Detroit-Based Black Tea-Maker Just Inked a Major Distribution Deal with Sam’s Club: ‘I Know I’m Creating Jobs’

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Traditional Jamaican sweet tea could be headed to a Sam’s Club near you, thanks to a new distribution deal between Detroit-based Ellis Island Tea and the popular warehouse store.

The company, founded by entrepreneur Nailah Ellis-Brown, produces traditional Jamaican hibiscus bottled teas and has grown immensely since its founding in 2008. The uniquely sweet teas can be found on supermarket shelves in Meijer and Whole Foods — but finally made their debut in all 600 Sam’s Club locations on May 16, Model D Media reported.

“This Sam’s Club order is by far the biggest order I’ve received in my 10 years in business. It’s exciting to have our plant operational every day almost, around the clock,” Ellis-Brown told the Michigan Chronicle. “I know I’m creating jobs for fellow Detroiters, which has been one of my goals since I opened my plant in 2014.”

With roots in Boston Bay, Jamaica, Ellis-Brown said her tea’s recipe is one that was passed down through the generations by her great-grandfather. Her family’s flavorful drink is still steeped in tradition and brewed with all-natural hibiscus, mint leaves, rosehips, Sam’s Club Member’s Mark white clove honey and pure cane sugar.

In a recent column for the warehouse company, Ellis-Brown recalled the moment it dawned on her that she could start her very own beverage company.

“…The idea for Ellis Island Tea and my beverage company began at a backyard barbecue,” she wrote. “My father used to brew up my great-grandfather’s recipe for iced hibiscus tea and serve it at every special family event. During one of those gatherings, it suddenly dawned on me that this tea was so good that I could market it and make beverages my business. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and this was my pathway.”

After persuading her father to share the secret family recipe, the then-20-year-old took to the streets and began selling the bottled goodness around Detroit from a cooler in the back of her car. By 2014, she had opened her own beverage and bottling facility, making her the sole Black female beverage maker in the U.S. with her own manufacturing plant, according to the Michigan Chronicle.

The Detroit businesswoman has gone on to be featured on Forbes 30 Under 30 list and was crowned the winner of Centric TV’s Queen Boss business competition. In an interview with Model D Media, Ellis-Brown stressed the importance of hiring Detroit residents like herself, particularly workers of color.

With the summer season coming soon, the entrepreneur said they couldn’t have picked a better time to get in at Sam’s.

“Ellis Island Tea is the perfect party beverage for summer celebrations, backyard barbecues or holiday festivities,” its description reads. “It is an antioxidant rich, beautiful red tea with a smooth, exotic flavor. It offers iced tea lovers a fresh, innovative beverage made from all-natural ingredients.”

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