Whether it is sitting by a beach with an ice cold frappe or with a group of friends debating events of the day over some hot Greek coffee, there is no doubting the popularity and reputation of coffee in Greece. Also climbing up the ranks for its world renowned soothing and healing properties is Greek herbal tea. From chamomile to mountain tea (tsai tou vounou) people have begun paying attention. Identifying a large gap in the market, tea enthusiasts Marina and Stephan decided to pour their love of the unique flavours and properties of Greek tea into their business GREK tea.
“My love for herbs began when I was a little girl making teas and perfumes using my grandmother’s herbs from the garden in Almyros, Volos where my parents are originally from and where I spent my summer holidays,” says Marina.
The idea for GREK tea was born in this very garden, during breakfast one day while on holiday in Greece. “We were having Greek coffees as part of our breakfast, but one morning Stephan asked for black tea and my mom didn’t have any in the house (Stephan is Dutch and accustomed to drinking black tea),” says Marina. 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 instigated the idea for a herbal tea company.
“I have always liked herbs and grew up drinking mountain tea and other herbal teas on a regular basis and combined with my knowledge of farming, having studied Organic Farming in Kefalonia, it seemed like a natural fit to start a herbal tea business. As soon as we returned back to the UK we started to develop the idea and a couple of months later GREK, still as a concept, was born.”
GREK tea was formally launched in April 2017. Marina is the first to admit that in their quest for perfection, there were some bumps along the way. “It took us a long time to get there as it wasn’t easy to find the right producers to work with, the right herbs for our blends, or the right concept for the design. 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. Along the way came our two kids who definitely slowed things down but we had time to consider our every move and not rush into decisions.”
The tea descriptions are enough to make you want to picture strolling up a mountain picking the herbs yourself. From the large cut Lemon Verbena leaves ethically farmed in the Peloponnese and Epirus regions, to the intensely vibrant and revitalising Peppermint to their unique Paradeisia blend with its sage, lemon verbena, lemon balm and peppermint. “We get great feedback on all our teas, especially the lemon verbena and mountain tea as both of them are relatively new to the UK market,” says Marina. “People are also intrigued by our Paradeisia blend and they are surprised when they realise that sage is also for drinking! In the UK people mostly associate sage with turkey stuffing so it is bit of a challenge to convince people that it makes a delicious tea but the feedback we get is terrific.”
As for Marina’s favourite? “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.”
As well as travelling to Greece often for family holidays, there is the additional reason of meeting and greeting their producers and cultivating a personal relationship. “We think that’s really important,” says Marina. “We want to know where our herbs come from, see the farms and their premises and talk about future plans. Besides its iconic touristic locations and rich history, Greece provides perfect conditions for growing herbs. The fertile soils, abundance of sunshine and hot summers ensure plants develop strong aromatic characteristics gifting us our wonderful herbal teas.”
Although they are sticking with their current collection for the time being, Marina and Stephan have big plans for GREK. ”We want to see GREK growing into a successful business in the UK and abroad,” says Marina. “I would love to have stores so people can come and see our products and taste our teas on the spot.”
GREK teas are currently available on company’s website grektea.com and on Amazon UK. Worldwide shipping is also available.