The Archetypes of Tea: the Visual Language of Private Label

T h e A r c h e t y p e s o f T e a : t h e V i s u a l L a n g u a g e o f P r i v a t e L a b e l

By Meghan Labot

The world of tea is full of rich experiences for every sense. Much like wine, the visual language of tea has exploded in recent years making the category a feast for the eyes, but with this aesthetic tapestry comes a challenge for brands to differentiate and communicate their unique offering. Packaging design presents a great opportunity for brands to tell unique stories and differentiate from the competition at the shelf. However, for new brands, telling a unique visual story can be a daunting task.

To aid in this process and help new brands entering the category find their voice, we have identified four key archetypes prevalent within the tea category. These archetypes offer points of inspiration for new brands to help in defining a strategy for packaging design that is differentiated, yet relevant to the tea consumer.

Archetypes are a tool often used in branding to help define strategies for storytelling, by tapping into universal character traits and personalities that bridge the gap between a brand and the consumer. Aligning to an archetype can help a brand make decisions about design and communication to ensure the consumer relevance. For new brands, especially private label brands, archetypes can offer a simple path to storytelling through design.




The regal associations of tea make the Sovereign a logical and expected character within the tea category. The Sovereign archetype is defined as a character of order and organization, and acts as a model of proper behavior. With this archetype comes a sense of authority and nobility.

Visually the world of the Sovereign is one that reflects its sense of order. This is demonstrated by the use of a clear visual structure and clean serif typography. The use of fine detail and embellishment adds to its sophistication. The use of seals and insignia, official or otherwise, are also compatible with the visual world of the Sovereign reinforcing authority.

Tea brands that offer products where provenance and origin is important should consider adopting the Sovereign as an archetype. Premium brands may also want to consider the Sovereign. Taste and flavor experience play less of a role in the Sovereign’s story of tea, giving way to the quality and sophistication that is assumed from the product origins.

Example: Twinings


As tea is looked to more and more as a source of good health and wellbeing, the Healer archetype becomes an archetype of opportunity. The Healer is defined as a character who longs to restore good health and wholeness to the body and spirit. With this archetype comes a sense of peace and holistic wellbeing.

Visually the world of the Healer is minimal and simple. Considered use of unique typography, soft lines, and simple, abstract expressions create a sense of calm control. Inspirational nomenclature supports the visual world to reinforce the positive and hopeful story with implied health benefits.

Tea brands that offer real, functional benefits should consider the Healer as an archetype of inspiration. The holistic aspects of the Healer’s story allow the tea experience to be more complex, while the visual presentation remains simple.

Example: Yogi Tea


The relaxing aspects of tea are best aligned to the Companion archetype, who is a simple, uncomplicated and trusted friend. The Companion embodies accessibility, making it an appealing personality for a brand looking to connect to a broad consumer audience or an audience with little tea experience or knowledge.

Visually the world of the Companion is simple and straightforward. Clean typography, flat color, realistic imagery, combined with telegraphic nomenclature create an inviting and easy to understand story. A sense of familiarity with the Companion results in an unintimidating visual world.

Tea brands with broad appeal and a product that does not require a great deal of tea knowledge to appreciate, would be wise to consider the Companion as an archetype to build upon. The warm and inviting qualities of the tea experience are a perfect match to the world of the Companion.

Example: Bigelow


Like wine, the depth and complexity of tea can tell a wonderfully rich story. The Storyteller archetype possesses the ability to weave together experience in a rich and romantic way. The Storyteller makes unexpected connections that evoke emotion and intrigue, which could be a perfect complement to a complex tea experience.

The visual world of the Storyteller is appropriately complex and intriguing. The use of visual layering, unexpected juxtapositions and color create depth in the story. The use of iconography or symbols are often seen in the world of the Storyteller to telegraph details in an accessible way.

Tea brands with a complex story to tell should consider the Storyteller as a point of inspiration. All aspects of the tea experience can be celebrated through the Storyteller, resulting in a visually arresting package that stands out on the shelf.

Example: Republic of Tea

The richness and complexity of tea open the doors to many different ways a brand can connect with the consumer at the shelf through packaging. Finding a point of inspiration through archetypes is a great way to begin to tell a brand’s story by connecting the product attributes to the packaging design.

Meghan Labot is founder and principal strategists of MR LABOT LLC, a brand strategy and design consultancy established to help build and grow consumer brands in a modern market place. Throughout the course of her 20-year career, Meghan has helped consumer brands within food and beverage categories navigate change and maintain a competitive advantage through thoughtful and actionable strategy and design. Meghan has an astute understanding of the cultural context that influences relationships, making her uniquely equipped to see the role that culture can play in defining communication and building relationships. Meghan’s perspective brand strategy and design has been featured in publications such as AdWeek, Brand Packaging, and The Dieline, as well as NPR Marketplace. In 2018, she was named to GDUSA’s 2018 People to Watch list.