In a different generation, you might think that Patrick Connelly, 18, and his brother Martin, 26, would dream of living a Kerouac life on the road, or run off to Europe to pick grapes or join the Peace Corp. Then again, the brothers have led a life their less peripatetic contemporaries might envy: Brought up in Bejing and in Brunswick, Maine by their economist mother (she’s chair of economics at Bowdoin College) and their journalist dad, they are bilingual, bicultural and now owners of their own tea company.
The LIttle Red Cup Tea Co. may have a name and logo that ‘s an ironic throwback to those iconic Mao posters, but there’s nothing retro about their goals.
“We wanted to start a business that was organic and fair trade,” said Martin at the World Tea Expo where the brothers were visiting to drum up business and meet the tea world. “It seemed a good business and ethical decision.”
Right now, the brothers offer five varieties of whole leaf tea: White Peony, (Bai Mu Dan) ; Green Eyebrow, (Lu Mei) and named for the shape of its leaves; Gunpowder green tea (Zhu Cha); a loose-leaf Jasmine Green, and black Keemun. Prices range from 4 ounces for $8.00 (green eyebrow) to 4 ounces for $10.00 (white peony) with a share of profits going back to the tea cooperative. The brothers are also committed to using fully recyclable packaging.
Sales, so far, have been growing: While they initially sold to friends, they just completed their first national sale and have orders for California, Texas and Minnesota. (shipping is free in the US for orders over $60.00.)
“It’s not fancy tea, it’s not blended, it’s not fruity,” says Martin, a 2008 graduate of Colby college. “You don’t have to sit and think about the finish. You can drink it as a daily beverage.”Adds brother Patrick, a freshman at Columbia College in Chicago majoring in film and video: “You get to know people better with tea.”