Iced Tea Success Story HTeaO Has Aggressive Expansion Plan

HTeaO, Webster, Texas location (Photo credit: HTeaO, Webster, Texas)

Justin Howe, president & CEO of 10-year-old Texas tea shop chain HTeaO is the iced teavangelist of the southern United States. “We are theonly ones innovating in this space,” Howe said with Texan enthusiasm. “We arethe first to market and most important, we are ahead of a major trend.” Thetrend is drive-through tea.

Lines of pickup trucks pull in for fresh-brewed iced tea, bagged ice,premium water and premium snacks.

It all began in 2008 when, in the midst of the recession, Howe’sparents, Gary and Kim Hutchens, introduced six premium teas at their Buns overTexas hamburger restaurant in Amarillo, Tex. and noticed a steady increase iniced tea sales. The following year, they launched Texas Tea, a concept thatfocused on delivering a variety of ultra-premium teas and water. In 2014 theyexpanded to Midland, Tex., and renamed the venture HTeaO.

Justin Howe and wife Amy (Photo courtesy of HTeaO)

The first franchise prototype opened in Midland, Tex., in 2018. HTeaOnow has 58 franchisees with 130 locations under development, qualifying thecompany for Inc. Magazine’s list of Americas’ fastest-growing privatecompanies. Maintaining that pace will make HTeaO one of the nation’s twolargest tea chains by number of locations (The Spice & Tea Exchangeoperates 73 franchised locations in 34 states and is opening three shops thisquarter).

Valentine’s Day marked the opening of the company’s 68th store inWebster, Tex. HTeaO plans to open 20 locations in 2020.

“We are committed to providing the absolute best quality iced tea moneycan buy in a retail environment,” said Howe, who is overseeing the expansion.

Today the chain markets 24-flavors of fresh-brewed sweet and unsweetenedtea delivered with a flourish of showmanship that appeals to a thirsty butsoda-adverse crowd.

HTeaO Iced Teas (Photo credit: HTeaO)

The Webster, Tex. location features a tea brewing station wherecustomers can watch the brewmaster siphon brew tea throughout the day. Theunusual Japanese brewing siphons, seen in specialty coffee shops, captured thecrowd’s attention and the combination of YETI merchandise, Clif Bars and Texasfavorite Clint & Sons Beef Jerky.

Franchiseowner Aaron Harrison said, “There is so much satisfaction in hearing all thepositive feedback and seeing people's faces when they try our tea. Webster isan amazing community and I'm looking forward to doing my part to giveback."

Howe told the Dallas News, “Tea is oneof those things that’s an alternative to sodas. You can get to-go cups insmall, medium, large, quart, half-gallon or gallon sizes, as well as filteredwater and bagged ice.”

Tea flavorsinclude peach ginger, coconut and mint. There are non-caffeine herbal optionsand high energy extra caffeinated “turbo tea.”

“Thingsare becoming more niche,” Howe said. “If you want a good piece of meat, you goto a butcher. The world’s trending toward more specialty products.”

Source: HTeaO, Dallas News