Ellis Island Tea…Jamaican Sweet Tea from Detroit dream to American Made

Ellis Island Tea...Jamaican Sweet Tea from Detroit dream to American Made

Nailah Ellis-Brown’s Great-Grandfather Cyril Byron in the center (the short one), flanked by some of the cooks who worked with him in his Byron Catering business in The Bronx.

It blossomed simply from a Detroit backyard barbecue. It was there, around 2008, that 20-year old Nailah Ellis-Brown experienced the words of her Boston Bay, Jamaican Great-Grandfather Cyril Byron that his iced hibiscus tea recipe must be “sold, not told.” After having the recipe told to her by her father, and taking a year to master it, young Nailah took to the streets of Detroit selling her tea from a cooler in her car trunk. Her Jamaican sweet tea would sell out daily, with some referring to her as the ‘lemonade girl’.

However, far from being another ‘lemonade girl’ this budding Detroit entrepreneur developed her dream and during a recession too, eventually getting her tea into major stores. Nailah’s tea, birthed from her great-grandfather’s recipe, became known as, Ellis Island Tea. Some six years later, in 2014, Nailah Ellis-Brown opened her own beverage and bottling facility in Detroit where Ellis Island Tea is brewed, becoming the sole African American female beverage maker to own a manufacturing facility. – ( https://corporate.samsclub.com/blog/2018/05/14/how-sweet-it-is-jamaican-sweet-tea-coming-to-a-sams-club-near-you )

Born in 1890 in Jamaica and migrating to the United States through Ellis Island in 1908, Cyril Byron became a master chef for Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line, winning awards for his culinary creations in Manhattan hotels. Byron eventually founded his own successful catering business in the Bronx, NY. What’s more amazing is that he left behind his recipe for Jamaican sweet tea, telling his family, “sold, not told.”

Ellis Island Tea...Jamaican Sweet Tea from Detroit dream to American Made

Nailah Ellis-Brown

Now, today, we have, great-granddaughter, Nailah Ellis-Brown selling Ellis Island Tea in markets such as Whole Foods, Meijer, Kroger, and more recently, as of May 16, 2018, Ellis Island Tea is on the shelves in every Sam’s Club in the United States. – ( http://www.blacknews.com/news/nailah-ellis-brown-black-entrepreneur-ellis-island-tea-deal-sams-club-family-tea-recipe-nationwide/#.)

What timing! A hot summer is an ideal time to sip on some cooling Ellis Island Tea made from natural refreshing ingredients. This iced tea is the only American made Jamaican Sweet Tea, now nationally sold in Sam’s Club in 64-ounce bottles.-  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rqrJNrYjYpY)

It was after re-branding in 2017, with the help of MSNBC Your Business Makeover, that Ellis Island Tea was well-positioned for the Sam’s Club opportunity. That generational business acumen continues, with Ellis-Brown having been included on Forbes 30 Under 30 list in 2016, and making Forbes All-Star List in 2017. Continuing with her great-grandfather’s suggestion of “sold, not told”, Ellis Island Tea also provides services for other small beverage companies who are not yet positioned to afford minimum batch requirements of the larger production outlets.

By Kerriann Toby


Kerriann Toby holds a Master of Counselling and Bachelor of Psychology. She is a dynamic therapist, trained mediator; and educator since 2000. In addition to being a trained educator, mediator, and therapist, she is a certified Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) Professional. Kerriann has also trained in cyber counseling and holds clinical registration with Employee Assistance Professionals Association (EAPA) & Canadian Counselling and Psychotherapy Association (CCPA).

In mid-October 2015 she initiated operations of KarryOn geared toward the provision of a variety of enhancement and developmental services for the individual, groups and the organization; e-Coaching/Counseling, Mediation, EAP Services and the creative presentation of psycho-social information. She can be reached at karryonservices@mail.com.

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