29 September 2023

Generous country community gets behind The Berry Tea Shop's big plans for the future

| Keeli Royle
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Berry Tea Shop owners Paulina and Cliff Collier.

Paulina and Cliff Collier have big plans for the future of the beloved Berry Tea Shop. Photos: Keeli Royle.

A country tea shop in the town of Berry has been a popular spot for locals and tourists looking for the perfect blend for more than a decade. Now there are big plans brewing for the little store with its future being backed by customers and the community.

Thirteen years ago, Cliff and Paulina Collier decided to give up their fast-paced life running a cafe in Sydney and make a move down south. And while they found plenty of places to get coffee, a trip to the UK made the couple realise what was missing from the village.

“We went to England and every English country town had a tea shop, which are lovely quaint little places, and there wasn’t one in Berry,” Cliff said

The attraction was more than just the drink itself, it was about the whole experience.

“Whenever you go to someone’s house in England it’s tea, tea, tea, tea,” Cliff said. “So you’re always having a cup of tea, sitting down and having a piece of cake and all that and we just loved that.”

“The idea is that the ritual of tea is about slowing down, so that was the main driver,” Paulina said.

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But despite their passion and previous hospitality experience, starting the business was still a steep learning curve for the couple.

“We didn’t really know anything about tea,” Cliff said. “I grew up drinking tea but it was just bog standard common English tea, so when we opened this up we didn’t know who to go to for tea. So we asked our coffee guy because they go hand-in-hand and he told us about these guys called Tea Craft. They were the best guys in the business at the time.”

Wall stocked with Berry Tea shop teas.

Investors will support the Berry Tea Shop to order more stock and sell more broadly.

Some critics said they wouldn’t last six months but on the first day of trading, with just the two of them working, business was non-stop.

“Those people are still our customers to date and have been part of our growth and journey as well,” Paulina said.

And the shop continued to evolve over time, with everything from decor, to packaging and even the tea flavours always growing and improving.

“Blending the tea was obviously new but Cliff, having his experience as a chef, was just able to put flavours together … even our blends have evolved from how they started, he tweaks them all the time,” Paulina said.

Despite their success and popularity, they have hit barriers and even had to turn down opportunities due to financial restraints.

“We just feel like we’ve got this potential but we’re still so limited by funds,” Paulina said.

“We get asked so often by people if we can supply to their cafe, restaurant, hotel, motel, bed and breakfast but we can’t because we haven’t got enough stock.”

Berry Tea Shop stock with garnishes and mugs.

Long-term customers are giving back to The Berry Tea Shop by becoming shareholders.

Along with selling wholesale, Paulina and Cliff want to expand their online store, collaborate with other businesses and maybe one day open more shops.

But at the top of their list is securing a warehouse.

“We do everything outside in this tiny little storeroom here,” Cliff said.

“There’s two people working out there full-time doing all the online orders and all the correspondence to customers and I do the blending in another small area, we do all the packing here, it’s just having somewhere that we can do all of that.”

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So they opened up the opportunity to invest to the community. They received 700 expressions of interest from people wanting to get onboard and, on the first day, more than $100,000 was invested.

Investors will receive discounts, gifts and even attend exclusive events, as well as receiving dividends once they start making profits but most investors so far haven’t joined for the rewards.

“Most of them weren’t too bothered about the nitty gritty,” Paulina said. “They were like ‘I just want to invest in you guys, I just want invest in The Berry Tea Shop and what you do’.

“We feel really humbled and you know you’re doing a good thing at the end of the day, you’re bringing joy to people, and that’s what has kept has going throughout the years as well,” Cliff said.

No matter how much the business grows, Pauline and Cliff are committed to maintaining the personal experience that is key to The Berry Tea Shop.

“The essence and heart of what we do has to remain always,” Pauline said. “We’re not a big corporation and we still care deeply about the experiences of customers so we want to keep bringing joy and not just limited to this physical space.”

Investment is open to the public through the Birchal website until 12 October or when the investment limit is reached.

The Berry Tea Shop is at 66 Albert St, Berry, and is open seven days, Monday to Thursday 10 am to 4:30 pm and Friday to Sunday 10 am to 5 pm.

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