Herbal aficionado Caroline MacDougall received dream guidance for the product that would launch her own company and revolutionize the healthy beverage industry.
by Joyce Lynn
In a dream, I am talking to the founder of the Republic of Tea, and I hear myself say, “The next product I am going to create will be a caffeine-free cappuccino, and its name will be (phonetically)’TEA CHEE NO.”
At the time of her dream in the fall of 1993, Caroline MacDougall, sensitive to caffeine herself, was developing herbal drinks for the then embryonic company Republic of Tea. Today she is founder and CEO of Teeccino Caffé, maker of the top-selling coffee alternative.
MacDougall’s dream identified a personal and niche market need for an herbal coffee. Dream guidance combined with her pioneering experience in the tea industry, a passion for herbs, a commitment to healthy living, and a deep respect for indigenous people and their cultures fused to create MacDougall’s astounding success.
The year after the dream, MacDougall launched her own company and in 1995 began marketing the acid-free, alkaline-inducing herbal coffee to natural foods and specialty stores. Today, Teeccino is the number one-selling coffee alternative in the U.S., with a 50% market share. Unlike instant and freeze dried caffeine-free coffee alternatives, Teeccino is designed to be brewed to release the health benefits of the herbs, grains, fruits and nuts and enhance freshness and flavor.
More than a year ago, I visited the company’s website to find out if the paper filters for brewing Teeccino were dioxin free. (They are oxygen bleached.) The About Our Company banner proclaiming “Inspired by A Dream and Desire to Preserve the Rainforests” caught my attention and inevitably prompted me to interview MacDougall.
We talked via mobile phones as she drove from Santa Barbara, her home base, to San Francisco for a string of meetings.
MacDougall’s dream proffered the would-be product’s name but not how to spell it. Spelling the first part of the brand name t-e-a would be confusing because the product was not a tea but a coffee alternative. MacDougall decided upon the more enigmatic t-e-e, added the double c’s and suffix from cappuccino, the Italian espresso, yielding Teeccino as the spelling for the product and the company name. The caffeine-free coffee brews, looks, and tastes like coffee but is made from naturally caffeine-free herbs, in short, an herbal coffee.
She borrowed a vintage espresso machine from a friend’s father to brew the coffee-like blend. Roasting and grinding the ingredients were unfamiliar to the herbal tea expert. Eventually she expanded from making the herbal coffee in espresso machines to drip, French press pots, and percolators.
MacDougall offered she has “received inspiration” from her dreams for years. She does not ask for answers to specific business questions or issues because dreams spontaneously guide her work. Waking from a night of sleep, MacDougall recognized the herbs and other ingredients making the original Teeccino tasty and healthy were from the Mediterranean: chicory grown in France and orzo (barley) from Italy, as well as carob, dates, almonds, and figs.
Caroline MacDougall brewing Teeccino
In the summer of 1994, MacDougall envisioned images from Mediterranean countries decorating Teeccino’s pouch-like bags. Designing the packaging led MacDougall to discover a dramatic family connection: her great-grandmother, Alice Foote MacDougall, a colorful figure in New York City during the early 1990s, owned coffee shops and eventually a gourmet coffee-roasting business. Alice decorated her restaurants with Mediterranean scenes. MacDougall found they shared, nearly a century apart, the struggles of businesswomen and single mothers.
IS readers know dreams have motivated innovation in culture and science as well business. Twice, dreams led the 19th century German chemist August Kekule to major scientific discoveries, including configuration of the Benzene molecule. Paul McCartney has said a dream contributed to creating the Beatles’ best-selling song Yesterday.
As a child, MacDougall was discouraged from listening to her dreams, but the family modus operandi had little effect on her. In the early 1970s while immersed in work in the Amazon rainforests, she read antique books about herbs in her dreams. Her passion for the nutritional benefits of herbs and for the locales where they grow was most likely born in those nighttime visions.
She began her career importing herbs for the pioneering herbal tea company Celestial Seasonings. Later, in Europe, she apprenticed with renowned herbalist Juilette de Bairacli Levy. She then formulated herb-based beverages for the Yogi Tea Company, Uncle Lee’s Tea, Organic India, and other tea makers. She introduced Americans to herbs, popular as food or drink in other countries, like the red tea rooibos and from India tulsi tea and created the first caffeine-free chai.
MacDougall added a Maya flavors line featuring ramon seeds wild-harvested in Guatemala to the original Mediterranean blends a half dozen years ago. The sustainable business practice creates trade and income for the villagers. The company works with small farmers in India to cultivate organic chicory.
MacDougall offered “very real” dreams have helped her work out “emotionally-charged” issues. Years ago in dreams, she reconciled her love of water with a low-key fear of drowning. In one dream, she struggled mired in a river of rushing water, afraid she might drown. Suddenly, she said, “I found a rope underwater and pulled myself to the other side.”
(IS loves this dream as a metaphor for the lifeline dreams tender in our daily lives as we face life’s challenges.)
In other dreams, MacDougall’s childhood dog, a herder, became a surrogate, a guardian, helping to open the nurturing, maternal part of her psyche.
MacDougall hikes in the mountains near her Santa Barbara home, practices yoga, and has been a vegetarian for decades. Her passion: to help others create optimal health, improve the lives of women in developing countries, and sustain the planet. Her nighttime sleep sessions enable MacDougall to extend the positive vision of health in ways original to her interests, skills, and talents.
Recently, after a night of dreaming, she realized upon waking part of Teeccino Caffe’s business plan needed revision. She followed the dream prompt. “It was a wise decision,” she said. “Clearly, my dreams continue to help guide the company’s development.”
Dream guidance, she concurred, is “a good business practice tool.”