D’Amore-McKim Student Biz Pitches Japanese Organic Green Tea

Organic tea

Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business recently published an article on Vel­vetea, a student-owned and operated organic Japanese green tea trader. Velvetea focuses on “importing and selling matcha green tea, a pow­dered green tea that can be stirred into hot water to drink or added to recipes for addi­tional flavor.”

Co-founder Ricardo Viejo ’16 explains, “Ask anyone in Japan, and they’ll tell you it’s extremely difficult to grow authentically organic green tea. The leaves are so del­i­cate and so susceptible to damage that almost all farmers use some amount of pesticides.”

Viejo and his conspirator Alejandro Mayer, ’16, developed the Velvetea concept for their capital management class. The duo initially considered boutique fashion but soon discovered they shared a “mutual love for tea and the numerous health benefits it can provide.”

Velvetea began to take shape after Viejo visited Mayer and his family in Thailand, he had the urge to “capitalize on the robust industry all over Asia.” Viejo explains, “We just started looking at different teas we could bring over, and matcha was in our minds because our roommate was drinking it at the time.”

Viejo and Mayer whipped up a business plan and within a few months, they’d locked down their supplier—a “small, secluded farm in the mountains of Kagoshima, Japan [which] grew tea in small batches using sustainable practices and a truly organic process.” Viejo says the tea farmers were just as excited as they were. “They were really impressed with our plan and just the fact that the tea itself was so impor­tant to us.”

Viejo says he’s looking forward to see how Velvetea takes off in the coming months but concedes that every step of getting a new business up and running is a challenge. “I always feel excited when we figure out a new way to get our­selves out there, to tell people about this quality tea we have.”

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