Tumblewood Teas, a wholesale tea company based in Big Timber, Montana, had not started out to be a big business but rather an attempt to fulfill a life’s dream of sharing a passion for tea and the best tea experience through education and tasting.” Not knowing what direction Tumblewood was going to follow, It was more about casting a net and seeing what would be caught in the way of opportunities.” Riza Gilpin stated. But what started as a small cottage business quickly became a full-fledged enterprise.
“The quality of your product is only experienced when they take it off the shelf.”
In 2009, Riza took her thirty tea blends to the local bazaars for “market branding research,” along with in-home tea workshops where she focused on teaching how to make tea correctly and understanding what constituted good tea.
In 2010 Riza brought on Laurie Renne as co-owner. Since then, the duo has continually added space and products to their lineup, including one hundred fifty tea blends, local honey, and tea accessories.
From touring western museums and collecting memorabilia and first-hand stories, Riza knew tea was an important historical element of the American west. Only the most prized possessions could fit in the covered wagons and steamships, making all the tea sets and chests we found on display true evidence that tea was a treasured part of the pioneer’s lives. Knowing this and being a natural marketer, Riza felt she could not just sell her teas strictly in the Big Timber area. She had to bring quality tea back to the west.
The next logical step for Tumblewood Teas was to attend farmers’ markets and other outdoor events across the state.
“At the Livingston Farmers Market, two very important things took place. We were able to give and receive,”
To her excitement, what she experienced at the Livingston Farmers Market was much more rewarding. She first dabbled with signing up weekly instead of jumping in for the entire sixteen-week season but quickly found the sense of community support, friendliness, and comradery to be the perfect venue to introduce Tumblewood Teas. She also enrolled in the YES program (Young Entrepreneurial Stewardship), where Tumblewood Teas became a franchise model for an ambitious young boy who sold the tea and received a portion of the profits while learning the basics of business ownership.
Unbeknownst to her, the decision to remain at the market would change the course of Tumblewood Teas forever.
“The Livingston Farmers Market was the beginning of the success for Tumblewood Teas.”
During one particular market, Colin Davis, the now owner of Chico Hot Springs, was at the market to assist his young daughter with her homemade lemonade business. He happened to have a nasty cold that day, and a mutual friend told him about Tumblewood Teas and that drinking a cup may make him feel better. Riza just so happened to have a brewed Cold Winters Night, which contains licorice root and peppermint – perfect for a cold. Colin returned to the booth four times and told his friend he couldn’t believe how good the tea was!
Little did Riza know that Tumblewood Teas being at the market and Colin having a cold that day would result in a ten-year partnership. To this day, you can find Tumblewood Teas a staple in the gift shop and restaurant at Chico Hot Springs.
“I can’t tell you how many customers we get here because they’ve been to Chico. It’s huge!”
Since making that connection at the Livingston Farmers Market, Tumblewood Teas now ships its one hundred and fifty tea varieties to grocery and retail stores, resorts, and restaurants throughout the United States and Canada. It is also served and sold through the national parks and university systems.
“Coca-Cola is buying tea companies because they are losing sales in soft drinks. The younger generations want healthy alternatives, so tea is doing extremely well and is way ahead of coffee at this point.”