By MATTHEW MCKEW
It didn’t take long for a Queenstown business duo to brew up a new usiness plan when things went temporarily kaput for their travel firm.
Sally Miller and Alex Musgrave, of Impact Escapes, specialise in small, off-the-beaten track tours to Sri Lanka and were expecting a busy winter, with bookings right through to September.
But, as happened across the travel industry, Covid-19 put paid to their plans and so they needed a new direction.
So as they listened to a sustainable tourism webinar and chatted over a hot drink, the way forward was clear — tea.
Not only is it the specialty product of their primary travel destination, but they had the contacts to get cracking straight away, having run tours to see the growers.
‘‘Sally and I have always drunk tea together, she comes from England originally, and it’s always been a part of our lives,’’ Musgrave says.
‘‘We didn’t agonise [on what to do] for a second.
‘‘Our whole ‘why’ was doing good.
‘‘With our travel it was about doing good for animals, historical sites and communities, so moving to tea was the same — let’s look after the small operators.’’
Many Sri Lankans live on their daily income, Musgrave says, and no tourism means no money.
But she stresses it’s a serious business with a clear market and a ‘‘quality product’’, not tea and sympathy.
‘‘I think it’s like people are moving away from generic beers to artisan brews.
‘‘People are looking for the source of their product, where it has come from and the story that goes with it.’’
The pair have been to Remarkables Market and Arrowtown Farmers Market to test demand and Musgrave says there’s plenty of interest.
‘‘Tea’s an experience, some of ours are wild teas and you can really taste the forest.’’
The wild tea comes from a once-abandoned tea estate that pickers are careful to only take the top leaves from.
Impact Tea is working with the Tea Leaf Trust and sustainable estates to ensure workers are paid fairly and money is put towards education and mental health support.
The loose leaf tea is available to order on their website and the pair will be at Cromwell Festive Fete this weekend to sell their wares.