In 2005 Pete and Monique Ethelston left their successful corporate careers behind and went backpacking through the Himalayas on honeymoon. While sitting in an internet café in Kathmandu they received an email from Pete’s long-time business partner and friend, Carl Pretorius, inviting them to try a rooibos espresso upon their return. Monique, a tea drinker and health guru, and Pete, an entrepreneur and avid sportsman, were both intrigued by Carl’s idea of a healthy alternative to coffee made from herbal rooibos tea that grows only in their native South Africa.
Pete and Monique had already decided to combine their passions for health, wellness and economic upliftment to start a business together. A product that was both uber-healthy and able to create significant employment in South Africa seemed a perfect fit.
Carl invented his caffeine-free rooibos espresso out of desperation. He’d learnt the hard way that drinking six espressos a day isn’t good for you, but he was left cold by all the alternatives. (Tea was too boring; decaf simply didn’t cut it.) Carl knew he was on to something really big, but he also knew he needed an astute, experienced businessman and a solid marketing strategist to help him take it to market.
After just one sip, Pete and Monique (neither of whom drinks coffee) just knew this was a business venture they wanted to sink their teeth and experience into. They understood how an espresso made from naturally caffeine-free rooibos could open up the world of coffee-style drinks to people who – like themselves – were avoiding caffeine for health reasons, sports training and pregnancy. And they were confident that such a product would meet a global need.
These efforts earned red espresso six international awards, including Best New Specialty Product 2008 at the Specialty Coffee Association of America’s flagship show. There, red espresso made history as not only the first tea but also the first South African company ever to win an SCAA award. That same year the World Tea Expo recognized them as one of the top ten new products, globally. Curious about whether their red espresso truly was a concentrated shot of rooibos goodness, they took it to the Antioxidant Research Unit at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology to have its antioxidant levels tested. The numbers bore out their suspicions…and then some. Not only did their rooibos red espresso contain ten times more antioxidants than a cup of regular rooibos tea, but it also had five times more antioxidants than green tea!
When they got back from honeymoon, they teamed up with Monique’s brother, Nic Reid, and Pete’s long-time business partner and friend, Oliver Ryder, to launch red espresso. Nic helped make and pack red espresso, and found the first 1000 café customers in South Africa by selling it from the boot of his car! And Oliver, our CFO from the very beginning, helped Pete establish the business commercially. United in their faith that the product could provide a genuinely healthy alternative to coffee, they set about developing unique coffee-style drinks – including the red cappuccino and red latte that have made red espresso so famous. Prepared in exactly the same way as a coffee cappuccino or latte, and on the very same coffee appliances, these two beverages pioneered healthy café culture and created a brand new beverage category in the process.
Pete, Monique and Nic remain at the helm of red espresso along with Monique’s sister, Kirsty, who joined them in 2008 and is a familiar face to many café customers around South Africa and globally.
“A fancy cool espresso beverage that’s a superfood. As the world’s first red rooibos tea espresso, it is caffeine-free and loaded with antioxidants. Monique and Pete Ethelston, Co-founders of Red Espresso, join us from South Africa to share how they started Red Espresso, what it’s like living in South Africa, how they team up with red rooibos farmers and practice fair trade. They have been giving back to the community in so many ways while creating a healthy, fancy, cool espresso beverage.” My Favorite Coffee Story, Voice America Live Internet Talk Radio
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