A middle school teacher in the southern province of Dong Thap has founded a startup business that makes tea from flowers, a money earner of her hometown of Sa Dec, one of the flower hubs of Vietnam’s Mekong Delta.
Tra Hoa Sa Dec (Sa Dec Flower Tea), a start-up tea producer founded by middle school teacher Luong Thi Diem Trinh, now produces 1,000 tea bags each month for its 20 varieties of flower teas, including butterfly pea, artichoke, and pomelo.
While producing flower tea in what is known as the city of flower seems like a natural move, Trinh’s journey to get the business off the ground was not without its challenges.
Businesswoman and teacher
Trinh, 26, has been a biology teacher at Tran Thi Nhuong Middle School in Sa Dec since graduating university with a degree in chemistry - biology education.
Though she loves her job as a teacher, her decision to make a foray into the tea industry came two years ago when she came across a bushel of flower trimmings waiting to be thrown away by gardeners.
That’s when the idea hit her.
“Why don’t I take advantage of these diverse resources from the flower village to develop a flower tea brand,” Trinh found herself wondering.
Of course, launching the Tra Hoa Sa Dec was more easily said than done.
A major hurdle in the company’s earliest days was finding suppliers that could produce flowers that met the standards needed to produce a quality tea.
Trinh tried to persuade gardeners to stop using chemicals, but they refused, often laughing at her for her “lack of understanding.”
That’s when Trinh began seeking out abandoned gardens with wild roses and other flowers.
“The grass was as tall as me and the roses were covered with thorns,” Trinh recalled of her first time in an abandoned garden.
“I remember I only collected a few kilograms of flowers but ended up with numerous cuts on my hands,” the 26-year-old biology teacher said.
“I wanted to give up but I somehow found the courage to keep going.”
|Luong Thi Diem Trinh collects butterfly tea flowers in her family’s garden in Sa Dec, Dong Thap Province. Photo: Thanh Nhon / Tuoi Tre|
After discovering enough abandoned gardens to ensure a steady source of flowers, Trinh faced another challenge – funding the expensive machinery and equipment needed for tea production with her modest teacher salary.
As buying a drying machine was out of the question, Trinh worked with a friend to build her own.
According to Trinh, the biggest challenge in drying the flowers is maintaining their original color and shape.
“It was a real problem because the flowers are vulnerable to high temperatures,” she explained.
“It took hundreds of unsuccessful attempts to dry the flowers before we were successful.”
She added that it takes about 13 kilograms of fresh flowers to produce one kilogram of dried flowers for tea.
Local ingredients only
As her business began to grow, Trinh was able to afford an industrial drying machine and plant her own flower garden.
She also partners with several local farming families to guarantee a clean, organic, and sustainable supply.
In addition to being committed to safe, local ingredients, she is also determined to help working class residents in the city by offering them stable jobs.
In the future, Trinh hopes to continue expanding her business and offer health benefits to her growers.
She also has plans to partner with local schools to host field trips to her production facilities and offer tours to visitors.