Genuine Tea co-founder gives back in a big way

Sponsored feature: Genuine Tea

Since May, the NOW Readers’ Choice winner for Best Tea has been living up to its name: Genuine Tea. The Toronto-based company has donated one per cent of all proceeds to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“It felt like the right place to give back,” says Sarah Wilcox, Genuine Tea’s co-founder.

“After COVID-19 hit, we saw so many of our friends in the small business community suffering, and it’s taken a huge toll on people’s mental health. The health and wellness industry is superficial in many ways, so we wanted to do something a bit more genuine.”

That’s in keeping with the company’s approach to its delicious line of products. Wilcox and partner/co-founder David O’Connor believe in promoting transparency about where they source their tea and in providing fair compensation for their farmers.

The pair lived in Taiwan for nearly five years, learning Mandarin and visiting dozens of tea-growing regions throughout Asia.

“We saw how much work and passion went into producing tea,” says Wilcox. “It’s usually something passed down from generation to generation in families who have dedicated their lives to the craft. And we wanted to showcase that and highlight the craftsmanship behind it, as opposed to just throwing a bunch of flavours on the tea.”

After returning to Canada in 2014, they started up Genuine Tea a year later.

“We looked at what was happening in the North American tea industry, which was booming,” says Wilcox. “But there was a lack of transparency and ethical sourcing. Big companies were pushing fun teas and novelty flavours like ‘birthday cake tea.’ And we thought we’d like to focus on a more ethical approach to tea, but with excellent quality as well.”

Their approach has paid off. In 2018, they appeared on CBC TV’s Dragons’ Den, and struck a deal with Arlene Dickinson and her District Ventures accelerator program. Since the pandemic, Genuine Tea’s online sales have increased more than 350 per cent. And discerning tea lovers who had tasted their product in cafes and farmers’ markets have stayed loyal, ordering online.

“I think people like supporting local companies, and they appreciate our values,” says Wilcox. “Even though it’s been a really difficult year for everyone, the ‘support local’ movement is stronger now than ever before and we’re so thankful to everyone who has supported our small business. We’re grateful that we can continue doing what we love and are in a position to give back to a cause we truly believe in.”

With the holiday season approaching, it’s worth keeping in mind that tea makes a great gift, especially for that hard-to-buy-for person on your list.

“Our new line of biodegradable pyramid tea bags have been a big success,” says Wilcox. “They’re 100 per cent plastic-free. It’s whole leaf tea but with the convenience of a tea bag. They’re perfect for people who might not be tea connoisseurs. It’s a way to introduce them to something better than your traditional Tetley tea bags.”

Genuine Tea’s top eight sellers are available in the pyramid tea bags. In addition, there are over 45 loose leaf teas available, as well as ceremonial matcha and their new line of sparkling iced teas.

And while 2020 has been a stressful, unpredictable year, Wilcox says the simple act of drinking a cup of quality tea can help out, allowing you take time for yourself and practise mindfulness.

“We try to focus on the quality of the product and how it makes you feel emotionally, mentally and physically,” she says. “Our motto is, ‘Slow down. Unplug. Drink tea.’”

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