Hello! I’m Nailah Ellis-Brown, a Detroit beverage maker who handcrafts an exotic sweet tea steeped in family tradition. I’m so excited to announce that my family tea – Ellis Island Tea – the only Jamaican Sweet Tea made in America, is going to be sold in every Sam’s Club location in the country beginning on May 15!
What is Ellis Island Tea?
The Ellis Island Tea recipe was handed down through the generations from my Great-Grandfather Cyril Byron, a Jamaican immigrant who came to America more than 100 years ago through Ellis Island.
My tea is all-natural and brewed with hibiscus, rosehips, mint, Member’s Mark Fancy Clover White Honey, and pure cane sugar. In Sam’s Club locations, you can find our 64-ounce jug in the cooler section. It’s the perfect size for parties, picnics and barbecues.
Check out this video sharing a little more about me, Ellis Island Tea and my friend Ed Romero, the Senior Vice President of Fresh at Sam’s Club.
Backyard Barbecue Brew
Although its recipe has origins in balmy Boston Bay, Jamaica where my Great-Grandfather Cyril was born, the idea for Ellis Island Tea and my beverage company began at a backyard barbecue. My father used to brew up my great-grandfather’s recipe for iced hibiscus tea and serve it at every special family event. During one of those gatherings, it suddenly dawned on me that this tea was so good that I could market it and make beverages my business. I had always wanted to be an entrepreneur and this was my pathway.
Taking it to the Streets
In 2008, at the age of 20, I persuaded my father to share the recipe. When I got the flavor just right, I began selling it around Detroit from a cooler in the trunk of my car. I sold out every day and brewed more every night. Soon, it was time to take my tea to market. With luck and prayers, I managed to get Ellis Island Tea into some major stores. By 2014, I opened my own beverage and bottling facility in Detroit where I now brew Jamaican Sweet Tea and provide jobs for Detroiters like myself. After rebranding last year with the help of an MSNBC Your Business Makeover, I teamed up with Sam’s Club. Ellis Island Tea hit the shelves in Sam’s Club locations in Michigan, Ohio and Indiana in September. And now, just in time for summer, we’ll be in every store across the nation! This is truly my season.
A Bit About Me (Nailah)
My face may seem familiar to some of you. Over the past few years I’ve been lucky enough to be featured on the Forbes 30 Under 30 List, Centric TV’s Queen Boss business competition (yes, I am the Queen Boss winner), MSNBC’s Your Business and this year the Root 100 list. I have been blessed. In addition to being an entrepreneur, I am a wife and mother (my most important jobs!) My husband Rob Brown, a gifted photographer and singer, recently joined the business so now we get to work side by side to grow Ellis Island Tea into a competitive national beverage brand. Our daughter Aaliyah, who was born a month after our first plant opened, will turn 4 this month. And by autumn, she will have a little brother or sister. I think Cyril would be thrilled that I am carrying on his legacy. I hope you’ll enjoy our family tea!
- Nailah Ellis-Brown