Trinidad teas: Curing the Caribbean – one teacup at a time

A new line of organic loose-leaf teas launched in Trinidad and Tobago is building on the region’s tradition of steeping flowers, leaves, herbs, roots and barks to provide a range of health benefits.

Caribbean Cure’s teas contain no added sugar, preservatives, flavourings or colouring © Caribbean Cure

In 2016, Sophia Stone, founder of Caribbean Cure, decided to escalate her passion for health and wellbeing by leveraging the curative properties of West Indian plants to create natural teas that build on the Caribbean’s practice of using herbs to provide health benefits, making them more accessible to health-conscious consumers. “We use premium indigenous raw materials to craft our medicinal recipes, which then are blended for wellness and taste,” says Stone. “Starting with one, the firm now produces five blends containing no added sugar, preservatives, flavourings or colouring and, with the exception of our cardamom-ginger white tea blend – which contains minimal caffeine – our teas are caffeine free.” With zero calories, and 100% vegan and gluten-free, the teas also contain ingredients that have been shown to boost antioxidant and immune levels.

When first established, Caribbean Cure struggled to find a reliable supply of indigenous ingredients. However, today, of the 20 raw materials used, about 75% are sourced regionally. “We oversee production of our teas from garden to table, including visiting the fields, investigating farming techniques and testing the crops,” Stone explains. Through these partnerships with a few small farmers, the company has been able to assure quality and consistency with its teas. Many ingredients (mauby bark, hibiscus flowers, sorrel, orange peel, lemongrass, ginger and turmeric) originate from Trinidad. But ingredients not produced locally or in sufficient quantities (black peppercorns, aniseed, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods and ginger) are imported, mainly from Grenada.

In order to maximise nutrient retention and create various flavour profiles across the range of teas, Caribbean Cure has developed a proprietary slow-heating dehydration process. Stacy Seeterram, executive director, believes, “Not a lot of brands in the region manufacture healing teas in a pure form. We are unique in that we minimally process our ingredients, most are either crushed or chopped.” Their proprietary hand-blending process, which has been trademarked, was developed in-house with local experts to ensure nutritional integrity of the ingredients. Seeterram also highlights the uniqueness of their packaging, “We are an eco-friendly firm and have reduced the use of packaging by doubling the amount of tea in our metal tins to 40 servings, and we further reduce waste by encouraging customers to recycle our tins.”

Since coming on board in 2017, Seeterram has actively partnered with business support organisations at all stages of product development and testing. Most recently, she spearheaded collaboration with exporTT on co-financing arrangements and learning how to become more export ready. They are also part of the first local intake of the Shell Livewire 2018 programme, which offers post start-up support such as mentoring and finance. This support has seen them enter several international competitions, with their Tropical Relaxation tea awarded a Bronze Medal at the 2018 Global Tea Championship. Caribbean Cure is also a Product Innovation finalist at the 2018 Sial Food Innovation Awards being held in November in Paris.

Caribbean Cure started by producing 50-100 tins in 2016 during a monthly production run, and has since seen production increase exponentially to 5,000 tins per month in August 2018. Caribbean Cure currently works with partners such as spas and other stakeholders in the health and wellbeing sector to distribute its products across the Caribbean. On future plans, Stone says they will be launching a tea bag line soon, making the loose-leaf experience even more accessible and at a lower price. Within the next 6 months, Caribbean Cure is finalising arrangements to sell its products on Etsy and Amazon, and is also in talks with distributors in the Caribbean Forum, Canada and Japan to export their first loose-leaf shipments by 2019.

Natalie Dookie

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.