Interview - Tanya Boots - Monji Tea
How do you take tea from a beverage to an experience? Tanya Boots, founder of Monji Tea discovered that applying a little mindfulness in the form of lovely Daily Tips on her teabag tags is extremely well-received. We spoke with her about the personality behind the brand and what gives Monji Tea its heart.
FFW: Who is behind Monji Tea?
MONJI TEA: Tanya Boots is the founder of Monji Tea.
I am a former Head of Category and Shopper Marketing at both Blackmores and Pepsico. I have a passion for consumer insights, pack and price architecture, scones with jam and cream and of course, tea.
I’m one of three girls who grew up on a farm in country Western Australia. The standard greeting in our family was and still is “Would you like a cuppa?”. Tea has always been the drink of connecting and comfort for me.
FFW: How did Monji Tea come about?
MONJI TEA: I received a handmade gift from my daughter one Mother’s Day. It was a little loving message stapled onto a teabag tag. I thought it was such an easy and touching way to send love and be ‘with’ loved ones in their tea moments. I started printing my own tags with quotes and vibrant images, attached them to teabags and gave them to family and friends. It grew from there, mostly as a side hustle while working.
In 2017 I launched my hand folded range at the Reed Gift Fair in Melbourne and began an ongoing partnership with Women’s Community Shelters.
In 2019 the Daily Tips range was launched. I wanted a product that was less gifting (‘for them’), and more everyday drinking (‘for me’). By making pre-printed rather than hand folded tags I was able to reach a more competitive price point. Daily Tips is designed to appeal to customers shopping in specialty supermarkets, cafes and gourmet food stores.
FFW: What is Monji Tea about, other than the tea products?
MONJI TEA: My vision for Monji Tea is to inspire women to look after themselves and each other. It links to the two main benefits of drinking tea – self-care and connecting.
If my teabags with quotes can encourage tea drinkers to take a break in their day, even one as short as the time it takes for the tea to brew, then I know that they are looking after themselves. It’s been proven that taking small, regular breaks increases our ability to see the big picture and be more productive and creative. Combine this with the fact that tea contains a compound that relaxes the mind without bringing on drowsiness and you have a superhero beverage. I want my customers to be able to handle whatever the day throws at them with positivity and calm.
The second part of my vision is about connecting. I’ve seen firsthand in my work with Women’s Shelters the power of women coming together for a cuppa and a yarn. I honestly believe that most problems can be solved over a cup of tea!
FFW: So Monji Tea is a lifestyle and inspirational brand?
MONJI TEA: Absolutely. I’m also really passionate about supporting fellow Australian businesses and artists. My tag and packaging designs are all done locally, and I print my packaging here. My teabags are manufactured in Sydney. I feature Australian artwork and poetry in the hand folded range. I’m currently exploring a new range of Australian tea for Daily Tips.
FFW: Tell us about your beautiful English Breakfast tea.
MONJI TEA: English Breakfast is easily my best-selling tea type. It’s the everyday drink, but also a really safe bet for gifting. My Daily English Breakfast is blended by the award-winning Pine Tea and Coffee in Sydney. It’s a traditional blend of Ceylon and Assam tea grown in Sri Lanka and India. It’s full bodied with great flavour and strength.
FFW: What are the pyramid teabags made of?
MONJI TEA: Monji Tea pyramid teabags are made from a 100% PLA mesh, a woven fabric derived from plant material, in this case, cornstarch. In my next order I will move into a newly launched non-GMO PLA mesh, specifically from sugar cane.
The teabags do not contain any plastic and they are biodegradable and compostable.
FFW: What do you think it is about tea that makes it such a comforting addition to our day?
MONJI TEA: Unlike coffee, which I also love, I think that tea slows us down a bit, and in a good way. Apart from the chemical-related benefits I talked about before, drinking it really does feel like a warm hug. I know that if I’ve missed out on at least one cup of tea in my day, then my day has been too hectic. Perhaps that’s why we are comforted by it, because by doing one small thing well we feel like we have a little bit of control in our busy lives.
FFW: What would you say is the Monji Tea brand personality?
MONJI TEA: It’s definitely warm and nurturing, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously. There is a sneaky sense of humour that is very dry and uniquely Australian.
FFW: What kind of feedback have you received from customers about your products?
MONJI TEA: I love feedback – good or bad (but especially good!). In fact, I often use it to inspire my copywriting (something I do not enjoy doing). Here are a few of my favourites:
“I have purchased this product many times as gifts for the special friends and people I have in my life. Everyone that has received them has found the tea and daily tips helpful for getting through the day and sharing with other people in their life to offer some positivity into their world. This is why I love Monji Tea Daily Tips. They are messages of goodness that bring delight into people’s worlds"
"They just make teatime better. I often sit and reflect when having a cup of tea, it’s ‘me’ time and the positive quote just brings a little more joy to this time.“
"I love drinking tea and enjoy reading the daily tips. I am also impressed that young, vulnerable women help with the packaging."
And this one I got from a gift note: “To my big sister, positive thoughts to make your cups and day better.”
FFW: Apart from the retail packs, what else does Monji Tea offer?
MONJI TEA: We have a range of 10pk pyramid teabags with hand folded tags featuring inspirational quotes or poetry in the themes of Inspiration, Booklovers, Love and New Parent. These are mostly bought for gifting.
We also have our popular hug mug. It’s a really good quality tea-drinking mug with the quote: “I look like a teabag but I feel like a hug” on it.
When we went into COVID-19 lockdown, I launched my online Hug in a Mug Gift box, which contains a hug mug and Daily Tips pyramid teabags. It has been immensely popular, and I’ve counted 20 different reasons as to why people are gifting them to their family and friends. Mother’s Day was a hit. With the recent exposure to new consumers, I’d love to be able to point them to retail outlets for their second, third and fourth purchases.
FFW: Do you provide any point of sale information for retailers?
MONJI TEA: Yes, I have corflutes, sales presenters, flyers, posters and wooden display boxes, all available on request.
FFW: Is Monji Tea suitable for gifting?
MONJI TEA: Very much so. Many of my customers buy Daily Tips for others, with the intention of being ‘with’ them or sending them a hug when they have their cup of tea.
FFW: How would you suggest retailers promote your tea in store?
MONJI TEA: Talk about its uniqueness, the fact that it makes teatime better (solves a problem), and is Australian owned and made.
FFW: Do you happen to be a fan of another food or beverage brand – perhaps with a similar philosophy – that you’d like to mention here?
MONJI TEA: I’m a fan of Madame Flavour, for the brand’s warmth and nurturing messaging plus the mindfulness aspect. I love her Lemongrass and Ginger teabags.
I also like Mayvers – they say on their jars: “We are a family owned Australian company that’s committed to a healthier, happier society!” I’m a big fan of their Original Super Spread.
I admire the packaging and creativity of the edgy coffee brands – you know the ones – but I’ll never be quite that cool!
FFW: And finally, what would be a coveted achievement for Monji Tea?
MONJI TEA: That’s a hard one, because I just want as many women as possible to get more joy from their teatime, but if it exists then I’d love to win Australia’s Favourite Teabag, measured in some sort of happiness scale rather than sales alone.