The tea brand eyes the luxury herbal tea segment to promote medicinal properties.
According to the World Market Tea Report 2020, the international tea market is expected to reach a value of $235.75 billion by 2024. The market increase in interest over the years is due in part to consumers becoming more aware of the tea varieties they buy as well as wanting to learn about tea origins and growers. They are also viewing tea as a wellness beverage to be enjoyed leisurely. Looking to deliver what consumers are looking for is tea connoisseur Gladstone St. Auburn Etienne, who is blending premier luxury tisanes, or herbal teas, through his herbal tea lifestyle company established in 2016. At ZABICOLife, he offers eight herbal tea blends for their medicinal properties and benefits for health and wellness while working to make herbal tea a lifestyle habit in the current market.
Learning From the Roots
Originally from the eastern Caribbean island of Dominica, a popular tourist destination, Etienne has fond memories of growing up on an organic farm in a small community surrounded by waterfalls, natural lakes and beautiful greenery all around. After high school, he migrated to the United States, settling in Washington, D.C. to advance his education, majoring in business and finance at Maryland Robert Smith School of Business.
“But all along, my love for herbal teas and herbalism was always there. I always had that entrepreneur spirit,” he shares. Growing up, Etienne experienced the medicinal benefits of herbs firsthand from his mother, a traditional herbalist. He furthered his interest in herbs through a few courses and serving as an apprentice to another master herbalist. After almost 15 years in corporate America, he looked at ways to bring his strengths in herbalism to the forefront through a side business.
Etienne launched ZABICOLife in 2014 after several friends and acquaintances tried his products with all providing favorable feedback. However, herbal teas were not and still aren’t very popular in the U.S. That has required bringing along some education and awareness to tea drinkers on the combination of herbs and used sourced from around the globe, their properties and why it’s beneficial or different from other teas.
“The idea behind the brand is it’s a lifestyle,” Etienne says. “I want people to view herbal blends as something essential and much more than a beverage.” ZABICO is the French Creole word for the apricot tree representing life, resilience and long-lasting strength. “I truly believe herbal teas are just as important for the body as physical exercise,” he adds. Etienne’s herbal tea blends are formulated keeping in mind specific functional purposes, such as alleviating inflammation or pain from ailments.
Getting the herbal teas ready to market was its own process, given the behind-the-scenes work involved. Having a foundation in herbalism and understanding how to combine herbs, Etienne took his time creating 50–60 versions of a blend sometimes before arriving at the final product. Each blend has five to eight different types of plants and within the plants, some blends use the leaves, bark or roots.
With herbs ranging in taste from earthy tones to bitter and across the spectrum, arriving at a blend that is palatable to the consumer minus any sweeteners was quite the task. “It took me the better part of a year to select herbs, figure out which ones are best combinations and then how to give them a flavor profile that would work,” he says. Etienne suspects that’s the reason a lot of tea companies tend to shy away from the herbal segment – it’s very limited because it requires careful blending of ingredients.
A co-packer in Arizona blends and packages the herbal tea formulas for sale. All teas are made only with whole organic herbs and contain no preservatives, dyes or artificial ingredients of any kind. Each bag has 50 grams of loose-leaf tea serving 28–30 cups at one teaspoon per cup. Though loose-leaf teas might take longer to prepare than tea bags, Etienne views it as the best method to derive the maximum benefits from the herbal teas.
He admits there were days when closing shop was on his mind, but seeing more herbal teas in stores encouraged him that more people are looking for options and are inquisitive about tea’s qualities. Motivated to stay the course, he made several enhancements to the brand, moving from tins to bags when he started packaging for sale. He had to rebrand three times before arriving at what we see as ZABICOLife products today.
Among his favorites is the Blood Builder blend featuring calendula, dried lemon and cayenne pepper, among other ingredients. For an everyday sipper, he recommends the cinnamon green tea and suggests drinking the rooibos hibiscus as a cold tea. Another reason to drink herbal tea blends is for detoxing properties. Etienne offers a 14-day herbal detox along with a nutritional plan and calendar and also shares food and tea pairing ideas on social media.
As the Future Brews
In the long run, Etienne sees ZABICOLife giving back here in the U.S. as well as in Dominica and other Caribbean islands. His tisanes are now available on his website and Amazon and he hopes to have them in a few stores in the next few months. He says, “I am thankful I had the opportunity to grow up in Dominica when I did. There were some drawbacks, but now I am thankful to be in America. I still believe it’s a land that has tremendous opportunity.” If you do find yourself trying one of the herbal teas, remember to tune in to Etienne’s Instagram page where he regularly plays the harp as a way to destress. It just might transport you to the idyllic paradise that is Dominica.