New herbal tea business to create new jobs

Posted at 6:24 PM, May 10, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-11 08:33:09-04

Additional jobs for a population that has trouble finding work is the goal of a new business for Cass Community Social Services.

A group of Albion College students spent their morning mixing, blending and packaging tea - herbal tea.

The tea business, named Chartreuse, was donated to Cass Community Social Services by a couple from Grosse Ile, Linda Shannon and her husband, Herman Rugel. They were both ready to retire for a second time after engineering careers at Ford Motor Company. 

"They shared that they would give us their customer base, their equipment, they would provide the recipes and I thought, well yeah, we can try that," said Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of the service agency. 

"Starting businesses is hard work, but to have the set up and equipment without any expenses, you couldn't give a better gift," Fowler said. 

The business venture has the potential to keep giving - and that's the plan. The work currently handled by the volunteers and staff will be taken over by new employees, perhaps as early as this summer.

"We work with both developmentally disabled adults who can indeed mix tea and also formally homeless people who certainly can read the instructions and do the mixing and packaging," said Fowler.

Eighty-five people are currently work in the agency's green industries, which range from document destruction to sustainability products made from old tires. 

Cass Communitea is how they're re-branding the product line. There are a dozen varieties, including Moroccan Spice and Mountain Green among the favorites customers are buying at Avalon International Breads, according to Lesley O'Connell, the 

"Right now we brew the Hibiscus as an ice tea in that, so that's one of the popular ones," said Lesley O'Connell, retail manager at Avalon International Breads, located in Detroit's midtown.

Whole Foods, Kroger and Plum Market are also selling the tea. They also do special label packaging for clients like Greenfield Village.

"Recognizable names and many of them chains that will allow us to get beyond just Detroit and indeed the more we sell, the more people we can employ," Fowler said. 

Fowler said she hopes to have staff in place by this summer.

"It tastes good and it does good. I mean, you're helping to employ at the same time that you're enjoying some really fine tea," she said. 

And everyone can feel good about that.