Ellis Island Tea
Nailah Ellis Brown (Photos | Courtesy, Ellis Island Tea)

When you quench your thirst with a bottle of Ellis Island Tea you are drinking a beverage steeped in history.

Cyril Brown, a Jamaican immigrant and former Chief Chef of Marcus Garvey, created a tea recipe that he passed down to his son. The tea is a family favorite and has become a popular brand in the U.S. thanks to his granddaughter Nailah Ellis Brown.

The tasty beverage is smooth, red in color and made with hibiscus flower and black tea leaves. Brown says the tea is rich in antioxidants and could possibly lower blood pressure – which are all good reasons to try the unique drink out.

What year were you founded?

2008

What inspired you to launch your business?

As long as I can remember, I always [valued] entrepreneurship. It was always taught to me as an inventor back in elementary school.

I always sold candy, chips, juice boxes all the way from elementary to high school to peers. I knew I would end up in food or beverages. My original plan was to go to college, get a degree in business, and end up on Wall Street with a very high paying job. I was going to walk away from that job, save up some money and go after entrepreneurship and start a business of some kind.

I dropped out of college after my freshman year when I figured out how the student loan system worked. It didn’t set well with me so I said, ‘Why not start a business now and start that way.’ I tried to get a loan from several banks and got laughed at, but there was this family recipe that was passed down by my great grandfather who master chef for Marcus Garvey. I felt this was my ticket to entrepreneurship and carrying on the family legacy.

I started out selling tea in the back of my trunk; today we have national distribution.

What makes your brand/product unique?

It (tea) is not comparable to anything else. It is unique and in a lane of its own. It is the only Jamaican bottled sweet tea in the country. I am the only Black female in the country under 40 who owns and operates a beverage manufacturing facility.

Why should everyone #BuyBlack this holiday season?

If we don’t put ourselves on no one else will.The Black community is the largest consumer and why not put those dollars back into our own communities. Try to support your own no one else will. We remain at the bottom because we don’t support each other. I’m breaking down a lot of walls and what helps me to stay in business is people who look like me supporting and buying the product. It also provides jobs for people who looks like me.

How do you pay it forward within your community?

By providing opportunity; providing jobs. It is my job to take them (aspiring entrepreneurs) in and make their paths easier than my path was, show them the way and pass the torch. My job is to open doors. If we could re-establish Black Wall street, we could establish a community. I think we are missing the identity piece.

What is your business mantra?

Pray like everything depends on God and work like everything depends on me. That is my formula for success and I live by that.

Try out this sweet and rare tea or give it as a gift for the holiday. Starting Black Friday through Cyber Monday receive 30 percent off online orders.