Most drinkers of these beverages — which are usually brewed from the fragrant bunch of “tea bush” lovingly gathered by the sweet old lady down the street, a doting parent, or bought from the ground provisions vendor — are unaccustomed to seeing our homegrown bush tea of choice on grocery shelves. Instead, chamomile and other herbs not native to the Caribbean are the usual imported choices for herbal infusions.
Until recently. But thanks to Essence of Nature, bush tea lovers can now buy lemongrass, spearmint, French sticky thyme, basil and sage herbal teas expertly prepared and packaged, at all Ram’s Supermarket locations and Smoke ‘N’ Booze on Port Zante.
MiyVue.com spoke with Essence of Nature’s Director of Public Relations, Eartha Cassius about her fledgling company’s product.
“We’re a local company and at the moment we produce five [varieties]…We actually dry them and package them in teabags and each packet contains 10 teabags.”
Cassius said the idea for the venture came about while attending the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank’s Business Entrepreneurship Course last year. Course attendees were put into groups with a view to spawning viable business ideas. Cassius said the herbal tea idea came from her group. Within a month they had brought Ram’s on board and had their first Essence of Nature tasting at Ram’s Bird Rock store. It is important to note that they achieved all this within the first month of a six-month Entrepreneurship course.
“[The tea-tasting promotion] was very successful and we saw the opportunity and we saw that there was a niche in the market. So although the course continued we still continued to do market research and we figured that we should really put our best forward.”
Seed funding for Essence of Nature was jointly provided by ECCB, Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) and Caribbean Credit Card Corporation (4C’s).
The Agro-Processing Unit of the Department of Agriculture provided technical assistance, especially through the use of their dehydrators, the equipment used to dry the “tea bush”.
Casiuis pointed out that they discovered that the dehydrated form of the herbs they used for their product was actually more potent than the herbs in their unprocessed, natural form.
She credited the Taiwanese director of the Agro-processing unit, Ann Ling for walking them through the inevitable “trial and error” that accompanied setting up the agro-research part of Essence of Nature. According to Ling “We got it more right than wrong,” Cassius said of their initial research. The PR director said that research is ongoing and new Essence of Nature herbal tea varieties were in the works.
Ram’s at Bird Rock will play host to another Essence of Nature herbal tea tasting on Saturday 27th July from 10am until 3pm. Cassius said that the startup would be giving customers pointers on making iced herbal teas to beat the summer heat.