18 Questions with Caroline MacDougall

by Giselle Chollett

Twenty-five years ago Caroline MacDougall had a dream, literally, about the next product that she was going to create. Not too far after, Caroline embarked in a delicious and as she describes, “amazing journey” with the creation of a company that brings wellness to people through its unique roasted caffeine-free beverages that can be brewed like coffee or steeped like tea. And so Teeccino was created. We chose Caroline, Founder & CEO of Teeccino Caffé, as our eco-maven, 18 questions this month.

1. What’s your name, and what’s your occupation?

Caroline MacDougall, Founder & CEO of Teeccino Caffé

2. Tell us about Teeccino and that dream that you woke up from in 1993?

I’ve been an herbal tea designer since the 1970’s, creating teas for many top tea companies. In the mid-90’s, I was working on a line of teas for The Republic of Tea when I had a dream in which I heard myself say, “The next product I’m going to create is a caffeine-free cappuccino and the name of the product is Teeccino.” My first thought upon waking up was whether or not I could get herbs to brew through an espresso machine.

I had always loved the flavor of a roasted beverage, but I couldn’t drink coffee because I’m sensitive to both its caffeine and acidity. I borrowed a friend’s little espresso machine and started roasting and grinding herbs in my kitchen. The dream didn’t tell me how to spell “Teeccino” but I went with the double “ee” instead of “ea” because Teeccino doesn’t contain any tea, which actually is the leaves of a single plant, Camellia sinensis. By spelling is “Tee”, I felt I had a hybrid of both the “T” from tea and the “ee” from coffee – a fun way to interpret the dream!

Dreams of course can be far more challenging to pull off than they seem when you have them. However, Teeccino has given me quite an amazing journey over the last 25 years and now it’s latest stage of development seems like it is more exciting than ever!

3. When was the company founded?

The official incorporation date was June 1994, but our first trade show where we launched Teeccino into the marketplace was not until 1995.

4. Can you describe the process to produce roasted herbal coffees & teas?

Each herb is roasted individually, then ground and sifted to our specifications which are very exact in order to achieve the right grind for brewing in all kinds of coffee equipment as well as putting into tea bags. Our tea bags hold 3 times more herbs than standard tea bags so the grind is equally important to make sure it steeps perfectly in our tea bags.

5. Where do you source your ingredients?

Our herbal ingredients come from Europe, India, Central America, and California. Many are wild harvested like our dandelion root from E. Europe, our carob pods from countries around the Mediterranean Sea, and our ramón seeds from the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

We are proud of pioneering new trade in rural communities for some of our unique ingredients like the ramón seeds that provides a source of income for women and their families where the opportunity to earn money can be scarce to non-existent.  We also work with small holder farmers in India to grow our organic chicory which we pioneered with our sister company, Organic India. Over the last 15 years, we’ve developed a fair trade commodity for these family farmers who struggle for enough income to support their families on very small parcels of land.

6. Tell us about your star products, what makes them special? How many products do you have in total?

There are 36 Teeccino flavors including 9 new ones, which are launching this summer. They are grouped into 5 blend categories depending on ingredients. We have such a wide range for 2 reasons. For one, there is a great diversity of taste preferences and what appeals to one person, may not to another. My first products like Vanilla Nut and Mocha are called our Mediterranean blends because all the ingredients I used originally came from there. They have a rich body with roasted almonds and are slightly sweet from dates and figs. The Mediterranean blends are beloved by those who usually add sugar to their brew but can either eliminate or reduce the sugar when drinking Teeccino. Then we have our Maya blends that feature the wild harvested ramón seed from the Maya Biosphere Reserve. These blends, like French Roast and Maca Chocolate, don’t have any sweetness at all and appeal to the purist coffee drinker who wants a bitterer cup.

Secondly, we have so many flavors because there are so many wonderful functional and tasty herbs with which to blend. Our line of Dandelion Blends appeal to people who want the functional health benefits of dandelion root combined with super herbs like turmeric, cinnamon or peppermint. These flavors range from more coffee-like to more tea-like.

Now we are launching 2 new categories of blends: Mushroom Adaptogen blends and Prebiotic SuperBoost™ blends. Adaptogens have been around since the ‘50’s but suddenly people are interested in their healthy properties especially as we worry about our immune systems. Wellness mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in Asia, but Americans are just learning about their wonderful ways they can affect our bodies.

Teeccino has always had prebiotic from inulin, a soluble fiber from chicory root that naturally extracts during brewing. Now we boosted its prebiotic effects on the microbiome by adding 2 prebiotic concentrates, vegan GOS (galacto-oligosaccharides) and organic XOS (xylo-oligosaccharides). There are amazing things being revealed daily by studies of the microbiome and I agree with the predictions that prebiotics will become even more popular that probiotics in the next few years.

Our mission at Teeccino has been from its beginning to provide herbal beverages that support people on their path towards optimal health. Our new functional blends are dedicated to further that goal!

7. What’s your Teeccino’s favorite drink, and why?

You’re asking me to pick favorites among my children! I am drawn to what I want to drink according to my mood, the time of day, the season, the weather in that season, etc. Really, there is a time for all of them although right now, I’m drinking my new flavors the most because one, they’re new and two, I want the health benefits they offer by reducing stress and supporting my immune system. Some of their names are Chaga Ashwagandha, Mango Lemon Balm, Reishi Eleuthero, Macadamia Nut, Cordyceps Astragalus and Dark Chocolate.

8. What advice can you give to those readers that can’t have caffeine and can turn to Teeccino as an alternative?

If you’re just beginning your journey towards being caffeine free, you’ll want to wean yourself off of caffeine so you don’t suffer from nasty caffeine withdrawal symptoms. If you brew coffee, you can combine Teeccino with your coffee and slowly reduce the amount of coffee over 2 weeks. If you’re a tea drinker, reduce the number of cups of tea daily and drink Teeccino instead.

