Holly Helt, Chiki Tea

A Chiki way of life


Name of business: Chiki Tea
Creator: Holly Helt
Years in business: 3
Specialty: Japanese green tea experience
Location: Nakatsu, Kyushu, Japan
Reach: Local (…for now!)
Key to success: Appreciation of life and not compromising on quality (macha is at the core of the business and this is a premium product, costing as much as £20 per cup; Holly could not agree to that and searched for a superior macha (which involved taste tests with three generations of tea ceremony masters) at an available price)
Greatest asset: Philosophy, as it created their product and developed the experience

Holly Helt’s posts on Facebook caught my eye some time ago. Always colourful and full of enthusiasm. As we’ve never actually met, I hoped that she would agree to take part in this project, but I had no way of knowing. My fears were misplaced – she answered promptly and with fervour.

We’ve just had our Skype chat and she began by giving me a tour of the teashop, introducing me to her staff and waving to customers. She was open and hospitable throughout. You sometimes meet people, have a conversation, then don’t see them for a while, but when you do meet again you pick up where you left it effortlessly. This is how I felt – included.

Welcome to Chiki Tea

When it comes to Chiki Tea I get this feeling of being welcome when I come across the brand via Facebook, Twitter or in a direct conversation. I’ve never been to the place, but this is just a matter of time. I am already part of the experience. Such is the strength of this brand. And this happened so effortlessly – for me, the recipient. Holly and the team have worked very hard to make it easy for me, and their clients to give them a place they can so easily feel like they belong.

They did it by creating a space they belong to themselves.

Holly grew up in Japan and rooting Chiki Tea in Nakatsu is her way of thanking for what she received from this culture. However, Chiki Tea is a British company. It’s worth noting that Holly’s spent most of her professional life in the corporate world. Holly worked in the City for years and travelled the world before she arrived at the merger of what Holly loves most in the East and West: the goodness of green tea and a sweetness of a triple choc brownie. There’s no other place that combines the two this way! This is how she has always experienced it and now she shares it with her audience.

  • Team is key to the success of Chiki Tea

    Team is key to the success of Chiki Tea

  • Holly, telling her story frm HQ in Nakatsu

    Holly, telling her story frm HQ in Nakatsu

  • Macha station

    Macha station

  • Chiki clients

    Chiki clients

It turns out this approach really appeals to the younger generation of Japan. Traditional tea ceremony, although beautiful and majestic, became too rigid for the young spirits of this modern country. Chiki Tea offers the all the benefits of quality tea without the boundaries of the convention. This strategy of going away from tradition actually brings the younger generation closer to its essence – the appreciation of the moment and the company.

Chiki Tea is bringing them back to the culture through a modern doorway.

It also helps that you cannot find their signature macha shots, smoothies and popsicles anywhere else. You could say these are ‘on trend’, but you would be wrong. This is not a brand that cares about the fashion. They created their own style. You see it in every element from the packaging, through the illustrations in the book, to (most importantly) behaviour of the staff. This echoes through clients. Everyone is included.

For now, you have to visit Kyushu to fully immerse yourself in the Chiki Tea experience. For now, they are focusing on widening their reach in Japan. Then, if the time is right, they will perhaps come to England. When this happens, it will be a good day.

Why Holly Helt & Chiki Tea are my brand heroes:

Holly said one thing that resonates with me very strongly – she does not believe in competition. They have a lovely tearoom as a neighbour. And that’s just it, it’s their neighbour. There is no fear, anxiety about the ‘what if’s’. There’s awareness, appreciation, confidence and hard work – but it is a labour of love. It transpires. That is why Holly Helt and Chiki Tea are my brand heroes.

My lessons from this conversation:

  • love life
  • be true to yourself
  • when you have the above, you are creating a culture around your brand

Further reading:
Starbucks – on leadership, development and business growth

Elements of a strong brand:
  • authenticity
  • spirit
  • culture

Life is short. Enjoy it.

P.S. Holly Helt’s personal story is amazing. I am really grateful that she shared this with me and I am sure another book could be written about it. She speaks with such kindness and grace about various elements of life that led her to this moment; and this softness makes her a very strong personal brand as well. If you ever come across an event with her as a speaker, go. Just do it.

Chiki Tea logo

To find out more about  Chiki Tea:

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