When Hamilton entrepreneur Meredith Youngson launched Lake & Oak Tea Co. almost five years ago, she couldn’t have predicted her company’s rapid rise to success across the city, country, and even continent.
Before launching her line of all-natural superfood teas, the Dundas native had studied Food and Hospitality at the University of Guelph, developing a passion for cooking that led to her launching her own food blog, Earth & Oven, over ten years ago: a resource that’s still thriving today and loaded with plant-based recipes of Youngson’s own design.
Inspired by a diverse world of international culinary traditions, her talent for crafting nutritious dishes soon became a full-time professional pursuit, landing her a job in Toronto as a recipe developer for one of Canada’s leading meal kit services in 2017.
However, Youngson was simultaneously dealing with some personal health concerns and, through her attempts to create a solution, ended up also creating the initial seeds of Lake & Oak Tea Co. in the process.
“Around this time I was navigating symptoms of anxiety, low moods, and insomnia for the first time, as well as some digestive problems,” explains Youngson. “Being a plant-based nutritionist and cook, my first instinct was to use plants and natural ingredients to help with my struggles.”
Youngson soon got to work on creating her first-ever tea blend to help combat her ailments, ending up with a blend she calls Ashwagandha + Chill, which remains one of Lake & Oak’s popular offerings to this day.
Further unique tea recipes emerged in the process – all derived from natural, plant-based ingredients and designed to be as flavourful as they are functional – and it wasn’t long before Youngson was shaping her own small business around them.
“I found many teas on the market were either tasty or healthy, eco-friendly or beautiful,” she adds. “With Lake & Oak we aim to check all of those boxes – no compromise needed.”
That hard work and attention to detail helped Lake & Oak stand out, with the company growing at a quick enough rate that Youngson was able to leave her job at the meal kit service and take the leap into dedicating herself to her business full-time, moving it from Toronto to Hamilton where it has operated ever since.
The growth has enabled Lake & Oak to create and launch over a dozen popular superfood teas and ‘Super Latte’ blends with more coming down the pipeline, available through more than 200 retailers of all sizes across North America.
Recently, the business even got to open its own brick & mortar facility in the Hammer as a dedicated space for production, warehousing, and distribution of their product line.
It’s a space on Frid Street that Youngson pinned down and transformed with the help of local investment management firm Forge & Foster, who have also helped her realize her vision for the future growth of the business and its place in Hamilton and beyond.
“Forge & Foster is supportive of the plans for growth I have in the space, whether we remain a facility or become a retail store of even a café,” she says. “They appreciate the value Lake & Oak is bringing to Hamilton and Canada. They see the relationship from a holistic standpoint. They want to see the community thrive and be a great place to live and work.”
Though Lake & Oak’s products have landed on shelves across Canada and beyond in everything from small independent shops to larger chains like Indigo, Youngson is also deeply invested in establishing the company as a Hamilton-proud brand with a passion for all things local.
“We are still really trying to get involved in the community and get the word out that we are made in Hamilton!” adds Youngson. “When people find out that we are made here they are so happy and supportive, thrilled to support a local business. We get curious people knocking on our door, wanting to buy directly from the source.”
On top of that, Lake & Oak’s products are readily available from a number of Hamilton’s favourite small businesses and shops, including The Casual Gourmet in Westdale, Dundurn Market, Mrs. Greenway in Dundas, Ottawa Market in the Crown Point neighbourhood, Strathcona Market, and A Greener Place in Waterdown.
Youngson’s passion for plant-based deliciousness also recently led to her inking a deal with Penguin Random House to write a health beverage cookbook called Super Tonics that is set to hit shelves in Spring 2023.
It’s that same passion that continues to be the key in Lake & Oak Tea Co’s engine, and it’s more than likely we’ll continue to see this unique Hamilton tea company swiftly scale its ‘steep’ hill to success.