Archive for the ‘Switzerland’ Category

We’re BAAACK!!!

October 21, 2008

We’ve been busy the past 6 months growing and expanding our online marketplace at and although we continue to be busy (especially with the holiday season only a few weeks away), we are excited to share with you some of the things we’re doing on this blog. We’ll be posting in the next few days, so check back! Thanks.


Just in Time for Valentine’s Day . . .

January 30, 2008 is thrilled to launch the fine crystal stemware collection by Glasi Hergiswil of Switzerland. Each piece is individually mouthblown from lead-free crystal glass by skilled artisans in this 200-year old, employee-owned glassworks on the shores of Lake Lucerne, Switzerland.  
  The Glasi Wine Series comprises a Bordeaux wine glass, Burgundy wine glass, Chardonnay wine glass, and a wine decanter.The size and shape of the wine glass bowls and rims are designed to enhance the characteristics of particular wine varietals.Our wine decanter features a long neck with a slightly widened opening for easy, drip-less wine decanting and has a broad base to expose a greater surface area that allows the wine to aerate and release flavors and aromas.
The Glasi Champagne Series comprises a Champagne flute and the Conca ice cooler.The functional design of our Champagne flutes brings out the fine aromas and effervescence of fine Champagne and sparkling wine.With its stunning lines derived from a seashell, the Conca ice cooler is perfect to chill a bottle of Champagne or white wine. The thick glass helps insulate its contents and the weight provides the necessary stability to keep the contents upright.  
  Our handcrafted Glasi beer glasses are ideal for pilsner-style beers and showcase the color, effervescence, and clarity of the beer. The inverted cone shape with an even taper focuses the hop aroma of a beer and maintains a robust head.
Visit our online marketplace for additional handcrafted, eco-friendly products and information, including recipes, tips and videos. Happy Valentine’s Day!

New York Times “A Little Nostalgia, a Long Fork and Lots of Cheese”

January 25, 2008


Photo Copyright by The New York Times, Evan Sung for The New York Times.

The New York Times article “A Little Nostalgia, a Long Fork and Lots of Cheese” attempts to over-simplify an already simple and fun dish: the cheese fondue. We ask why? The NYT writer mentions that she consulted with Terrance Brennan, the chef at Artisanal, where fondue is on the menu year-round, about the choice of fondue pots (the writer’s mother apparently re-deployed her fondue pot as a planter). Brennan is quoted “You can use any pot for fondue, as long as you eat it fast enough, before it gets cold and hard.” NOT! We recommend you check out our guide to fondue sets. If you are serious about cheese and dessert fondues, we offer probably the best fondue set on the market, comprised of a fondue pot and matching plates, stainless steel burner and forks. Handcrafted in Switzerland and tested by Swiss fondue gourmands, the fondue set qualifies as professional equipment. In addition to being handcrafted, the fondue pots and plates are eco-friendly.

Terra Keramik Fondue Pot Terra Keramik Fondue Pot

Terra Keramik handcrafted, eco-friendly fondue set

The NYT writer continues with her advice “When the cheese started to cool and congeal, which took a good 30 minutes, all I did was stick it back on the stove, stirring until runny.” NOT! [Hint: you may need to add a little white wine and lemon juice]. Consult both our cooking and serving tips and our Swiss cheese fondue recipe. Or try our chocolate fondue recipe for a sweet dessert alternative.

To view the articles, you may need to sign up for a FREE New York Times online account (you don’t need to be a subscriber).

Valentine’s Day Chocolate Fondue

February 7, 2007

Here’s our suggestion for a Valentine’s Day surprise:

A chocolate fondue served in probably the best fondue set on the market, comprised of a handcrafted fondue pot and matching plates, stainless steel burner and forks. Tested by Swiss fondue gourmands, this set qualifies as professional equipment.  To make you look like an expert, we’ll provide the recipe and cooking tips.  Enjoy!

Terra Keramik creates the fondue pot and plates using clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight funky colors. Each piece is accented in platinum and hand-signed by the artist.  Triple fired for maximum durability. Lead-free and cadmium-free glazes for an absolute food-safe finish. Dishwasher safe. Handcrafted in Switzerland since 1984.

Functional design (and more) in beverageware

February 1, 2007

Felix Vogler, Founder and Creative Director of Terra Keramik, believes that good design should simplify and not complicate (read our interview with Felix Vogler). He creates exclusive beverageware and dinnerware using clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight funky colors. Each piece is accented in platinum and hand-signed by the artist. Terra Keramik uses lead-free and cadmium-free glazes for an absolute food-safe finish. And to achieve maximum durability and easy care, the pieces are triple fired and dishwasher safe. The Terra Keramik tableware is handcrafted in Switzerland since 1984. All of that increases cost. But our beverageware is not for everyone.


