While backpacking through South America six years ago, Sam Anglis came across cacao husk tea during a visit to a small chocolate factory in Cusco, Peru.
He discovered the Mayans would use the husks of the cacao bean to make a chocolatey tea rich in antioxidants. The Mayans believed the tea had health benefits and would give power to their kings.
When he returned to New Zealand, he sought a supplier of the tea but came up empty handed as he discovered cacao husks are largely considered a by-product of the chocolate making industry.
“No one was offering cacao husk tea, and from there the idea snowballed,” Anglis reflects.
“They say the best time to start a business is when you have a job. So, I started Mayan Man while still working full-time in the Air Force as an aircraft maintenance engineer.
“I used my own money to start the business, and after about six months it had grown enough to justify leaving work and committing full-time to Mayan Man.”
Hitting its stride
Now in its sixth year of business, his business Mayan Man is hitting its stride.
“To have made it to this point has not been easy, and I am proud of that.”
Anglis says there have been challenges a plenty over the past six years.
“We have faced all the same problems any small business faces. But unique to Mayan Man would be the challenge of convincing consumers to try a new product.
“There are always new products entering the market, but often with multiple companies promoting the new trend, like Kombucha, but in our case, we were the only business out there promoting cacao husk tea.
“This has meant that we have had to solely promote cacao husk tea, which has been a slow process when you’re the only one doing it, but rewarding nonetheless.”
The business wasn’t overly disadvantaged by Covid-19, as it was able to operate during lockdown restrictions.
Anglis says the support the New Zealand public has shown towards small local businesses has been exceptional and helped alleviate downturns.
The Kiwi advantage
“It’s no secret the reputation New Zealand has around the world for producing quality products,” Anglis says.
“Being a small business in New Zealand I think has its advantages as there is so much support from fellow business owners and people working in the food and beverage industry, we’re a tight-knit community.”
While most of Mayan Man’s customer base is within New Zealand with 100% of its stockists being local, it does have overseas sales coming through our online store.
“Our tea has winged its way quite far around the world, including to Belgium, Canada, Sweden and Hong Kong.
“The demand is definitely there for some overseas retailers – we’ve had lots of enquiries from customers all around the world wanting us to stock in their country, Japan is a big fan.”
In July last year, Anglis moved the business from Wellington to Christchurch. Mayan Man operates out of a small factory in Sydenham where it processes and distributes its tea.
Its tea is available in select supermarkets throughout New Zealand, and smaller boutique stores – around 70 stores New Zealand-wide. It also features on the menu of several cafes and restaurants.