Ellis Island Tea was founded in Detroit, Michigan, in 2008 by Nailah Ellis-Brown. The recipe for her sweet tea comes from her great-grandfather, Cyril Byron, who came to America in the early 1900s from Jamaica and ran a catering business in Manhattan from 1940-60. Ellis-Brown inherited the tea recipe and his entrepreneurial drive.
The company’s first retail outlet was Avalon International Breads, followed soon afterward by Westborn Markets, and Whole Foods. A huge leap came in fall 2017 when Sam’s Club began stocking it in Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio stores. The next May, the Detroit product gained shelf space at all of the national chain’s nearly 600 locations.
From brewing the tea in her mother’s basement and selling it out of coolers from the trunk of her car, nationwide sales are now booming for this black American owned business.
The corporate office for Ellis Island Tea is located in Detroit, Michigan.