Entrepreneur Spotlight: A Sister-Run Business Brings High-End Tea Stateside
By Andrea Williams
When you ask people about their drink of choice when they’re out and about, hot tea is rarely at the top of the list. It’s a hoity-toity drink that brings to mind aging women with pinkies raised, casually noshing on cucumber sandwiches. But sisters Sonnia Shields and Rena Williams are working to change preconceived notions with their new tea company, SorenTea.
Shields admits that, years ago, the only kind of tea she was used to drinking was the iced variety – with lots of sugar, of course. But everything changed when the Wall Street investment firm she worked for transferred her position to London. Once in the UK, Shields fell in love with the drink, attending afternoon teas and becoming a self-professed “tea snob.” She even took a tea master class, learning everything from how to read tea leaves to the art of cupping.
“I had had hot tea occasionally,” Shields says of her pre-snob days, “but I had never had the bold, rich loose leaf tea that I had in London. It was just a different experience for me.”
So enamored was Shields, that she began thinking about launching a company to share her tea bliss with the world. She had always planned to start a business with her sister and tea seemed the perfect vehicle.
“Before I visited her in London, Sonnia would tell me about her experiences going to afternoon tea, and I knew it was something I wanted to do once I got there,” says Williams. “So I fell in love with tea, but I also fell in love with the idea and the vision for our company.”
That vision is based on opulence, and the sisters have worked hard to develop a top-tier brand that positions their loose leaf blends as an affordable luxury for all occasions – not just sniffles and sore throats.