Lady Bonin and Honest Chocolate have been friends for a while now, so it was so awesome to sit down with Jess and chat about her beautiful brand and its exciting future.
Jess started Lady Bonin six and a half years ago, selling takeaway teas out of a caravan at markets and festivals. As that grew, Jess began packaging their product and supplying various retail outlets and restaurants. From there, the company moved to the Woodstock Exchange, which was their first retail space, shared with us at Honest. Much like Honest, Lady Bonin are an artisanal tea supplier so everything is hand blended and hand created, making the flavours different and unique.
Jess has always had a passion for tea. It’s her lifestyle and spiritual practice. She originally wanted to start a Café with tea being one element of the Café that would help to create the environment she wanted, which is one of breaking barriers. Tea is common to the whole world; it brings people together and breaks down barriers. It relaxes you and goes hand in hand with any problem or celebration you may be having. The Café idea was soon replaced with the tea caravan. There is already such a strong coffee culture, but Jess wanted to create something different.
Lady Bonin’s teas are sourced from all over the world. Her and her team have very high standards when it comes to sustainability of the various teas. Not only does the sourcing of the tea need to benefit the community and farmers, but also the environment. The tea needs to be organic and bio-diverse. The Rooibos, Honeybush and Buchu teas are sourced locally on small scale farms and then internationally the teas are sourced from Sri Lanka, Japan and a little bit from China.
What’s your top selling tea?
“Teas move according to mood. So we have different days with different sales. There’s no explanation for it, but on one day everyone will come in and buy Earl Grey, and the next day everyone will come in and buy Chai. People buy teas depending on how they’re feeling, but I would say in terms of actual sales, my Rooibos blends. We have a wild Rooibos that’s sustainably harvested from the wild, which has a completely different taste to what people are used to. Both my local and international clients love Rooibos.”
How did you first meet Anthony and Michael and how has your relationship grown?
“We met at a creative evening that was happening at Ching Ching. They found out I was doing my tea and I found out they were doing this amazing chocolate and we just became friends and started cycling together! We just used to hang out all the time. I came across the Woodstock Exchange, and I approached Mike and Ant and asked if they’d be willing to split the space with me. And it ended up being perfect for them!
We’ve learned a lot from each other. As small businesses that follow very ethical foundations, creating products that are both insanely competitive, there can be many difficulties, but we’re able to help each other out. It’s important as a small business to be able to share your trials and tribulations in order to learn. It’s empowering to connect with your peers.”
What’s next for Lady Bonin?
“We’ve just launched our first line with Dischem and we’ve got another seven to launch with them soon. We’re in 46 stores nationwide, which is great for a first product. My whole intention is to make excellent, organic tea accessible to people. We want to grow that aspect, and we want to get more restaurants on board so people can actually experience our tea. We’re also growing our export now and we obviously need scale to make that viable, tea is a product with small margins.”
For a person reading this who wants to build his or her own start-up, what would be your biggest piece of advice?
“Find something that you’re not only passionate about, but that has a purpose. When it gets hard, which will happen, your purpose and passion is what makes you fight through all the difficult times. And it fulfills you, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Our Honest Chocolate Café serves a wide variety of Lady Bonin teas, but the tea bar itself is most certainly worth a visit (or ten!) The tea bar is located at 213 Long Street, and they’ve just launched their ceremony room, which will soon be hosting incredible tea workshops and courses.
To find out more, visit www.ladyboninstea.com
Photo Credit: Claire Gunn Photography