A Notable Chat with the YP Behind DAVIDsTEA

DAVIDsTEA takes tea, the world’s second most popular (only to water) drink in the world, to a whole new level. Along the way of the specialty coffee house trend of the 1990s, DAVIDsTEA offers an unmatched experience in tea. A favourite daily routine of young professionals in cities across the country, guests can choose from over 150 types of vibrantly named teas, including exclusive blends, limited edition seasonal collections, traditional straight teas and carefully selected exotic infusions from around the world.  

Think tea like the aromatic Red My Lips, a chocolate mint dessert tea for those with a sweet tooth, or the Dolce and Banana, a herbal blend with a hint of caramelized banana, or the Jumpy Monkey, laced with almonds, white chocolate and roasted barks and roots. In case you didn’t know, there is actually a David behind the popular chain and we sat down with him recently at the DAVIDsTEA Queen West location. DAVIDsTEA Co-Founder David Segal is not what you’d picture; young and vibrant, it is somewhat difficult to imagine he co-owns a brand that now has 85 locations (and growing) across North America. 

When he has 28 years old, David Segal, a McGill University graduate who calls himself “an entrepreneur from a young age,” noticed a void in the market for an establishment that “embraced the art of tea, and tea consumption, and the whole social experience of tea drinking.” After completing his research, and with a solid business strategy in mind, he joined forces with his cousin, retail pioneer Herschel Segal, and DAVIDsTEA was born in 2008, with the first location on Queen Street Toronto. The idea was to render tea more “fun and accessible” and provide a unique experience with a greater variety to appeal especially to the younger generation of tea drinkers.   

What Makes DAVIDsTEA Unique?
“We take a bold, fashion approach to tea, with fun flavours with creative and colourful names,” Segal tells us. Just like the fashion industry, DAVIDsTEA releases seasonal collections in their array of accessories, which are now available in seasonal prints and includes an assortment of limited edition loose-leaf teas, tea accessories and gift packs. In general, the extensive tea selection at DAVIDsTEA is “designed to engage the senses and provide a great tea experience, a highlight of the day.”

A contributing factor to this refined experience, the company “goes above and beyond when it comes to customer service.” Greeted by a staff of knowledgeable tea experts, guests are welcome and encouraged to sample the Tea of the Day. For veteran tea drinkers or tea newbies alike, the staff will find something to satisfy your mood, craving and unique taste, whether for that morning caffeine fix or to please a sweet tooth after a savoury lunch. 

What was the biggest challenge in developing the DAVIDsTEA brand?
“I think a big challenge common to young entrepreneurs is finding the courage to move forward. You can be passionate and believe in your idea, but there is always that degree of apprehension you must move past,” Segal tells us. “In our early years, the most important challenge was to maintain a uniform high standard of product and service in all locations and develop ways to monitor that.” 

A typical day for David Segal?
“There is no typical day for me, and I am not sure there has been for years. My job involves a lot of travel to various cities to ensure consistency among regions, but I try to make the most of my time in Montreal with my young family.”

Advice for fellow young professionals?
Love what you do and surround yourself with great people who will bring unique offerings, words of wisdom and experience to your business.” He is, of course, referring to his seasoned cousin and partner, but also the opportunities offered by a recent financing from Highland Consumer Fund and by Chip Wilson, the Founder and former CEO of Lululemon Athletica. Their strategic investment in the business aids in continuing the company’s strong revenue gains and helping to fuel the growth of retail locations across North America and to establish a U.S. DAVIDsTEA headquarters.

He also tells us that “it isn’t just those who are in upper management who are important to the company, it’s the entire ecosystem.” This is perhaps most clearly reflected in the overall customer experience at DAVIDsTEA, which is tantalizing enough to convert even the most religious coffee drinker. 

If you haven’t made it into DAVIDsTEA, there are plenty of locations across the country. Find one near you with the store locator