Collaborative Cups of Tea

Specialty teas and gift sets centered around tea do not represent a new category for licensing, but the number of deals (mostly for limited editions) and the variety of properties involved have both been growing recently. Here is some of what four leading licensed tea purveyors have been up to when it comes to collaborations:

  • Vahdam India Tea. In December, Vahdam collaborated with Paramount Consumer Products and Experiences for a limited-edition Emily in Paris tea set containing flavors including La Vie En Rose, Ingénue Violet, Voila! Vanilla, and Le French Earl Grey. At around the same time, Vahdam paired with singer and TV personality Nicole Scherzinger for a self-care-themed gift set featuring 10 individual bags of six healing teas in an an autographed canister. Earlier in 2022 Vahdam partnered with Indian lifstyle brand Nicobar for a limited-edition blend, and in late 2021 it paired with (RED) for more than 40 products, representing the first Indian brand to be part of the charitable program.
  • Harney & Sons. In September 2022, the company paired with Disney for five new tea blends tied to Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Snow White, Jasmine, and Moana. In July, it announced a pairing with Random House Children’s Books for a collection of three teas in special tins based on the artwork of Emily Winfield Martin, designed as baby shower gifts. Harney & Sons also creates tea sets for several heritage and cultural organizations such as Colonial Williamsburg, The Met, and Historic Royal Palaces, among other partnerships.
  • The Republic of Tea. This company was one of the pioneers in this space, having collaborated with IP owners for years, especially for entertainment tie-ins. In March 2022, it paired with Netflix and Shondaland for five limited-edition tinned Bridgerton teas. The Republic of Tea has also partnered with properties including Downton Abbey (for a large array of teas since 2014, including two limited-edition flavors for the film Downton Abbey: A New Era in May 2022); the mental wellness brand Calm (for three teas paired with custom meditations, in 2021); Star Wars: The Mandalorian (for three specialty blends, in 2020); holiday movie collaborations with The Hallmark Channel and Disney (in 2018); and The Crown (for two specialty teas and a gift set, in 2017). The company has been involved in many other similar initiatives over the years as well.
  • Art of Tea. Some of Art of Tea’s most recent collaborations have included pairings with Sony for The Outlander Collection in time for the season six premiere of the show; influencer Zach Kornfeld of The Try Guys, for a specialty flavor called Zach’s Breakfast and Mission Chill; Guittard Chocolate Company; and the cut-flower brand The Bouqs; among others. The company also worked with the White House to develop a range of teas as gifts for the Summit of the Americas.

Of course, as with any category, not all pairings are successful. The Kornfeld partnership, marketed under the Zadiko Tea Co. brand, was short-lived, and Kornfeld and the other Try Guys detailed the experience in a TryPod podcast episode titled “Why My Business Failed.” In it, Kornfeld is positive about Art of Tea as a partner and company but notes many conceptual and practical reasons that the collaboration did not work, from his lack of understanding about the process going in, to a poor fit between brand and category, to fan pushback about certain decisions that were made.

Beyond specialty tea blends and gift sets from the companies above and others, tea has been the focus of a wider world of pairings with licensed IP in the past few years, all around the world. Examples range from a growing number of licensed promotions with tea-drink shops in China and other parts of Asia to a proliferation of character-themed high teas in hotels and restaurants, mostly but not exclusively in London.

A reminder that if you have not yet read our annual review of the top licensing trends of 2022, you can check it out here.

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