Walk around a college town like Champaign — not to mention nearby cities like Chicago
or Indianapolis — and it’s safe to say even the most casual of observers would notice
the insanely high amount of coffee houses that can be found on street corners, in
shopping centers, in libraries and book stores, etc.
Americans, and especially American college students, tend to be a highly-caffeinated
breed of people.
But, the easiest ways to get a quick spurt of energy, such as popping into Dunkin’
Donuts for a brew or picking up a Red Bull at the nearest mini-mart, are not the
healthiest of options.
Overconsumption of coffee can lead to jitters and headaches and energy drinks are
very high in calories and sugar (sugar-free energy drinks are out there, but they contain
lots of artificial sweeteners and chemicals).
Last spring, Patrick Tannous and Dan Klein seemed to be thinking along these lines.
And after much diligent research, the two students guarantee that they have found the
healthiest and best way to stay alert throughout the day – drinking loose leaf tea.
Enter their newly-founded company: Tiesta Tea.
“With tea, it’s not like coffee where you get it in you, you get the jitters going and you’re
ready to go,” Tannous said. “It’s a different kind of energy.”
An average cup of Tiesta Tea contains 75 grams of caffeine, compared to the rather
high 100 grams in a typical cup of coffee. But Tannous added that even non-caffeinated
teas can provide an energy boost through the use of an ingredient called mateine,
which he said is a caffeine alternative. It’s found in all of Tiesta’s Mate teas.
“Mateine helps alleviate your nerves, which gives you that very alert, yet also relaxed,
state of mind,” Tannous said.
Thanks to a University of Illinois program dubbed “Illinois Launch,” which sponsors
projects devised by a few lucky student entrepreneurs, Klein and Tannous are hoping
Tiesta Tea will one day evolve into a big-time tea retailer, shipping its leaves to shops
and cafes around the country.
In preparation for their business venture, Klein and Tannous attended the World Tea
Expo last year. They took classes on both the production and health benefits of loose
What did they find?
That roughly one third of all Americans drink tea every day — and half of those teadrinkers
firmly believe that the antioxidants in tea lead to a healthier lifestyle. Klein said
these antioxidants are released much better from loose leaf teas than from tea bags, as
the bags tend to tightly compress the leaves inside, not allowing them to fully soak in
the boiling water.
And since not all tea drinkers are interested in an energy kick, Tiesta offers a “Relaxer”
line of teas, which use oil extracts from fruits and flowers, such as chrysanthemum, to
help you — you guessed it -— relax.
Other varieties of Tiesta Tea include “Slenderizer” for weight loss, “Immunity” for
keeping healthy and “Forever Young” tea, for keeping your body feeling fresh.
Yet both Tannous and Klein were quick to caution that tea, whether Tiesta or any other
brand, is no magic bullet.
“It’s not a cure all, it’s not a medicine,” Klein said.
“But it’s an aid,” Tannous quickly added. “When combined with other good habits, it
leads to a healthier lifestyle.”
Klein and Tannous regularly sell their teas at the Urbana farmer’s market, and their
stand will be there again on September 11th. They offer 60 different flavors that’ll cost
you $2 for a 16-ounce cup.
Packages of Tiesta Tea can also be found in local stores like Strawberry Fields in
Urbana, Walnut Street Tea Company and Natural Gourmet — both of which are in
“We love giving people a product that actually makes you feel better, and If you drink
tea, you’ll feel better,” Klein said. “This week is the first time I’ve gotten sick in like 2
years and, honestly, I didn’t drink that much tea this week.”