Sun | Sep 15, 2019

Likkle Tea, big market - Patrique Goodall carves niche in US$50-billion tea industry

Published:Friday | January 18, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Patrique Goodall says she has always had a hustler's mentality. As a prefect at the top western Jamaica all-girls Montego Bay High School in St James, she sold space in the lunch line for a small fee or reserved lunch for students for $20 to augment her own lunch money.

By the time she studied communication at the Mona campus of The University of the West Indies, she was selling jewellery and other accessories. She did this while having to travel to Montego Bay by bus on weekends to cook for her ailing father, before heading back to classes on Mondays.

Ever the entrepreneur, Goodall later tried her hand at running her own public relations company based in Montego Bay. Now, with a full-time job as head of marketing at one of Jamaica's largest retail chains, she spends her lunch hour and weekends busy filling orders for premium honey and specialty whole loose leaf tea (camellia sinensis) blends, boldly carving a niche in what is a US$50-billion global tea beverage market that is forecast to grow to more than US$73 billion over the next five years.

Goodall's Likkle Tea business is run out of the kitchen of her Kingston apartment, but she is scouting for a "little space" to do her blending of tea leaves, sourced from Kenya, Japan, and the Unites States of America, with Jamaican plants, herbs and spices and infuse her line of honey with flavours.

"The plan is to flavour and sell teas locally, to have more hands-on from the production side," she says, pointing out that she has worked with a blender overseas to source some basic tea blends that she refines further.

Tea saved my life

"What Likkle Tea is about is the tea experience," Goodall told the Financial Gleaner as she displayed an array of her products at the R Hotel, Kingston's newest boutique hotel. Likkle Tea sells a variety of black, white, oolong, and green tea blends. The business takes its name from the Jamaican tradition of having a 'likkle tea' - hot beverage or tisane made of any of the country's countless herbs, bushes or tree leaves to cure an assortment of ailments or just to belch stomach 'gas'.

"Tea saved my life," the 29 year-old entrepreneur declared, before adding: "Not medicinally." According to Goodall, tea served as therapy for her following a period of great loss and work-related anxiety. In 2010, during her second year at university, her father died from a brain tumour and three months later her mother died of a heart failure. Her best friend also died that year. With the death of her parents, who had separated, Goodall found herself without a family home and on her own to survive. "I have had a different life from most people," is how Goodall sums up her life experiences.

She got seriously into tea drinking when the mother of a friend made her tea whenever she visited her friend, who was ill. Her friend's mother also encouraged Goodall to have tea at home.

From hobby to fledging business

Recognising that she slept well and woke up in a better mood after having tea at nights, Goodall started to research the plant and speak to persons from whom she bought teas. Soon, she was experimenting with different tea blends for her own tea drinking and then began sharing her blends with friends. Her way of life soon became a hobby, then a fledgling business. Goodall has also studied teas with the US-based World Tea Academy.

A year and seven months after she started selling her speciality tea blends, Goodall says she has sold more than 2,000 units of blended teas in 45- and 85-gram cannisters and handcrafted bags. Importantly, too, she has turned a profit on the just over $500,000 initial investment in the business from her savings and a personal loan. She has built what she describes as a tea community on social media and has many satisfied repeat clients in Jamaica, Trinidad, and Barbados. Likkle Tea sells online at likkletea.com and drives sales through active Instagram, Facebook and Twitter engagement. Goodall is now in discussion with a leading courier service to streamline logistics for overseas delivery before launching the export side of the business.

In addition to tea blends, Likkle Tea sells premium-quality honey, honey infused with flavours, steepware such as infusers, teacups, and mugs.

Goodall says she is cautious about expansion plans since the personal contact with customers and sharing the tea experience with them are the most important aspects of the business. While being open to investment opportunities for expansion, preservation of the personal touch is indispensable to the business.

Goodall believes she has some of the business acumen of her father, who was a businessman, and got the personal touch from her mother, who was an administrator with a children's home in western Jamaica.

While building the business, Goodall aims to bringing more Jamaicans to join the more than two billion people all over the world who are said to drink tea every day and who are believed to eclipse the number of coffee drinkers.

Meanwhile, the number of blends continue to grow and now include chocolate cherry tree and chocolate brownie delight, made from the One One Cacao-branded cacao nibs (pure chocolate) supplied by another Jamaican start-up, Temper Tantrums Limited, which is owned by former journalist Nick Davis.

One blend, Sharon's Rose, which is white tea blended with lavender, spearmint and rose petals, is named in honour of Goodall's mother. Likkle Tea has teas blended with lemon grass, also known as fever grass; as well as mint; fruit extracts such as orange peel, pomegranate and coconut; moringa; dandelion; among many other plants and spices. Much of the local plant inputs are grown in St James by Goodall's uncle.