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Published: 29 Aug 2014

Tea Shops: New Retail Rituals

Samovar Tea, San Francisco

San Francisco-based tea-lounge chain Samovar Tea has unveiled its newest venue on the city's trendy Valencia Street, with a store conceived to revive the craft and rituals behind tea making.

Samovar's fourth location in San Francisco (each one has been crafted and styled individually to suit its location) subverts the cosy, quaint aesthetic associated with traditional teashops with a minimalist, Zen-like design to invoke the calming properties of tea.

The focal point of the compact space is a set of futuristic-looking tea-brewing machines controlled by in-store tablets. These allow the brand's specially trained 'tea sommeliers' to prepare each drink in front of consumers with the utmost digital precision: delivering the exact amount of water needed, at just the right temperature.

A contemporary take on ancient brewing techniques, the spectacle adds an additional sense of contemplation to the retail experience, encouraging visitors to slow their pace as they indulge their senses in the tea preparation process.

For more on meditative retail spaces, see The Quiet Space, Spiritual Spaces: The Architecture of Happiness, and Quiet Branding. For more on the value of in-store pause, see Slowing the Journey.

Meanwhile, in Mexico, new Monterrey-based tea store Tomás (named after Thomas Sullivan – a New York merchant who invented the teabag) is boosting dwell time with a sensory bar. It includes small smelling pods, where visitors are invited to smell and touch the product. For more on multi-sensory experiences, see Immersive Brand Spaces and our upcoming Selling Scent report, publishing in September 2014.

Currently boasting a global retail value of $40.7bn, the tea industry is forecast to grow by 20% by 2017, according to 2013 research by international firm Euromonitor. This presents a major opportunity for brands willing to invest in imaginative retail experiences. For more on those already doing so, see Tea Stores Come of Age and Time for Tea: The Rise of the New Tea Shops.

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