When Wize Monkey Co-Founder and CEO Max Rivest was studying for his master’s degree in France near the end of 2012, he was also working on a design contract for a client in Vancouver, Canada. The timing, however, wasn’t ideal. “It’s a nine-hour time difference,” he told PYMNTS in an interview. Rivest was working long and irregular hours. He would wake up at 7 a.m., go to school, write finals and go back home. He would have his sixth or seventh cup of coffee when he arrived back at home and would keep working until 4 a.m. After two weeks of this unusual schedule, his body started to shut down. He began to have heart palpitations and nausea. “I was just exhausted,” he said, and his adrenal system, as well as his nervous system, was shot.
Rivest went to his doctor, who told him to stop drinking coffee and look into tea. As an avid coffee drinker who didn’t grow up with any tea culture at home, he started seeking alternatives to coffee. But “I didn’t really find anything I loved,” Rivest said. And he held off on caffeine for a while. Then, in January 2013, he and his co-founder were starting a new project for their entrepreneurship program and they came across the coffee tea leaf. They found a study that noted people have consumed the tea for hundreds of years in Ethiopia, Indonesia, and other tropical areas. And they thought it was interesting because the product had more antioxidants than tea and coffee. It was also lightly caffeinated, similar to green tea.
They saw that there was “a potential for having something that is not only healthy but also has a light amount of caffeine,” Rivest said, that everyone can consume and not get a huge spike and crash like a coffee. They tried calling farmers in Nicaragua for six months in an effort to bring their vision to fruition. While they couldn’t get anyone on the phone, they did find an herbal tea company. They figured that contact provided them with a great place to start because it had the equipment and knowledge to make herbal tea. And they then made the decision to travel to Nicaragua to backpack and find a farmer.
They traded a bottle of rum for a large bag of coffee leaves. And they started processing them in a minimal sense. They tried their first batch, and Rivest said it was “super smooth.” He noted, it was “like a green tea but better.” The tea itself is made from extra chutes and leaves that farmworkers cut off — thus upcycling what would otherwise be a waste product. And by upcycling the pruning, the company says that it can generate year-round jobs. While the bean harvest for coffee is only three months, the leaf harvest is much longer — at nine months.
The eCommerce Experience
Today, the company offers a variety of coffee leaf teas on its website, with flavors such as original, earl grey, sunset chai, mango party, strawberry hibiscus, ginger lemon and chocolate dream. The chocolate dream, in one case, has been a best seller. “It’s like you’re drinking a hot chocolate, but you have like the texture and the cleanliness of like a nice premium tea,” Rivest said. Some of the company’s customers are tea drinkers who are looking to try alternatives. Other customers include consumers who are looking to cut back on their coffee intake.
The company offers its products for sale through eCommerce with both one-time purchases and subscriptions available. (It provides a discount to shoppers who decide to purchase a subscription.) And it is rolling out build-a-box program. With that offering, consumers can choose tins that they can receive in a gift box along with free shipping. When it comes to payments, the company accepts major credit cards, Google Pay and PayPal. And, for marketing, the brand’s most significant source of awareness is Instagram and word of mouth.
The offering comes at a time when consumers are moving away from highly-caffeinated drinks — those who are at least 25 years old are essentially looking to reduce their caffeine consumption, Rivest noted. Consumers are also seeking alternatives that have some health benefits and added value, he said, especially transparent and ethical products. In a sense, he said, they are looking to vote with their dollars, and make an impact with how they are spending their money.
“It’s kind of a trifecta for us,” Rivest said. Beyond being a cool product, it’s easier than ever to get to market with eCommerce for healthy alternatives.