more informative and selections of quality teas are expanded. E-commerce allows the convenience of shopping at home and has become a highly efficient way to purchase quality tea products.


The wholesale channel involves entities that purchase for resale. During this process the wholesaler adds value in a variety of ways. This value is critical for the tea enjoyment of the ultimate consumer and takes many forms. For example:

• Creation of a pleasant environment that creates strong feelings of well being

• Addition of food items like sandwiches, deserts, fruits etc that complement the tea experience

• High end fine dining that is complemented by a cup of quality tea

• Resorts that offer iced tea as a refreshing beverage in idyllic settings

• Hotels and inns that offer afternoon tea as a scheduled event

• And many others…..


Distributors operate in a channel different from wholesalers although both channels are resale channels. Distributors stock inventory and provide account executives who service large reseller like grocery stores and convenience store chains. Distributors usually develop sophisticated support systems that offer their customer base ease of ordering and shipment and other efficient ways to do business.

What Value Do Wholesalers Provide?

Tea wholesalers are all about enhancing the tea experience for the consumer.

The value provided by wholesalers, if added properly, can leverage the well being of the tea experience. Take a quality tea room for example. Customers can enjoy tea in a very pleasant setting with attractive decorations, appealing music and complementary sandwiches and other food items. Not only do tea drinkers enjoy the well being of high quality tea but the experience is expanded by the right environment - truly added value.

Or take the fine dining experience where a delicious meal is followed by the best quality infused loose leaf tea and the enhanced feeling of well being created as a compliment to the meal.

However, care must be exercised to ensure that value is created. How many tea drinkers have enjoyed a quality meal at a four star restaurant, only to be disappointed by a cup of luke warm low quality tea at the end of the meal. Or consider the thirsty traveler looking to quench his thirst with an ice cold glass of high quality iced tea but receives instead a luke warm, low quality substitute tea bag drink.

Overlooking the quality of the basic offering of tea can be disastrous for a tea wholesaler. Tea drinkers in the United States are becoming more discriminating and demanding when it comes to tea quality and taste. Many teas rooms have recognized this fact and focus on quality products and quality service and have created a niche market for their business.

For restaurant wholesalers, loose leaf tea is increasingly offering products that complement fine dining. Quality loose leaf tea often blended with appealing flavors like mint, coconut or Oil of Bergamot offer the best hot or iced tea available for the dining public. Preparation and presentation of quality tea is critical to ensure tea drinking satisfaction however and those wholesalers who wish to provide the best quality tea must focus on the total tea experience.

Related Tags: tea, tea wholesalers, wholesale tea

Jon M. Stout is Chairman of the Golden Moon Tea Company. For more information about tea, green tea and black tea go to goldenmoontea.com

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