Meet Corinne Noyes – avid tea lover, business woman, adventurer, mother and creator of the Madame Flavour Tea Range. Here she shares the inspirational tea-creating journey that took her from a spare room in Melbourne to the luscious mountains of Sri Lanka. Also: the people that guide her; the things that matter most; and her tips on living a life that is “rich and satisfying”.
When I opened my first tin of Madame Flavour tea I was chuffed to see the little personal message from you, telling the story of your journey into tea making. It is a beautiful touch.
I’m glad you felt that way about the note. I was in Sri Lanka on my first trip alone. I’d left my family, including my baby daughter at home in Melbourne; and had the incredible smells of Australian herbs in my luggage. I stayed at the Galle face hotel where my mother had stayed previously. She lived in Sri Lanka and met my father there in the early 60’s. Anyway, I’d seen them printing the first packs that day and was so excited. They were beautiful. But it felt like something was missing. A direct connection with the women who would be buying Madame Flavour. So from my room, looking out at the Indian ocean I wrote that note.Then signed 1000 of them by hand, because that is something you would never usually find in a supermarket.
In your note you speak of your journey starting with a passion…what makes you so passionate about tea?
I guess my note illustrates that the passion for me is in the personal touch; the care and quality; and in surprising and delighting tea drinkers. I’m passionate about tea for so many reasons! It is a plant that is grown, plucked, and transformed into a drink; by people who tend to it in countries around the world; and it has been enjoyed with great ritual all over the world for centuries. There is a richness to tea. And for us, it is a symbol of relaxing; of slowing down; of taking a moment. My passion is in making an for women that makes that as valuable as it can be – by providing lovely blends, teas from traditional sources, and the addition of some of my own personal stories.
Speaking of personal stories… I’ve read your blog and you have had so many travel adventures – you must have met some amazing people and learnt so much from other cultures. Can you tell us about a significant travel moment?
Last year I took my daughter and two of the Madame Flavour team to visit tea estates we buy from, which I visit every year. The tea leaves are plucked only by Tamil women, who rarely see customers.I asked to spend time with the pluckers. At first they were very shy, but my daughter was straight up to them, a little cultural bridge; using her few words of Tamil she asked to be shown how to pluck the leaves. We quickly made a woman to woman and mother to mother connection amongst the tea bushes on that mountain. It was a special moment.
The way I see it, life is all about the special connections you make with others. Who are the women in your life that inspire you?
- My mother – an adventurer and business women in the early days when women weren’t doing it yet.
- My best friend – lives by her values and is an incredible coach.
- My guide – a wise woman who affirms, gently guides, encourages the feminine, and always knows how to empower.
Feeling empowered is so important. What’s your tip for balancing all the different aspects of your life?
Balancing our lives is the challenge; it is called living a life we love. It’s the moving target. Just when it seems in balance, we are challenged again. I wonder whether the notion of a balanced life is even a useful concept?
But to answer your question, like all women - I struggle! I try to stay focused on the things that matter most to me. The number of opportunities we have as women (ie. we can do anything), plus our tendency to be very responsible and our multi focus (always seeing all there is to do); means we need to get clear on our priorities.
The things that matter most to me are:
- Connection, care, creativity and discovery - with myself, other human beings and nature. Spending quality time with my daughter - teaching her about nature, looking in her eyes so that she is seen and heard and known, and doing these things regularly.
- Running a business that makes a difference to people – our customers, the team, our suppliers.
- Being kind to myself – by staying connected with my friends and family, and nurturing my passions like creating new blends; writing stories; and exploring new cultures.
Knowing this, I still need structures to keep me present to these things – being in nature helps with slowing down, so does a lovely cup of tea.
And finally, I am gently cultivating important skills. Like learning that it’s ok to say no and establishing clearer personal boundaries.
These are the ways I try to live a life that is rich and satisfying. And when I feel it is ‘not that’ – which is often; I go back to these to see which is missing.
That’s a great approach. I read that you also love salsa dancing. I would love to be able to dance - I’ve got the rhythm but two left feet! What other things do you do to relax and unwind?
I spend time in nature. I’m building a little rammed earth house on 40 acres of mostly uncleared rainforest in South Gippsland. It is isolated, full of lyrebirds, wombats, wallabies and koalas. And has Mountain Pepper growing wild, which I use in my Sultry Chai.
I call it Paradis – which is Heaven in French.
That sounds amazing, I imagine you’ll be drinking many a cup of tea under the veranda in years to come! What’s your favourite blend, and how do you enjoy it?
I drink a lot of Grey de Luxe – with milk and sugar. It’s my comfort cup. I love the Australian Lemon Myrtle from Gary in Lismore, and the malty Assam tea from Jamguri Estate.
Then I drink Mint Lavender Tisane every evening – for hydration and it soothes and relaxes me. Peppermint, spearmint, lavender flowers and the touch of peppermint gum from Gippsland are perfect for me.
Your teas contain a lot of exotic herbs and spices! Have you ever been suspected of smuggling contraband into the country when returning with your tea treasures from overseas? :)
My February trip this year I took 30 kg of Aniseed Myrtle, a wonderful Australian native herb, as luggage (and very few clothes!) to put into a new blend. It smelt amazing and I was a little concerned about customs – but luckily walked right though!
Haha so thankfully being suspected of smuggling contraband wasn’t the biggest hurdle you have faced in launching the Madame Flavour range! Can you tell us what was?
Where do I start!?
Starting the business unexpectedly in the spare room, we had only a small amount of savings. So making the financials work was full on – borrowing little bits here and there, convincing the banks, mortgaging everything we owned. This is an ongoing challenge.
Being able to make the teas on time after Woolworths accepted the range but needed them within three months – that was when I jumped on the plane to Sri Lanka!
And now we are competing with enormous multi-national tea companies, the challenges are around how to do that as a team of just seven. But we are a pretty amazing team if I do say so myself. :)
Sounds like your passion, drive and great support network have enabled you to tackle hurdles a lot of us would be overwhelmed by. What simple philosophy do you live your life by?
Stay in touch with what matters to you. We are not here for long. It is too easy to be buffeted about by ‘how life is’.
That’s fantastic advice, Corinne. Thanks so much for sitting down with Mama Pyjama and sharing your adventures and experience with us. You’re doing an amazing job sharing your passion with the world. We wish you every success and happiness going forward, and thank you for making our tea moments luxurious and lasting memories. xo