Obsessively passionate about tea
Naoko Tsunoda, owner of Key to Teas, our latest customer spotlight, always loved tea. It was a big part of her adolescence in Japan, watching her family host guests by offering tea. But along with tea, she was passionate about pastries.
Her love of pastries began with tasting Parisienne-inspired treats in Tokyo’s boutique cafes. This love of pastry drove her to attend Le Cordon Bleu and the French Culinary Institute to train as a pastry chef.
It was during her training that she discovered the depths of flavors you can create using exotic items like loose-leaf teas as a culinary ingredient. She even won an award in 2001 for the most creative project by incorporating tea into a classic French meal.
Tea became her focus again in 2006 when she began leading quality, development, and education for an American specialty tea retailer with locations worldwide. After gaining 20 years of experience, Naoko brought her dream to life and opened Key to Teas.
Reaching the Tea Community
Key to Teas launched its online business in 2020, during the height of the pandemic. Thanks to Naoko’s experience and connections in the industry, her start-up has had good results. She analyzes conversion metrics to help her understand her customers’ purchasing patterns throughout the holidays and post-holiday slowdown. Now that they are a year in, the next big focus is marketing.
Marketing directly to potential customers using social media was the key during the pandemic. While tea may not be an ideal product to market on social media, they are finding ways to reach the tea-lover community beyond their home base in Seattle, Wa. Their e-commerce efforts and social media engagement enabled them to quickly fulfill orders from across the country.
They currently sell directly to the consumer but this year, they are focusing on building their business-to-business partnerships. They also hope to be able to offer more customer sample tastings to create a more sensorial experience which was the original plan and the best way to purchase tea.
The company strives to create an equitable workplace through contributions to the community and building relationships. They are focused on empowering women, advocating for refugees, and orphaned children.
“In addition to a social purpose for advocating for women and children in underserviced communities, we would like to continue to network locally and nationally with organizations that have an aligned mission,” said Naoko.
Packaging & labels
Key to Teas prints many of their product and ingredient labels themselves. But they also use Avery WePrint, the professional printing service from Avery. The functionality and practicality of the free online design tools let Key to Teas create, edit, print, and save projects directly in their personal account.
“I tried many labeling functions and ultimately Avery comes on top because of the flexibility to print on our own and or custom printing,” said Naoko.
Naoko enlists her family to help her label all products by hand. Her daughter has even discovered an application trick. She uses a plastic card versus fingers when applying the rectangle labels wrapped around their pouches. This method allows them to seal the label in one swipe.
Some materials they use for their printable labels include glossy white paper, matte clear film, and glossy clear film. For their professionally printed tea labels, they use matte white paper from WePrint.
“With each seal, love is poured into our tea packaging and hoping the recipient will receive the crafted warmth that differentiates us from commercially produced tea products.”
Check out Keys to Teas at keytoteas.com. You can also follow their journey on Facebook and Instagram.
Do you use Avery for your small business to create professional packaging, product labels, and other marketing materials? Let us know in the comments below and maybe we’ll feature you in our Customer Spotlights.
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