Caicos Tea Company started with one woman’s passion for teas and her belief in their medicinal benefits. For generations, the ancestors of the Turks and Caicos Islands have used teas as an opportunity to bring family and friends together and as a cure for numerous ailments.
We had a chance to sit down with CEO, Donna Gardiner to get to know a little bit more about this local business and her teas.
Here’s a look into our one-on-one interview with Donna as part of our, “Faces of Turks and Caicos” series:
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your business:
My name is Donna Gardiner and I am the founder of Caicos Tea Company in Turks in Caicos. I manufacture a local artisan bush tea. The teas are all groomed locally on North Caicos – the only thing that we bring in is the packaging.
The company started with trying to articulate Turks and Caicos tea culture. A lot of the things I know, and am trying to reproduce and package in a consumer-friendly way, consumes of the things my Grandmother taught me. For me, this is a personal way to honor my Grandmother and others like her, who have used the bush to make medicines, to sooth, heal, to calm, to bring families together. This is my way to honor them.
Could you tell us a little bit more about your teas and the medicinal benefits that they offer?
Right now we offer five different flavors:
We have Lemongrass (or fever grass, as it’s called in the Turks and Caicos Islands) which produces a tea that has a delicate lemon taste with a slight hint of sweet ginger, and a very aromatic floral fragrance.
A nostalgic Turks and Caicos traditional blend, Caicos Sunshine tea engages your senses and delights your pallet with the pleasant blend of citrus and mint . This tea soothes, relaxes and promotes healthy digestion through its natural citrus and mint properties.
Sometimes called the “miracle tree” or “drumstick tree,” moringa oleifera has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. The combination of moringa and peppermint delivers the health benefits of both plants, including helping to relieve joint pain and heartburn and reducing symptoms of the common cold.
We have a classic peppermint tea which offers a refreshing sweet flavor with a cool and invigorating aftertaste. This aromatic tea is known to promote healthy digestion, reduce inflammation and soothe stomach aches. Peppermint is made of leaves and stems that contain the oil menthol and are used medicinally, as food flavoring, or as a fragrance.
And last, but not least, we have a soursop tea is a green tea without the bitter aftertaste. It is fragrant in a citrus kind of way, and tastes as good as it smells. In the Turks and Caicos Islands, soursop leaves are used as a folk remedy for blood pressure, fevers, diabetes, indigestion and other ailments.
The teas have medicinal qualities – but in all honesty, we usually promote the “feel-good” side of them. Soursop, for example, helps with blood pressure and also helps with relaxing and sleep.
Which tea flavor is your favorite?
Caicos Sunshine is my baby. My grandmother would make this for us, so I can’t take all the credit for the blend. It’s mint, lemongrass and some citrus, among other things. Growing up, as part of Turks and Caicos culture, you could not leave the house in the morning without having a hot beverage. In the evenings you would also have a hot beverage, but it was more important in the mornings. I could never figure out why this was so important, but later on it occurred to me that they were trying to set the digestive tone in our bodies for the day.
You can drink this tea as a hot tea or an iced tea – but regardless it’s my favourite. It reminds me of my Grandmother, growing up on the island and everything our family represents.
How can customers purchase your tea?
There are a couple locations on the island – the museum carries it, retreat kitchen, turquoise duty-free in the airport, point grace, and on our website, of course.
Where do you source the teas?
All in North Caicos – I work with a local farmer, who helps me. Initially, I tried to grow some of the plants to make the teas, but it was a lot of work, so I decided to outsource this to a real professional to help me out.
What do you love most about living in Turks and Caicos?
It’s small enough to know everyone – for example, when we had the hurricanes, everyone came together – we all have each other’s back and it’s a real sense of community. It feels like a family throughout the whole island.
When you aren’t running your business, what is your favorite thing to do in Turks and Caicos?
When I’m not working on my business, I’m working with other local businesses and helping them grow. I love my community and the local business community, so I’m always trying to lend a helping hand.
Living on the island, for me, there’s never a dull moment. When I’m not doing something with Caicos tea, I want to help others that are trying to grow here as well. I want to be able to use my business to inspire the younger island generation that anything’s possible, and we can do anything we set our minds to.