You may have heard of Canada’s tea-innovator extraordinaire Genuine Tea. The brand has been taking social media by storm with its’ innovative handcrafted products, made with ethically sourced whole leaf teas and superfoods. But what makes their teas so special, and how did it all start? We spoke with Co-Founders David O’Connor and Sarah Wilcox to find out! Read below to see what they had to say.
We actually got the inspiration for Genuine Tea during our time in Taiwan. Not only did we drink many forms of handcrafted teas on a daily basis, but we would also hike up what was known as a “tea house” once a day. The tea house was right across the ocean, so we would sip tea and overlook Taiwan strait…There was an incredible sense of ‘calm’ that we both felt, and it was something that was definitely lacking in North America.
There’s a saying we always joke about, and that’s “coffee drinkers medicate, while tea drinkers meditate…” and all this means is that people rely on coffee as more of an ‘addiction’ or fuel of some sort, while people who drink tea do so to find peace and calm. And because North America is a heavy coffee drinking culture, that sense of calm is not as prominent.
When we first started looking into the tea industry in Canada (and North America in general), we noticed that most brands available focused on ‘cute’ branding and nothing more. They were filled with artificial ingredients, and they gave absolutely no credit or recognition to the tea farmers behind the products they sold.
So, we started visiting tea farms in Taiwan on the weekends to practice our Chinese, and to learn more from the tea farmers themselves. One thing led to another, and we started travelling to other countries across Asia to learn more from farmers, and meet with different suppliers. Then, after we got back to Canada, we started importing some of our favorite teas and selling them at farmers markets; we started winning awards for our teas as well.
All of a sudden, we launched Genuine Tea, and it was the first and only tea company in Ontario to bring authentic, Japanese matcha to retailers and cafes. Since then, we’ve continued to innovate and launch new products and concepts that continue to differentiate us from everyone else. We recently launched a line of hand-crafted sparkling iced teas, and well as plant-based pyramid tea bags.
Genuine Tea formed a partnership with the Canadian Mental Health Association last year (2020), donating 1% of all of our proceeds to the association. We did this because we both felt that the tea industry and the wellness industry both put so much emphasis on the physical aspects of health, beauty, and wellness while neglecting the emotional or ‘inner side of things. We didn’t want to do that…we wanted to find a way to focus on how people were feeling.
We also personally know friends and family members who struggle with mental health problems, and have lost some very close friends to addiction (specifically to the opioid crisis in the United States.)
“I [Dave] went to high school there, and several of my close friends were caught up in that mess…and being man as well, we are not really encouraged to talk about our feelings. We’re told to be tough. In my opinion, this has negative consequences for people individually, as well as socially as a whole”
“Haha – it sure has been a rollercoaster!”
We think that when running a business, you become more callous over time and you develop the ability to compartmentalize problems as “work problems”, and simply leave them at work. Actually, it was only when our son was born that we started taking weekends off. That was really a turning point for us in terms of taking time off for ourselves and our family and leaving work until Monday. It’s important to remember that work can wait until Monday.
Also we want everyone to keep in mind that you will always lose customers and lose accounts – and this applies to anything that you do in life…you will always lose some, and win some. You simply need to learn to accept that, and tell yourself that it’s ok. When something goes wrong, focus more on studying why that happened, and how to avoid it in future situations. Focus on growth and innovation, and don’t fret about the failures and setbacks.
So I guess what we’re trying to say is don’t take things personally – you are not your failures, so try to avoid letting things affect you on a deep emotional level.
The Sparkling Iced Tea – it took us over a year to innovate and was such a complicated undertaking. We are passionate about our farmer direct teas and supporting the farmers while innovating something truly exciting – an Iced Tea with zero added sugar, low calories, and a delicious light taste. They come in the following delicious flavours:
Social Media – @genuinetea or website www.genuinetea.ca. We also work with hundreds of awesome cafes and partners across Canada including Dark Horse, Rooster, Impact Kitchen, Hale Coffee, Equator Coffee etc. If you frequent grocery stores you can check us out at Summerhill Market, Fortinos, Loblaws, Whole Foods etc.
And of course, we have been featured in the Loti box several times, and hope to continue this partnership!