A Rising Motor City Treat: Ellis Island Tea
Something special is brewing in Detroit these days thanks to young entrepreneur Nailah Ellis-Brown, motivated by her immigrant great grandfather.
In the process, the very concept of tea is being rewritten as her Ellis Infinity LLC, beverage company gains market share in the Motor City.
The 26-year-old Ellis-Brown’s claim to fame is Ellis Island Tropical Tea, a luxury bottled tea made with tropical flowers and produced locally since her company’s 2008 inception.
Unmistakable in appearance on any shelf, Ellis Island Tropical Tea sports a ruby red appearance.
The iced hibiscus tea holds a unique flavor delicately balancing an infusion of all-natural extracts and botanicals.
The mouth-watering result?
Detroit native Elllis-Brown’s tea provides a smooth and flavorful drink with a hint of citrus, making it the beverage of choice for any savvy backyard celebrants gathered around a Fourth of July barbecue celebration.
“Ellis Island Tea is steeped in family tradition,” said Ellis-Brown.
“My great grandfather Cyril Byron created a hibiscus tea recipe that has people throughout the generations just amazed by its unique and refreshing flavor.
To me it offers a taste of his birthplace, Boston Bay, Jamaica.
“It makes me think of the balmy breezes, beautiful beaches and lilting music.
It is an island treat loved throughout the Caribbean where hibiscus tea is called Sorrel.”
Ellis-Brown began selling her bottled tea commercially in 2011, is fulfilling her goal to become an entrepreneur while simultaneously continuing a family legacy.
Her ancestor, an established chef, told his family in no uncertain terms his hibiscus tea recipe should be “sold not told.”
Ellis Infinity capabilities ramped up dramatically in 2014, when the company opened a production facility in the shadow of the Russell Industrial Complex, in an area that once produced automobiles and now produces famous McClure’s Pickles, music, movies and intriguing art.
A grand opening celebration was held in mid-June to recognize the 4,000 squarefoot production facility’s role in Brewing Ellis Island Tropical Tea.
The site enables the seven-year-old business to expand into new Michigan markets and other portions of the Midwest in coming months.
“The demand and interest has been there for some time,” said Ellis-Brown.
“But because we didn’t have our own production facility, we were limited by the amount of tea we could produce in leased commercial kitchens. The timing couldn’t be better going into the summer season when iced tea is a high-demand beverage. This month could be one of our busiest yet.”
Ellis-Brown is married to Rob Brown, a Detroit school teacher and gifted singer.
She is the mother of one daughter, Aaliyah, born in 2014.
Bottled at the company headquarters on Clay Street, Ellis Island Tea can be found throughout southeast Michigan in various upscale markets, including all Whole Foods Markets, Westborn Market, Avalon International Bakery, Goodwells Natural Market and most recently, Detroit’s historic Eastern Market.
For more information, visit www.ellisislandtea.com.