Tea & Coffee America is an online gourmet coffee bean and tea distributor with something for every palate: premium specialty coffees, flavored syrups, Mighty Leaf tea pouches and loose tea, Illy Italian espresso and a variety of other gourmet coffees and teas.
“As a Texas gourmet coffee distributor, we know our espresso, and we have hand selected only the finest specialty coffees and teas to provide to our customers,” the company states. “We are the best loose tea and coffee bean distributor in Texas, and our online store allows us to provide our specialty products across the country!”
Owner Rosario Charles Maceo Tortorice Jr. took the time to share his vision and outlook for the company, now celebrating its 24th year of operation, at 8100 Blankenship Drive in the Spring Branch Management District.
Q: When did the business open its doors?
A: We bought the business Tea and Coffee America in 1999 and acquired Fontana Coffee in 2016.
Q: How did you get into the coffee distribution business and why have it in Spring Branch?
A: My great-grandfather started a coffee company in 1921 in Beaumont and the family sold the company in 1998. My dad was president of the company at the time and he enjoyed the business so we bought Tea and Coffee America.
Q: How many employees do you have?
A: We have about 15 full-time employees between Houston, Dallas and Beaumont.
Q: What products do you deal in and where are they made — as in where do they import from?
A: Our primary product we import from Italy is Illy Coffee. We also bring in a tea from France, Dammann Frères, as well as green coffee from South and Central America as well as Africa and South Asia.
Q: How do you ensure the quality and freshness of your coffee and tea?
A: Illy has the most sophisticated packaging of any coffee in the world. It is packed in a pressurized tin that ensures the highest quality for up to three years. We have actually tasted an unopened tin that was 10 years old and it was perfect! Our domestic product is sold within a few days of being produced.
Q: Do you sell tea or coffee machines to individuals here?
A: We do, but it’s now more on a referral basis. People can send e-mails to [email protected] for access. We also have www.fontanacoffee.com which we also sell through to the public, but it’s currently in the process of being retooled.
Q: Do you serve coffee or tea on premises?
A: No, we do not.
Q: What are the big-time coffee and coffee machine brands right now?
A: That’s a little relative. One man’s big time is another man’s boring.
Q: Does the company offer door-to-door delivery in Houston?
A: Yes, with orders over $200.
Q: How do you stay up to date with the latest trends and innovations in the business?
A: We maintain strong relationships with our supplier partners, and also brainstorm a lot on how we can be better at what we do. Then we go and try and find or create the solution.
Tortorice with Ryan, left, and JR
Q: Has America’s appetite for coffee increased in recent years, and if so, why do you believe that is?
A: I have two words: Espresso Martini.
Q: Can you give an example of a challenge you faced while distributing coffee and tea and how you overcame it?
A: We primarily sell to hotels, restaurants and cafes. A few years ago the pandemic shut down hotels, restaurants and cafes. The word “challenge” doesn’t do it justice, but we sucked it up and figured it out. Somehow, it’s hindsight and it’s a blur!
Q: How do you handle customer complaints or feedback?
A: If we screw up, we fix it.
Q: Can you talk about your sustainability practices and initiatives within your business?
A: Paper straws! Just kidding, I can’t stand paper straws.
Illy is the only coffee company in the world with (re-use and recycling) certification. Internally we use recycled boxes to reduce paper, also as opposed to putting more trucks on the road as we grow we primarily use common carriers outside of Houston for deliveries since it’s more sustainable than using your own trucks. These companies have invested heavily in optimizing their logistics networks, resulting in reduced emissions and more efficient fuel consumption. Additionally, consolidating shipments with established carriers minimizes the number of vehicles on the road, reducing traffic congestion and overall environmental impact.
Q: How do you differentiate yourself from the other coffee/tea distributors in the market?
A: We don’t get stuck in a rut of business as usual, which is boring. We want to bring value, ideas and better ways to service our customers. Nothing is off the table. We work from the place of what’s cool and interesting, then go figure out how to execute.
Also, focusing on making life easier for our customers is a priority. These restaurateurs and hoteliers have 10,000 things going on and they don’t need a headache from a coffee supplier. So if we can make their day easier by being consistent in quality, service and support, that’s a win for everyone.