Teeccino provides a natural energy boost that comes from the pinitol in carob, a compound which studies show helps reduce insulin resistance, as well as easily absorbable potassium. You’ll find that after several weeks to several months, depending on how exhausted your adrenal glands were, you’ll have more energy than ever before!

9. Tell us what makes your brand stand out from the rest?

There really isn’t another brand like Teeccino. We have this niche of roasted caffeine-free beverages that can be brewed like coffee or steeped like tea. With the variety of flavors and herbs in our blends that all have a roasted body, there really isn’t a direct competitor. Some brands have a couple of dandelion teas, others have instant coffee alternatives, but no other brand has a full line of roasted herbal beverages with the diversity of flavors and brewing methods that Teeccino offers.

10. How do you see the industry evolving in the next 5 years, especially after going through COVID-19?

I believe more people will brew at home. People will still want new experiences and they will want to get together socially, but there will be increased awareness about how fun it is to make your own beverage recipes using all kinds of brewing methods.

Additionally, people will continue to buy more of their stable grocery product online and that means they’ll have more awareness of new and different products. In a retail store, it is harder to create visibility for unique products like Teeccino but online, organic search as well as paid advertising makes it much easier to become visible to new customers.

11. How did you life evolve after founding Teeccino? What are the most rewarding and most challenging parts of your job nowadays?

I was a mother with 2 young boys when I founded Teeccino. My youngest son was 6 years old. Now he’s 31 and he’s my Vice President of Sales! You’d think I wouldn’t be so busy without young children, but having

Teeccino is like having a 3rd child who keeps having more needs instead of less!

I’m as passionate now about Teeccino’s mission as I was when I founded the company but if you can believe it, probably even more so. It’s been a gift and an honor to learn from my customers over the years what Teeccino means to them and how we have impacted the health of so many different people. When someone drinks a cup of Teeccino, we are able to touch their lives and we strive to make that experience a gift to them. We like to say, “Protect the gift of good health with Teeccino!”

12. If you could have a conversation with anyone living or deceased, who would it be?

The Greek herbalist, Galen, for whom I named my youngest son. He was the first Western doctor who combined herbs to make medicinal formulas. I’d love to sit down with him, talk herbs and share a cup of Teeccino!

13. If you could make one big environmental change in the next year, what would it be?

I’d eliminate fossil-fuel-derived plastics and have all plastics be made of a plant-based bioplastic material which would break down to non-toxic compounds that are completely biodegradable whether in a backyard compost pile, a commercial land fill or the ocean. All food packaging would be biodegradable and compostable.

For instance, K-cups are a terrible pollutant. We’ve refused to pack Teeccino in them despite demand because there isn’t a truly biodegradable one. There are biodegradable solutions but the investment in the machinery stops Keurig from ending the production of these cups. It is time for all of us to recognize that we can no longer afford such indulgence in things that pollute both the earth. Tea bags make a better brew, can be made from biodegradable paper and are just as convenient!

14. How do you see the future of sustainability worldwide? We have a huge job to turn around the agricultural industry in favor of regenerative agricultural practices. It is a matter of governmental leadership, which is lacking now. Nevertheless, at the grassroots, more change is slowly coming about and now some very large food companies are committing to buying their organic ingredients from sources here in the US.

We Americans consume 5% of our food, as organic yet only 1% of our agricultural land is certified organic. We have a big job to do right here at home. I’m hopeful that climate change will finally take a leading role in this next election. Now that we know we can change our economy so drastically for a virus, we should be brave enough to change it for the survival of the human race from an even more dangerous foe!

15. What organizations do you support?

Probably every environmental foundation that you can think of! On our tea bag boxes, we print information about NGOs that we support and want to educate our customers about. Some of these include The Wild Foundation, Vitamin Angels, Direct Relief International, and Cool Effect. WE’re also members of the Organic Trade Association, the American Herbal Products Association and the American Botanicals Association.

16. Who inspires you?

Everyone who serves the higher good and welfare of another person is an inspiration to me. Some people do this as a job and they’re incredibly inspiring like our health care workers who are putting their lives on the line for the rest of us right now. Around the world, environmentalists fight to protect their local environment for the benefit of all of us, near or far. It is an incredibly dangerous job. Many are murdered every year yet they refuse to stop advocating for a healthier planet. Other people work in human rights groups and they put their lives on the line to help those people who are being persecuted in some way. All these people are great sources of inspiration to me.

Those who work selflessly to care for others in our homes also inspire me. Mothers sacrifice every day to care for their children and strangers take care of our elderly. The love that these caretakers bring to their jobs is incredible and my heart is grateful for all of them!

17. What is next for you and your company?

We decided that turning 25 was time to completely revise our image with all new packaging that is rolling out right now. At the same time, we’re launching our 2 new functional lines with 9 new flavors that will usher in a new era for Teeccino. Each time I’ve launched new packaging or created a new line around new ingredients, the Company has taken a leap forward. I’m so excited about these new blends. I think it is fair to say that I’m doing my best work now even after having designed over a hundred herbal beverages in the last 40 years.

I remember thinking somewhere in the early ‘90’s as I was beginning to design teas for the launch of The Republic of Tea (where I still hold the title of “Minister of Herbs), “Does the world need another herbal tea?” I can tell you after all the wonderful herbal beverages I’ve been privileged to bring forth since the answer is a resounding YES!

18. What do you want your legacy to be?

Oh my – I’m so not focused on that. I hope my herbal coffees and teas live on bringing wellness to so many people and that is legacy enough!

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