A minty smell wafted through the connector Saturday afternoon as Java Junction converted to a brewing and bottling hub for the new on-campus tea company, Menno Tea.
The bottled tea production was directed by student entrepreneurs Hans Weaver, a sophomore, and Niles Graber-Miller, a freshman. They bottled 260 bottles of tea in 4 hours on Saturday afternoon and used the process as a way to stimulate interest in the product by inviting five art students to paint while Weaver and Graber-Miller bottled.
“We wanted to encourage people to come watch,” said Weaver, “so we had art students watch the process and paint tea-inspired paintings; for example, some of the art pieces are titled Manatea and Tea-Rex.”
These paintings will soon hang in Java Junction as student-produced promotions for the tea. Weaver and Graber-Miller wanted to use art as part of their advertising to promote the product and culture of their brand.
“We are trying to draw from the uniqueness of the Goshen College S.S.T. experience of learning about a culture through immersion,” said Graber-Miller. “The Menno Tea culture originated as a homemade recipe from Lancaster and we want to elicit the feeling of tea on a summer day.”
There are only four ingredients in the drink—mint, black tea leaves, lemon juice and cane sugar—but simplicity is the point that Weaver and Graber-Miller are trying to get across.
“We wanted to prove that we could make a delicious drink without a lot of sugar,” said Weaver. “We wanted a simple, good-tasting drink.”
As part of the culture of their company, Weaver and Graber-Miller have incorporated the Goshen community into the process of developing and embracing the tea.
Weaver and Graber-Miller buy all their raw materials locally. The ingredients for the tea come from the Maple City Market and are all fair-trade and organic certified. The bottles come from a company in Illinois, the Menno Tea t-shirts are made by Springer Designs and the Menno Tea logo was created by Clayton Miller, a junior.
The idea for this company was inspired by a soda business Weaver started at Eastern Mennonite University. Weaver and Graber-Miller swapped ideas to form a similar business at Goshen College but upon performing market research they decided to look at teas. After figuring out the plan, the next step was to get funding.
“Originally, we had been looking at a private investment,” said Graber-Miller, “but then we decided to try to get the entrepreneurship grant from the college, so we worked hard on the business plan; it’s now even being used as the example for other students.”
After securing an investment, Weaver and Graber-Miller have gone through many different phases of ideas for the company.
“At one point we wanted to get 24,000 bottles from a co-packer [company contracted to produce and bottle the drinks],” said Graber-Miller, “but in the end we settled on an organic and sustainable venture.”
Looking into the future, Weaver and Graber-Miller do not want to stop with Menno Tea. Under their company name Cultural Adventures, the two have already brainstormed on the possibility of bringing in cultural drinks from areas further than Lancaster.
If you’re looking for Menno Tea, it is only currently sold through Java Junction. One bottle costs $1.50, and there is $1 off of a six-pack. You can get a $0.20 discount off the next bottle if you return a bottle. For more information about the company, you can visit their website www.mennotea.com.
Next time you smell something minty in the connector on Saturday afternoons, come by, watch the brewing process and chat with the two entrepreneurs as they brew the newest batch of Menno Tea. As Weaver says, “It’s not just about Niles and me, we’re not just brewing a tea, we’re brewing a culture.”