Lincoln Crichlow and his Tealeaves
I like tea. I really, really like tea. I have about thirty different types of tea in the cabinet at any given time. It drives my husband insane. Every time he opens the door to grab a bag of Earl Grey, ten kinds of green tea fall on his head.
I’m half Irish (no, like really half Irish: my mom has a brogue and I have a passport), so maybe that explains it. Ireland is in the top three countries for tea consumption per capita. (See Wikipedia for full list).
So when the handsome man above asked my husband if we would like to try some of his “T,” my husband’s answer was a reluctant “yes.” Lincoln’s T, you see, comes in tins and those are much harder on the head.
Nevertheless, I was allowed to peruse the vast number of teas on tealeaves.com and make a selection. It took me at least an hour to pick out six teas. It was very difficult because of the compelling choices.
All of this is to say Lincoln is an impressive guy and his tea is also impressive. Here are the reasons why I like him and his Tealeaves:
1. Lincoln is an entrepreneur and founded T along with a group of 14 other entrepreneurs. I like teamwork.
2. He’s Canadian. Have you ever met a Canadian you didn’t like? They don’t know how to be mean, which is a hugely redemptive quality.
3. He’s married to a very cool woman named April. Together they make a very, very good-looking couple.
4. Tealeaves has 20 kinds of green tea. Green tea is my favorite kind of tea. I’m not going to lie: I like it because it is good for you. It’s loaded with flavonoids (antioxidants), which have been proven to halt damage to your cells, which, I’m, pretty sure, means that they help keep you looking young and help strengthen your cells against cancer and other diseases.
5. Master Blend #8004: “Carefully selected flowers and herbs work together to calm jangled nerves.” Anyone who supports the calming of “jangled nerves” is a friend of mine.
6. Master Blend #3054: the best white tea you’ll ever taste. Promise.
Here is a bit more about Lincoln, “T” and being an entrepreneur:
1. When and how did you get into the tea business?
We founded tealeaves.com also known as “T” in 1994 in Vancouver, British Columbia. It is the culmination of the talents of a group of entrepreneurial and culturally-diverse people who found commonality in tea and saw an opportunity to reintroduce its magic and wonderment to the market. At that time in my life, I had just graduated university and was doing research in the Faculty of Medicine and like everyone else in that position, was contemplating medical school. A friend of mine wanted me to meet her friend who she considered to be a ‘guru’ in business (as one is in their early twenties!). We met and had a great discussion and turns out he wanted me to get his brother, who desired to get into medical school as well, into my lab. In exchange he invited me into a new business they were starting. After realizing that business was my passion and medicine is a calling, (one which was not mine!) I poured myself into the development of this business venture which eventually became “T.”
We worked really hard and literally built our business brick by brick doing a lot of the renovations ourselves and later that year successfully managed to open our first retail store! It was a hit and the store allowed us to launch our brand and presence in earnest. No one in those days had tea storefronts and it gave us the opportunity to test our teas with customers, develop our sales pitch and provide a location to meet local top chefs for tea tastings. The early days were an exciting time and I will never forget the first time I saw our product on the kitchen counter at a stranger’s dinner party. Today we have become the luxury tea brand of choice for Michelin chefs and five star hotels around the world. (Click here for a list of our clients). Even though it has been years since that dinner party, I still feel the same excitement and pride whenever I encounter our product in places I am not expecting.
2. What’s the most interesting fact you’ve learned about tea?
There are so many different teas but only one tea plant. The plant is Camellia sinensis and incredible as it seems the few leaves that sprout at the very top of this plant are what is transformed into all types of tea – black, green, and oolong. In order to create a black tea the leaves of the Camillia sinensis undergo a process to become fermented. Green tea on the other hand is unfermented and Oolong semi-fermented, a combination of both.
One plant, many teas; this is a fascinating mystery of tea. This is similar to wine; one species is responsible for nearly all of the wine made in the world. The character of tea leaves like wine grapes are affected by changes in soil, elevation and climate.
3. You are an entrepreneur – what is the best piece of advice you could offer a young entrepreneur?
The advice I would give to a young entrepreneur really is quite simple; don’t be afraid to embrace the truth. For example “I’m really great at business strategy, but I suck at branding.” One of the most difficult things for an entrepreneur to realize is that although he or she was successful at starting and growing their business they may not possess the skills to take the business where it needs to go next. And they fall into the trap of becoming a victim of their own success.
Take time to gain a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have done this, it’s important to recognize how you will strategically make up for your weaknesses. A simple solution may be to hire people who are stronger than you in those areas. This is true for partnerships as well.