Not for all the tea in China

The tea test – Do you know how to make a cup of tea?

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Accurate cup

My job was books. Counting books and getting them to the right place. In huge numbers, too. Every now and then I got to glance at the inside covers of these books and I realised that life is like popular fiction. It’s punctuated by short, action-paced chapters and it’s better with a good cup of tea. Here’s how it’s made and why it’s important.

Why tea?

As a newly unemployed man, my previous job having finished because we were so efficient, it has been important to interview again. I am taking this opportunity to go from boxing dreams to packaging ideas – marketing. Marketing is a career that I could see myself succeeding in. It’s all about starting with the product, finding out who might want it, and getting it to them. So I was asked at my interview.

What makes a good junior marketing assistant?

And some assistance from the interviewer

How do you make a good cup of tea?

It’s a good, business friendly joke. Then again, there’s a kernel of truth in that.

Tea and marketing

Before making somebody a cup of tea you need to have the materials. My preference would be for Yorkshire Gold and full fat milk, the kind served in a blue bottle in Scotland but in different colours elsewhere. Just think the fattest, non-cream milk and you’re on the right track. This is the same as the first stage of marketing. You cannot market unless you have a product to bring to market. A top class product that you believe in. Otherwise you aren’t marketing, you are just shouting some weird non-sequitur about nonsense.

You can’t offer tea without having it.

This is where many ventures fail. They overpromise and underdeliver, promising you tea when they only have water.

Next, you must ask how they want it. Tea is a delicate drink, which can be made a hundred different ways. Bag or loose leaf? Bag in first or milk in first? Milk before water or after water? How long do you let it steep? Do they like any of the additions, sugar, honey, lemon? If you’re offering, you need to know what to make.

It can help to know why people have different preferences. I used to have mine without sugar because it was not the done thing in my family. Then I switched to two sugars as I was smoking and it needed something to make it more tasteful.

What other values do people have? Maybe they want honey in there because they believe in it’s curative power. Perhaps they want it quick for its caffeine, or they adore the slow meditative procedure for a ritual. Some tea choices are based on nostalgia, everyone is searching for the tea of their childhood.

Understanding these values is like understanding what about a brand attracts people to it. It helps you to understand the mechanics of desire.

Today, I had it like I like my women. Straight and strong.

Banana for scale

And taking my time since it was a weekend and I had a few moments to wait.

Optimal time

Tea and fiction

The tea test is a great way to investigate a person’s potential as a marketer because it investigates their basic understanding of the job. Do they realise they have to start with the product, investigate the customer, and understand they need to talk to them? Or do they just chase the same failed strategy of making a lot of noise about something nobody wants? Understanding tea and the myriad differences in how it’s consumed tests empathy as well as how you approach targeting and market research.

Turning the page from one chapter to the next and appreciating a sip of the tea that we call life, I am ready. The chapters are coming quicker and more cups of tea are needed. As I begin what is hopefully a career in marketing which I’ll find rewarding and enjoyable, I feel hopeful for the future. The journey begins.

If you’d like to join me, you should follow, and if you’d like to help me reach a wider audience share this message!

The writer of this piece may potentially end up writing thought leadership articles, of which this piece was a bit of an attempt, even if not fully SEO’d. It perhaps bears more in common with a thinkpiece than a marketing communication. But on we move

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