Our beverageware is for the serious coffee lover who values a cup that combines functional design, handcrafted quality and a certain “fun” factor. Baristas consider our cappuccino and espresso cups to have the proven shape, size and thickness to create a perfect cup of java. We aim to raise the bar for espresso and cappuccino cups to a level that has been achieved for espresso machines, grinders, tampers, etc. Because we believe that to truly enjoy the coffee experience, one should not compromise on the cup that holds the coffee and delivers it to your palate.

dualEspresso cappuccinoCostanzo espressoDahinden

If you are serious about coffee or espresso, and you plan to grind and brew at home, you could easily spend $600 to $2,000 on equipment alone (read our equipment and tools guide). On the low end, a cheap burr grinder will cost $100, a tamper $30 and an espresso machine $500. On the “pro-sumer” (aka light commercial) end, a nice burr grinder will cost $450, a tamper $30-$50 and an espresso machine $1,000-$1,800. Fresh roasted or pre-ground coffee retails for $12-$15 per lb. What we find is that many will (unknowingly?) compromise on the cup and buy an espresso or cappuccino cup that does not have the ideal shape, size and thickness to optimize enjoyment of the java. As a rule of thumb, budgeting around 10% for cups sounds reasonable, which would translate to $60-$100+ for cups (assuming the home equipment costs $600-$2,000 as described above). Our espresso cup retails for $28 and our cappuccino cup is $32 (10% discount on sets of 4).

We draw an interesting comparison to the wine industry. Riedel Crystal designs the shape of their wine glasses according to the character of the wine and is considered the inventor of the functional wine glass. Riedel believes that “a positive approach to life is linked to pleasure and enjoyment. Pleasure is given by our senses like sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste.” Functional design has become a strong element of the Riedel brand. Riedel has raised the bar for wine glasses. We would like to educate the coffee and espresso consumer and create the same awareness and appreciation for functional design in coffee beverageware as Riedel has done for wine glasses.

Terra Keramik extends the value of the functional design by handcrafting the beverageware in Switzerland (Riedel’s best-selling Vinum wine glasses are machine made) using only the highest-quality tools and materials. And it adds to the enjoyment of the espresso or coffee by creating the cups in 8 funky (retro) colors: green, yellow, orange, red, brown, light blue, white and black. Each cup is accented in platinum and signed by the artist. And Terra Keramik creates its beverageware using energy-saving clays (reduces energy consumption by 20%) and glazes that exceed the FDA requirement for lead and cadmium content and are absolutely lead and cadmium free (the FDA permits trace amounts in tableware).

Good functional design. Rich, saturated glazes in funky colors. Quality handcrafted in Switzerland. Eco-friendly.


But will it fly

December 7, 2006

Before investing a lot of time writing a business strategy and plan, we wanted to “market test” the product with subject matter experts (people in the interior design, home accessories, tabletop, and coffee accessories businesses) as well as with potential retailers. To do that we bought a small shipment of espresso cups, cappuccino cups and coffee cups from Terra Keramik of Switzerland.  It arrived in October 2005 (only a few broken pieces) and we promptly hit the road to solicit feedback on the product and our business plan.  We received a lot of positive feedback and encouragement!  People provided useful input about the design of the cups, the need for attractive packaging for a high-end product, the competitive nature of the tabletop business, and so on.

In our conversations we also came to realize that retailers would expect a 30-40% margin to “resell” the handcrafted tableware, which made the business unattractive to us.  And we would have to work out issues concerning logistics and inventory, shelf space, warranties, and so forth.  Ugh!  So we started to think about a pure online marketplace and our business strategy evolved in that direction.

Benefits of online strategy:

  • modest start-up costs
  • faster time-to-market
  • owning the customer and customer experience
  • control of brand strategy
  • combine products with relevant content
  • better economics
  • Challenges of online strategy:

  • customers would prefer to touch and hold the product
  • no customer base of an existing brick-and-mortar retailer
  • experiment with emerging online marketing methods
  • relatively high shipping cost of product
  • One of us had previous online experience, and we felt comfortable that it was a strategy worth pursuing, albeit not without risk.  Let’s see if it flies!

    Writing a business plan at 30,000 feet

    November 22, 2006

    Unfortunately, our family vacation came to an end and we boarded a return flight from Zurich, Switzerland to Newark, New Jersey.  Once the plane was at a safe cruising altitude (somewhere around 30,000 feet) and the kids were settled in, we started brainstorming about how to import and sell Terra Keramik’s handcrafted tableware in the US. We booted up our laptop and began drafting the outline of a business plan and crunching some “back of the envelope” numbers to explore whether or not the business could make sense.  This started a year-long journey to bring to market a unique product and create a new online marketplace.

    What started out as a family vacation…

    November 20, 2006


    In early November 2006, we launched to sell handcrafted tableware imported from Switzerland. The tableware features clean, simple designs and rich, saturated glazes in eight funky colors. Each piece is accented in platinum and hand-signed by the artist. While we offer a full line of beverageware and dinnerware, our focus is espresso cups, cappuccino cups, caffe mugs, tea mugs and teapots, and fondue sets.

    How did we start?

    In August 2005, we were on a family vacation in Switzerland and were enjoying a late morning cappuccino in an outdoor cafe (aptly named Cappuccino) in the city of Winterthur.  Looking across the street, we were immediately captivated by the array of shapes and colors of cups, plates, and bowls displayed in a large storefront window.  The sign above the shop read “Terra Keramik” and we were on our feet (no, we did not forget to pay for our cappuccinos) and hurried across the street to take a look.

    We entered Terra Keramik and were greeted by Felix Vogler, Founder and Creative Director with an offer to tour his studio, which was located adjacent to the store and separated by an open courtyard.  Talking with Felix and understanding his approach to design and creation led us to believe that we had discovered someone and something unique and special.  His creations were unlike anything we had seen in the US or anywhere else in our global travels.   As we left the store with a couple of brochures in our hands, the beginnings of a business idea started to emerge.