By Marina Tzima & William Dachris
In early 2020 we had the pleasure to sample all the Grek teas, and we were so impressed with the quality and design, that we decided to import them in Australia straight away and for the very 1st time, and make one of Marina's dreams come true! We're so delighted to partner with our friend Marina Tzima, a fellow Greek with passion for high quality organic produce and the founder of organic herbal Grek Teas. It really didn't take long before the whole of Australia fell in love with Marina's teas, as these aren't your ordinary premium herbal teas! But lets brew a cup of tea and read on for the full story...
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Marina, I am from Kefalonia, in the Ionian Islands of Greece and moved to the UK in 2004, as I love the weather so much and fish and chips! I have two little boys, 2 guinea pigs and GREK so life is very busy at the moment but I love it!
How did GREK start?
It all started back in 2013 during a holiday to Greece. Stephan, my partner, and I were having Greek coffee as part of our daily breakfast routine. One morning Stephan asked for black tea but my mum didn’t have any in the house – Stephan is Dutch and accustomed to drinking black tea. So, after a mini-panic she made him a cup of traditional herbal tea using various herbs. Stephan was blown away by the delicious and unusual (to him) taste and the extraordinary aromas as he had never before tasted anything like this and the question arose why this is not available in England. This was the instigator of the idea for an herbal tea company.
How did the idea become a business?
I have always liked herbs and grew up in Greece drinking mountain tea and other herbal teas on a regular basis and combined with my knowledge of organic farming (I have a BSc in Organic Farming), it seemed like a natural fit to start a herbal tea business. So we started to develop the idea and a couple of months later GREK, still as a concept, was born. Over the next year or so, we contacted most of the organic farmers in Greece requesting samples. I haven’t kept track of all, but we must have sampled several hundreds of herbs. During this sampling process we were still not sure whether the idea was viable. But this all changed once we had identified a relatively large number of farmers which could supply high quality organic herbs. Once we had the short listed suppliers, we visited all of them! This was a gruelling process travelling all over Greece in a short period, as transport infrastructure is often less than ideal. The large number of suppliers was advantageous in the sense that we were provided with a wide ranging array of flavours.
If we take peppermint as an example, the samples we got from Crete were completely different to that from the Macedonia region. This allowed us to develop blends using various suppliers allowing us to create a unique, tasty and highly refreshing peppermint tea.
We formally launched GREK in April 2017. It took a long time to perfect all the flavours and generally there was a steep learning curve to develop a product of the quality we were aiming for. Also, despite the large number of suppliers, it wasn’t easy to find the right producers to work with. Many of the suppliers looked right on paper and had great produce but just didn’t have the right attitude. In business you really need people you can rely on. The brand development and packaging design also proved challenging and took longer than expected. However, we did not want to make just tea. We wanted to develop a brand of artisan Greek herbal teas and offer our customers a great product experience and were therefore not willing to compromise on either quality of flavour or packaging.
What challenges did you face?
OMG! Where do I start? Money is always an issue when you are a start up. There is never enough and there is not much help out there either. A small business with limited funds struggles to promote their products through trade shows and events as the hire of stands costs hundreds of $$. Time is always an issue too, especially when you have young kids. We set up the business over weekends and when babies were in beds. It took us longer than we anticipated, but we are really proud of what we have achieved so far. Challenges are what make us stronger. I like a good challenge. It makes me use my brain more.
What are your business successes to date?
GREK is only 3 years old, but with an exciting journey so far. We won SILVER at the Best of British Awards 2018 and GOLD at the Food and Beverage Awards 2018 for our bespoke packaging design. We're also thrilled to have been awarded a Merit in the ADC 97th Annual Awards, New York and an Award of Excellence 2018, California.
In addition to the design awards, GREK Peppermint tea was awarded 2 Gold Stars and the Paradeisia Blend (Sage tea) was awarded 1 Gold star by Great Taste 2018. The Greek Mountain tea was awarded 2 Gold Stars by Great Taste 2019. Grek Teas also won Theo Paphitis retail magnate and entrepreneur Small Business Sunday in 2019.
What makes Grek Teas so unique?
Herbal teas are embedded within Greek culture and it is this element of the culture that we want GREK to bring worldwide in a contemporary format. Besides its iconic tourist locations and rich history, Greece provides perfect conditions for growing herbs. The fertile soils, plenitude of sunshine and hot summers ensure plants develop strong aromatic characteristics gifting us our wonderful herbal teas. When this is combined with the potential story-telling with regard to Greek mythology, to the role herbs have played in Greece’s rich history and to the numerous health benefits they provide, it offers a base with loads of potential to develop a truly exciting product which we think the public connects to.
The Greek climate and the fertile land have blessed Greece with food full of delicate taste and overwhelming aromas. There is nothing like the taste and fragrance of Greek herbs. From 6,500 different species to choose from, Greek herbs loaded with solar energy and rich in essential oils make delicious and versatile teas to enjoy at all hours of the day throughout the year. We have also travelled thousands of miles all over Greece and tasted hundreds of teas to find the best herbal teas Greece has to offer. The farmers we work with are all small scale, family owned businesses which put quality before quantity while also applying organic and earth friendly farming methods. Our teas are therefore the opposite of the large-scale producers; premium, exclusive and oh so tasty!
- Peppermint (tea bags) – Smooth & Intense with delicate higher notes with hints of spice.
- Lemon verbena (tea bags) – Balmy & Zestful, citric, but smooth, calm and gentle. Soft, mild lemon, with a gentle edge, also fantastic on ice.
- Mountain tea (loose) – Mellow & Floral with a touch of fruit, woody and earthy notes. Nation’s favourite drink, also perfect as a cold drink with a slice of lemon. Read Mountain Teas health benefits HERE.
- Chamomile (tea bags) – Gentle & Calming with sweet aroma, perfectly balanced between flowers and fruit.
- Paradeisia sage blend (tea bags) – Crisp & Floral, light flowers underscored by citrus and a fresh aftertaste. (aromatic sage, lemon verbena, lemon balm, peppermint) – our flagship tea!
What's your favourite tea?
Personally, I love Mountain Tea and Lemon Verbena and I enjoy them hot or cold with a slice of lemon, I really like the smooth and floral taste. But I always turn to Peppermint tea or Paradeisia when I need a kick! I suppose my favourite changes with my mood or time of the day.
If you'd like to reap all the health benefits that organic herbal teas offer visit our extensive range herbs and teas HERE.