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Meet Kerry ~ Tea Associates Bendigo


Kerry McCuskey's obsession with tea began as a young girl. She recently left her corporate job to purse her passion for creating a beautiful blend and launched Tea Associates this year.


Meet Kerry ~ Tea Associates Bendigo


Photography by Kate Monotti Photography 

Tell us about your business and how it started?

My dream was to start a business about a product that I'm passionate about and that product is tea.

I've been obsessed with tea from a young age, so every part of the Tea Associates journey has been carefully considered, right down to the finest details.

Tea Associates products are sourced through registered Australian companies and are as organic as they can be. Products are lovingly blended in Bendigo using my own recipes. My packaging is re-usable, re-fillable and biodegradable, including tea bags. The environment is very important to me, so I wanted to ensure that my business would support ethical processes.

There is an art to enjoying a cup of tea and taking time out to relax and slow down. Experience the sensation; break from reality, if only for a little while. Indulge and experience the power of tea.

What is your biggest achievement in business?

In reality, my business has only been established this year, however I believe my biggest achievement is being able to partner with other local businesses and cafes to get my teas into the market.

It is a very competitive industry. My point of difference is that the blends are my recipes, born and bred in Bendigo and passionate about my products and the environment; my business needed to reflect these beliefs.

The Tea Associates logo is Celtic in design, representing my Irish heritage whilst the blends are a strong representation of my birthplace, Bendigo. I'm very proud of my logo which was also designed by a local business and hope that one day it will be very recognisable. I'm proud to be a local Bendigonian.

What challenges or hurdles have your faced in business?

There have quite a few challenges in starting this business. Some questions put to me were, 'Why would you want to start a tea business?', 'There's plenty of places selling tea' and 'What about T2? You'll never be like them'. The list goes on and on. So before I even started, I was beginning to lose confidence in my ability to actually live my dream with Tea Associates.

I'm from a large family and have a beautiful circle of friends, who supported and pushed me to get Tea Associates "off the ground".

I decided that 2020 was going to be my year, so I set myself small goals, left the corporate world and then COVID-19.

COVID was a big hurdle - not just for my business but lots of businesses - however it did force me to slow down. I was able to launch my website and with support from other local businesses, I was able to get my product to market and commence online sales. The next hurdle was getting product deliveries on time so I could keep up with the orders.

Nothing is ever "smooth sailing" so you need to be adaptable, quick to change and ready to go because there will always be challenges.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?

I absolutely love my business, especially when blending my own recipes. I work to my schedule and it's wonderful having the flexibility of creating my own diary.

I work from home but sometimes that can be a challenge - knowing when to switch off. However, when I get on a roll it's very difficult for me to stop, so I pop the kettle on, brew a pot of tea, sit down and relax.

I love owning my business and being my own boss.

What is your next big project?

I'm working on creating made to order tea gift boxes to suit all budgets. I'll have this available on the website and customers will need to answer a few questions and I'll work with them to make sure that the gift boxes meet their budget.

I will be approaching major businesses in the region to see if we could introduce care packages for their staff. I worked with Westpac in Bendigo recently, who are also supporting local business and put together over 30 tea gift boxes which they gave out to their customers. They had some fabulous feedback and such a nice gesture from a corporate company.

I'm also getting ready to launch three new blends which is so exciting and I can't wait to get them on my website and into the market. I've had the blends out for tastings and the feedback has been amazing.

Last but not least, I want to produce a quarterly newsletter which will contain a "teatail" recipe, similar to a cocktail.

What is the best piece of business advice you were given?

Just get started! If you expect everything to be perfect, then you'll never get your business off the ground. Expect to make mistakes and learn from them. Once is a mistake, however same thing second time is a choice.

Is there anything better than...

  • The art of enjoying a cup of tea.
  • Taking time out to relax, stop and smell the roses.
  • Cuppa time is me time.
  • Experience the sensation; break from reality, if only for a little while.
  • Have a favourite cup? use them, they weren't made to gather dust.
  • Dream and make plans.
  • Indulge and experience the power of tea.

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Tea Associates produce beautiful artisan teas lovingly blended in Bendigo by Kerry McCuskey.

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