Tuesday, August 25, 2009

MaryAnna's Tea Interview (I)

(Part 1 of a 2-part interview)

What does it take to bring a bottled tea to market? Beats me. So I thought I'd ask someone who's done it - the founder and head honcho of the New Jersey-based MaryAnna's Tea. Thanks to Mary Ann Rollano for taking the time to provide such in-depth answers to my questions.

1. Why tea?

I have always wanted to start a business and could not as a Registered Nurse due to the restrictions of an RN's license. Nurses cannot just hang out a shingle like doctors can. Therefore, I was forever looking elsewhere. I love tea and had been making my mother’s sweetened iced tea for my entire adult life. Always receiving compliments on it, I knew I made a good brew.

My husband is a big fan of my tea and I have been making it every day for him to enjoy. He drinks more of the tea than I do, as I will switch to hot tea in the colder months, but he stays with the iced tea. I had toyed with the idea of a teashop of some sort for a long time; it was just something that lingered in the back of my mind.

2. Why bottled tea?

If I didn't make my home brewed tea I'd have a back up supply of some type or other popular brand of ready to drink tea, but we never found any we really liked. In the summer of 2007, I had an impulse of an idea to figure out how to brew my own tea and bottle it for our own back up supply. I thought there must be a way to take the exact brew that I make on my stove and pour it into a bottle without using preservatives or any other ingredients other than the ingredients I use at home, that being filtered water, black tea leaves, pure cane sugar and 100% lemon juice. I did not want to alter it one bit. A simple recipe actually. What could be so hard?

3. How long ago did you conceive of this idea and how long was the planning phase?

I started experimenting and researching that very summer. Once I acted on that impulse, I did not stop. I spent a year researching and experimenting before my first bottle of tea was on a store shelf. I came out with my final product in the summer of 2008.

Iced tea is a summer drink for most people, which is why I called it Summer Sweet Tea. I might add that during my research phase I came across the Rutgers Food Innovation Center here in NJ. They have a wonderful program that offers workshops and a food processing facility that allows people like me to learn how to take a treasured kitchen recipe out of the kitchen and into the marketplace. That program and the internet helped speed up the process tremendously. Rutgers made my first 1000-bottle test run with my exact recipe and it turned out to be quite a success.

Some of the specialty and natural food stores in my hometown agreed sell my iced tea and it very quickly sold out. I had to go back to Rutgers and ask them to make another 1000 bottle run, as I had not yet found a commercial bottler. Seeing my product sell so well along with such, positive feedback gave me the incentive to keep moving forward.

The impetus for the beach scene on the label came from the desire to depict a wholesome, natural product that came from the Jersey Shore. I knew that label would be my only form of advertising so I had to make it eye catching. It had to be something that would prompt you to pick it from the shelf.

Adagio Teas triniTea Tea Maker
Zarafina Tea Maker Suite

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank God for that Rutgers lab. Bringing a pure product like this to market is quite a blessing. At least in the world of tea where there's a constant battle for shelf space among terribly unhealthy drinks. --Spirituality of Tea