The tea Aureal Ojeda toted to work every day in a thermos literally brewed a business idea. But first she had to endure jabs from male co-workers at various construction sites where she was employed.
“I’m always the only woman on the job site,” explains Ojeda. “The guys would make fun of me because I’d bring my stainless-steel mug [filled with tea]. One day I brought cups for everyone to try it. All of a sudden, everybody got so relaxed.”
The Milwaukee woman launched Outwoken Tea, a line of teas sourced from small farms around the globe and sold through her website, in June.
“I was inspired to create my brand from standing on top of landfill mountains,” she said. “When I was on top of the mountains watching the birds choke on bottle caps of plastic and after the plastic pouch smacked me in the face I knew I had to make a difference. This is why everything about my brand is earth-friendly.”
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Ojeda says she tries to keep the names for her tea lines simple. For example, Chocolate Besos (culled from a Colombian rainforest), Big Red Robe (Li family’s oolong handpicked in Wuyishan, Fujian, China), Bold Blue (a blend of black tea from China with butterfly pea flower, resulting in a blueish hue when brewed) and Purple Kenyan Tea (only grown in Kenya and believed to help lower one’s blood pressure).
“I don’t buy a huge amount,” she says. “They’re all artisan quantities. It’s person-to-person, not corporate.”
The logo includes some symbolism too. It features three mountains hint at three types of life journeys: physical, mental and spiritual.
“I went through a journey to live a long, healthy life,” Ojeda says, which included switching up her diet to include less meat and fewer sugary drinks. This is how she discovered the healing powers of tea.
Ojeda only works with farms that align with her earth-centric mantras.
“It’s very hard to find tea that is traced back to people,” she says. “I literally Googled and researched and talked to all those people and narrowed it down to who I felt was with my values – as a person, not a brand.”
This extends to Outwoken Tea’s zero-waste approach. Teas are packaged with biodegradable tape, shipping labels crafted from sugarcane, and ink printed on the box stems from algae. Toxic-free and compostable bags holding the teas contain FSC-certified wood-based cellulose. Paper that comes with each shipment – describing the teas – can later be planted to grow herbs and flowers (seeds are embedded within).
Each purchase also allows for a tree to be planted through a partnership with One Tree Planted.
“Every single thing about [the packaging] had the Earth first,” she says. “It is my way to give back. I’ve caused a lot of damage during construction.”
Outside of construction, Ojeda’s winter job as a tax preparer taught her about small-business financing, as did an online course (Start & Scale) taught by Gretta Van Riel, an entrepreneur in Australia. “I’m very self-educated,” says Ojeda. “I’m always educating myself.” This includes understanding consumer demand before launching Outwoken Tea. Sending out a survey to potential customers via email she was able to glean what teas might sell best.
When she’s not running her tea business, Ojeda toils in a community garden in a strip of land in front of her house. It’s another way she gives back. Inspired by “The Gangsta Gardener” (landscape designer Ron Finley’s group in Los Angeles), “all the kids in the neighborhood helped plant and they can come and take whatever they need when it’s ready,” she says.