Tea represents a universal commonality of people coming together and sharing. Imagine all of the conversations shared over a pot of tea over the last 5000 years.
For us, we had always enjoyed tea. With a love and background in natural heath I was interested in herbal teas. Now a few years down the track I am really starting to explore the world of black and green teas.
I am so glad you have Meaghan, your green tea is one of the best I have had in a long time.
What was the inspiration behind starting Yarra Valley Tea Co.?
The inspiration behind Peoplewell (our company name) was to create a range of products we could be proud of and met the criteria of being 100% natural and certified organic. As time progressed we launched two brands The Yarra Valley Tea Co and The Functional Beverage Co for real organic Iced Tea.
In our heart of heart the reason for starting Peoplewell was to create products which would allow people to stop, even for 5 minutes, and enjoy some quite time with a cuppa. I really believe so much of our good health comes from finding our own inner balance.
What were those early days like?
I look back and don’t know whether to laugh or cry. We started on the kitchen bench, I was 6 months pregnant with our second daughter and we had a two year old! We had no family close by and not much money…..but we had a dream (it might sound cliché but it’s the truth).
We started doing farmers markets to launch the range and once we had a retail ready product I would hop in the car with kids in tow and try and sell our tea to health food stores. I targeted the stores who were run by women as they were completely understanding of me walking in with a couple of kids and a box of tea. I am still really grateful to those earlier accounts who gave us a go.
How do you come up with the names of the tea?
Our original product line-up (which are still our best sellers today) had names that were a little quirky. We used a bit of tongue in cheek as they were and are commonly used phrases in our household…such as calm down! At the end of the day, everyone at some point needs a bit of help with sleep, stress, concentration, digestion, detox and energy.
What is the secret to achieving such a pure and intense flavour to your tea?
Being certified organic is a great starting point, as the teas/herbs are grown in pristine conditions. We are still a small company compared to the major supermarket players so we turn over small batches more frequently. While many Australian brands still have their teas blended and packed in Sri Lanka, our stand out point of difference is that we hand blend and pack everything in Coldstream. We take great pride in being a Regional Victorian Manufacturer.
We are always complimented on the quality and flavour of our teas. When developing a new tea we do many batches, it has to be about the flavour. Our teas are to be enjoyed as well as contributing to wellness.
Where are your ingredients sourced from?
Where we can deal direct with the grower, so we know exactly what we are getting and we often get it within a few days of the harvest. You can’t get fresher than that.
Our black teas we procure from a certified organic and fair trade tea estate in Sri Lanka. Garrick visited the estate last year and saw that the ‘pluckers’ (mainly women) still pluck by hand. The estate is also committed to ensuring the younger generation have access to education. Their ethos sits really well with us.
How long have you been in the business of tea?
We have been at it full time for 7 years now. In all it is probably almost 9 years, as we spent a good amount of time planning, and researching. From the outset we had the brand concept in mind.
What does the future look like for Yarra Valley Tea Co?
Our future is really exciting. We are almost National with both ranges with interstate distributors, and we are now selling in Dubai, Hong Kong and Singapore.
We have a whole new product range to be launched next Autumn, this is really exciting for us as it has been two years in the making.
What can you tell me about Functional Beverage Co?
The Functional Beverage Co is really about to hit its mark. It has been a labor of love I can assure you. To go from bottling on the kitchen bench to a fully automated bottling line at our Coldstream Factory has not been without its dramas.
However what we have is a unique product. Organic iced tea with no added sugar, no nasties, authentically brewed with real tea and tastes amazing. This could be our retirement fund…lets hope.
Do you have plans to break into the international market or supermarkets?
We are working on our export strategy as we speak…we have been in IGA for a couple of years now. For the supermarket majors I can’t say too much at this point but watch this space.