James had always been a fan of National Geographic’s content - years ago he used to buy the magazines every month and later subscribed to the digital edition.
On a feed from their website, within their app, James caught the headline 'Ecuador's superleaf tea: could it replace your afternoon coffee?', some time in late July 2014.
This video really blew him away:
It was obvious Guaysua was causing a stir in the USA - there were loads of glowing reviews and news articles to read - and lots of social media noise.
Trying Guayusa for the first time
By August, James had managed to find a source on eBay, which, upon ordering, turned up a day or two later.
Eagerly spooning some into his usual ‘coffee’ cafetière, he poured on freshly boiled water, inhaling the uniquely sweet, almost grassy flavours.
As soon as it was cool enough to have the first sip, it was love at first taste. In addition to the delicious taste, the effect from the caffeine felt so different.
It was so much smoother compared to the heart racing rush of strong coffee. Overnight it completely replaced coffee as the daily hot drink, not only for James, but Linda too.
The first packing designs
You can read more about that process here - but in short the original logo (which was always hand stamped on) was inspired by ancient rock art - and striking similarities between Ecuadorian and Scottish petroglyphs were noticed.
The stamps were originally hand made, carved into a lino block (the kind used for screen printing) which proved hard to work with using normal ink stamp pads. So professional stamps, a replica of the original hand carved design, were invested in.
These were used to hand stamp many hundreds of packs in an assortment of colours - it was important that the product had a really handmade feel from beginning to end.
Finding the supplier
Despite so much progress, everything ground to a halt for a while as a supplier was still needed. Eventually, through sheer persistence, contact was made with the supplier they had hoped for, and the process of ordering the first 40KG sack of guayusa began. It was getting serious!
But it didn’t turn out to be so simple for other reasons - importing at this level was not so simple as paying and giving your shipping address - there was a requirement to set up an official import account with a global shipping agency.
When the delivery turned up, they were blessed with an immaculate food grade sack of the most fully credentialed, fair trade, organic, non-GMO and perfectly milled Ilex guayusa - replete with official origin and phytosanitary certificates. This was how Guayusa should be!
The business was launched online with great excitement on 29 June 2015. From first trying Guayusa to launching the online shop took just under 12 months.
The initial product range had four varieties: pure Guayusa, mint, lemon and cinnamon blends (pictured above) in 50g and 100g packs - the oldest customers will remember!
The new packing design and logo
While the original packing design served a purpose, the aspiration to create an improved look and feel led to a new development for the business.
They knew one of their neighbours was a great graphic designer because they had seen the work she had done for her own business venture. They asked if she would be interested in working something 'proper' up for Guayusa Tea Shop.
In the spirit of a fresh start they decided to phase out the original flavours and introduce a new one - 'Choco' - a simple, but delicious, mixture of guayusa and raw organic cacao nibs.
What's more, they didn't just go for a brand upgrade - they combined that with their first venture into putting this revered Guayusa into beautiful looking, biodegradable tea bags.
While the ethos and approach behind the old hand-stamped packaging was managable in the early days, it became inefficient as time wore on, so one of the aims of the rebrand was to move completely into printed labelling to allow more time to get the orders out around everything else.
They still kept handwriting bespoke thank you notes with each order, though.
There were a number of iterations of the new design, and lots of thought went into it - here's some of the work as it developed:
Making tea bags
Discovering how to get tea bags made was an interesting experience too - remember beverage businesses are not James and Linda's background - however their extensive experience in retail and digital leadership have been of great use!
It was hard as most factories that make tea bags demand huge runs before they'll talk to you. Luckily they found an amazing factory who would help produce the bags and who were also great mentors in the overall process.
The branded string tags that are attached to the bags had to be ordered from a company in Japan. A mistake on the tag design called for last minute changes across time zones (before 48,000 were printed) - it was a tense moment!
All ended well and beautiful bags were made, sealed, and put into the lovely boxes with their neighbour's incredible designs.
Here's a pic of the tea bags on the production line:
Name change in May 2018
After some deliberation we decided to change the company name from Guayusa Tea Shop Ltd to The Guayusa Company Ltd (trading as 'The Guayusa Co') on the 1st of May 2018, and embarked on some brand work to create a new mark.
Watch this space to see how we develop things and spin up some interesting new ideas.