Steeped in the outdoors

David and Shelley Evans take inspiration from Revelstoke to create a tea that is entirely waste-free.

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Oteas co-owner Shelley Evans with the goods. Oteas counts a biodegradable teabag among its innovations. Photos: Contributed

For David and Shelley Evans, co-owners of Oteas, setting up shop in Revelstoke was a no-brainer. Like their teas, these two business-savvy and outdoorsy locals are totally steeped in an appreciation for the environment.

In fact, says Shelley, having a product that mirrors their values and interests is more important than the nature of the product. David and Shelley are avid skiers, hikers, gardeners, and horseback riders. And it so happens that Oteas is currently the only packaged tea in North America that is entirely environmentally sound.

The tea sachets are made from cornstarch, the string tags are biodegradable (printed with vegetable ink), and the inner liner around the tea and sachets are made from a plant-based biofilm — it’s wood pulp!

Photo: Oteas

“We also have a great product. Our packaging means nothing without a great product,” says David. “The whole package, no pun intended, is the best we can do.”

But the packaging sure is great. And it’s the reason the teas made a name for itself. For $6.99 (that’s what they suggest as a retail price), you get 15 cups of tea that will leave behind virtually no trace. Compared to other tea products, which are often made from cellulose and cotton, it’s easy to see why consumers are opting for the zero-waste alternative.

“It’s loose leaf tea in an environmentally friendly bag,” says Shelley. And few understand the need for an exceptional yet convenient product like Shelley does. The businesswoman grew up in North Vancouver’s mountains and made a career doing business in ski towns. Adventure has always been a part of her everyday—and that comes with a need for practical items. Both David and Shelley wanted a product that people could easily bring with them on their exploits.

Running a business from a land-locked island

The unique biodegradable Oteas bag. Photo: Oteas

David and Shelley first learned about Oteas from a friend in the UK, where David was born and raised. The company’s founder, Paresh Thakker, was an acquaintance of this friend, and he was looking for people to invest in and take charge of the company. They were totally sold on the tea, but the packaging had a bit too much plastic for their liking. A few modifications and two years later, the two locals, who employ Shelley’s niece Kris as their sales manager, consider Oteas a family business.

The company is run virtually from the owners’ passive home, which they had built by local contractors and heat with a woodchip biomass furnace. A big feat for a sprawling 10-acre property — yet unsurprising considering their company’s commitment to nature. The owners have the resources here to breed and train horses, and they also grow most of their own vegetables.

Despite the challenges of running an international business from a location so notoriously remote (we’re mostly talking Canada Post problems), their lifestyle is the reason they do what they do.

“If you want to live here and do what you love, you have to bring your work with you or find a niche for yourself,” says Shelley. Be prepared for your business to take longer to start up, they advise.

Still in its early years, you can already find Oteas dominating tea isles all over North America. The teas, of which there are 19 in total, are available at Save-On-Foods, Safeway, Sobeys, Loblaws, Whole Foods, Nature’s Fare, and online at Ocado.com, the UK-based online supermarket.

Of course, David and Shelley are no strangers to business. David has a background in the stock market and Shelley was Director of Sales for Whistler Blackcomb. Both are also the brains behind Mackenzie Village. And with backgrounds so impressive under their belts, we can only imagine how the Revelstoke-based company will flourish in the coming years.