Butchers, Bakers, & Candy Makers

Locals aim for a slice of the food industry pie


(page 6 of 10)

Joe Uhl

Company: Joseph Wesley Black Tea

Products: All-natural tea sourced from China and India

Distribution: Local businesses via personal delivery, online at josephwesleytea.com

Back story: The journey to start a business can be long — both in time and distance. When Joe Uhl taught in China 13 years ago, he’d talk with tea merchants in Ürümqi. During these gatherings he realized the creation of tea parallels the creation of life. Tea is steeped in a large pot metaphorically referred to as the “mother pot.” Smaller, shot-sized teacups are the “son pots.”

Uhl says this “arrow through my heart” revelation spurred a far-flung dream to open a tea business … some day.

After returning to the Detroit area and attending law school, Uhl practiced law for eight years. But he wasn’t happy, and knew he could do something more engaging. Then a friend reminded him of his tea idea.

His flame rekindled, Uhl quit his job and launched Joseph Wesley Black Tea.

Uhl remains in contact with farmers he met in China, and visited in May to inspect the harvest. He sources seven teas from China and two from India, where he goes “to sample the various lots and to help create the flavor profiles that I want my teas to have,” he says.

More than 15 southeast Michigan businesses sell Uhl’s tea; Cliff Bell’s and Woodbridge Pub sell the beverage by the cup and retail accounts include Zingerman’s and Pure Detroit. He personally delivers the product.

Teas are also available online, and he ships all over the globe. He is seeking co-owners (as of press time, he found one) for financial support. He’s also looking for a distributor to get Joseph Wesley Black Tea onto store shelves and hopes to release a ready-to-drink bottled tea.

Uhl is also working on a book, slated for a spring 2015 release, which will feature the history of tea, recipes, and making the perfect batch.

“I’m in it for the culture,” Uhl says. “I’m really giving you something personal when I’m giving you tea. The tea is just the vehicle to demonstrate this relationship.” — John Domol

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