The Story of Tiesta Tea
"We either do it right, or we don’t do it at all." Dan wrote to me in June of 2009 in regards to starting Tiesta Tea.
We had just wrapped up a 5-month stint studying in Europe, and we were wrestling with the idea of starting a tea company after studying abroad.
"I can't afford to waste my time with this if we aren't selling tea." Dan exclaimed.
It was on this day, March 12, 2010 - 12 years ago - that Dan and I decided to officially start Tiesta Tea, turning a friendship that blossomed in preschool into a mutual agreement to give birth to a business.
Dan and I were not tea lovers growing up. Tea had no appeal to us. In fact, the only tea we ever drank was in a bag. But, have you ever tried loose leaf tea!?
The idea for Tiesta Tea was conceived in February 2009 in a tea house in Prague, Czech Republic. We were studying abroad in our junior year of college, and we took a weekend vacation to Prague. After a fully-packed day of sightseeing, Rick Steves, Dan's favorite travel blogger, suggested we stop at a traditional Czech tea house. The tea house served loose leaf teas, light snacks, and some hookah.
This was the first time we had ever experienced a cup of loose-leaf tea. That cup of tea changed our lives forever. This stuff was amazing!
That cup of tea was called Granny’s Garden, very similar to our Fireberry. The tea was bursting with real cranberries, bits of strawberries, and chunks of raspberry. We were immediately drawn in by the full ingredients in the teapot, the delicious aromas, and the beautiful color of the liquid. This was unlike any tea we had ever tried in our lives!!! We were blown away at how good it tasted! And...this tea was actually healthy for us as opposed to the case of Czech pilsners we had guzzled down the night before.
We thought to ourselves, “What was this beverage we were drinking that was healthy and tasted delicious?
“Why have we never had tea like this before!?”
It was at that exact moment that the light bulb went off for Tiesta Tea. We told each other, “We must bring loose leaf tea back to the USA. Our friends will love it, guarantee. WE’LL CALL THE COMPANY GUARANTEA!!!”
I'll never forget the feeling of walking out of that cafe. We pranced all around Prague talking about starting a tea company. The discussion started to consume us. That was in February of 2009, and after study abroad was over in May of 2009 we were still thinking about starting a loose leaf tea company. Talk is cheap. That's when Dan sent me this message on Facebook.
May 24, 2009:
“This is the turning point for us, we either do it right, or we don’t do it at all”, he wrote. "I can't afford to waste time with this if we aren't selling tea".
We were 21 years old, naïve, hungry to succeed, and still in college. We spent the next 10 months fleshing out our idea, and on March 12, 2010, we incorporated and Tiesta Tea was born. Incorporating is very easy. It cost us $250 and took an hour. We got mentorship from the SBA (SCORE Chicago Chapter) and we didn’t need to hire a lawyer or shell out thousands of dollars. Once the business was incorporated, it felt real. It felt like we had something to fight for, a reason to work. Incorporating might not seem like much, but it's your official declaration. It's your official statement telling the world "I'm doing this!" and there is no turning back. You either fail or you succeed after that. We weren't going to fail. We simply were too naive to understand that failure was even an option.
We hit the ground very hard thereafter. We started at the farmer's market in 2010, and in 2011, we knocked on over 500 doors in 20 days. We would literally sell to anyone who had a door and a cash register. In 2013, we were in thousands of stores. By 2015, we were selling over $1 million dollars of tea per year.
Our story is an example of how anyone can start a business and succeed. We were 21 years old. We had no business experience. If we can start a business and make it successful, don’t you think you can, too? Never give up on your dreams.
All that being said, this business would not have been possible without so many people taking a risk on us. We appreciate everyone who has been a part of our journey and helped shape Tiesta Tea to become what it is today. We will always work hard to create the best loose leaf tea blends in the world and make sure they are understandable, accessible, and affordable. Thank you to all who've been a part of our story.
Co-Founder & President