Interview with Jason Bush, Co-owner of Tea and Victory
by Stacy Wright
It is the new hot topic around the neighborhood. They are nestled in the Greater Heights area next to King's Biergarten and, rare in Houston, offer a very large parking lot for their guests. Awaiting you inside of Tea + Victory is a spacious and light room with a vivacious atmosphere. This handsomely designed shop includes shining, teal subway tiles along the bar space, a floor to ceiling wooden beehive style shelving for their vast collection of board games, and large windows taking in a ton of natural light. Behind the bar there is a stately, steel Synesso and an extensive assortment of both tea and beer. Tea + Victory offers a colossal variety of games, scrumptious foods that are specifically designed with game-play in mind, impressive alcohol selections, and our personal favorite - coffee.
Tea + Victory offers Boomtown Coffee. Jason worked very closely with Matt Toomey, owner of Boomtown, to learn about coffee and ensure their coffee program was comparative in quality to other, well-known Houston shops. Long before Jason opened his shop he began working on his coffee education. He frequented various coffee shops and peppered their baristas with curious questions. He even participated in a barista held event, a latte-art throwdown in which he was not awful. Jason knew that coffee culture was lively in Houston,and he wanted to participate. He was quick to agree to sit down and let me ask him a few questions about his cafe and business ideologies.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
You have no previous coffee experience (other than drinking lots of it!). How has the experience of opening a coffee shop been?
Jason: That’s the hardest part! That’s the part I stressed about the most. The kitchen and board games are already up to standard but I wanted coffee to be super perfect. Now looking back, we know that we got the perfect people to help us out. We wanted to be known as a coffee shop where people hang out. The board games pull people out at night but the coffee draws them in during the day. We are really trying to attract our own community to make this their space. We have a lot of support from Boomtown and the Houston Coffee Community!
What have you found is the most important thing about hiring staff?
Jason: We really try to find someone who will fit into our space well. When I’m interviewing, I try to just have a casual conversation rather than a rigid interview. Ultimately I want to find people who are open and social. Being kindhearted and energetic are the keys for being game guides and working behind the bar.
There are a lot of coffee shops in Houston (but not a lot of board-game cafes!). What do you have to do to grab the attention of competent baristas?
Jason: I’ve helped open and run other businesses that are not in the restaurant industry. In any other business that I’ve operated, I’ve experimented with paying your staff higher than normal wages and offering whatever benefits to them that your business can sustain. It’s still a net benefit in the long run. It helps create a good environment for people to work in, and in turn they create a good environment for your guests to visit in. One of the most important things when we hire staff is that they are treated well. In Houston at least, coffee is a career and much like a career I want to offer a living wage and ensure that my employees are thriving. It’s only ever a positive affect. Great customer service ensues, which gives you more customers, which gives you more business. Sure, it does cost more during start up but it very quickly returns to you and the business. I just took tips from my previous work and applied it here. Investing in your staff is investing in your future business.
Before you opened, you held a lot of board-game pop-ups around town. Which board game do you think is the people’s favorite?
Jason: We actually recorded the game usage for each pop-up and took statistics over a six-month period. We found that the most popular game was without a doubt Battleship, closely followed by Guess Who. It’s the craziest thing! My personal favorite is Number 9 because it’s simple to teach, easy to catch on to, and very - very addictive.
You’re a dad! What’s it been like to parent and be a full-time business owner?
Jason: It’s a juggling act! That’s the only thing it can be. My typical day is waking up with my son and taking him to breakfast (and coffee, he’s a coffee shop connoisseur) and dropping him back off with nanny so I can go to work. I always try to be with him for breakfast and dinner, no matter how busy. It is stressful but it’s always good.
Who came up with the name Tea & Victory and why?
Jason: It was one of Vanessa’s (Tea + Victory’s co-owner and also Jason’s wife) colleagues. We crowd sourced it on Facebook, and one of the most intelligent humans I’ve ever met came up with it. We instantly loved it.
How do you promote diversity and provide people with a safe space?
Jason: All of us, as owners, are supportive of diversity. We show it in all of our literature,
like any employee handbook, application, etc. We have a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment from customers or staff. We really try to just attract the right people who share our values.
Tea + Victory is a wonderful place for a night out with friends or a serene space for some solo work with a cup of tea. What makes this shop even more special is that it is owned and operated by some truly awesome people. Coffee professionals usually find it difficult to make it many years without seeking out new careers. The industry notoriously limits growth throughout the ranks and boasts little pay. Tea + Victory has opened with a competitive edge in order to attract devoted staff and has created quite the buzz amongst Houston coffee professionals. We agree whole-heartedly with Jason that, if you treat people right from the beginning it will be a net-profit for both your business and your life. We hope you swing by soon and give this wonderful addition to the Houston coffee scene a warm welcome.
Tea + Victory is located at 2030 E T C Jester Blvd, Houston, TX