• Q|A Jeff Champeau

    Sparkling tea is on a trajectory akin to small-batch, craft-brewed beer where carefully selected ingredients are individually prepared to showcase their best characteristics. Recipes emphasize balance, with efficacy and taste foremost. Excellence in blending and brewing preserves high concentrations of polyphenols and other beneficial plant compounds with minimum calories, nothing artificial, the convenience of cans and the fun of fizz.

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    Rishi Tea & Botanicals VP Jeff Champeau on sparkling botanicals.

    Jeff Champeau, vice president of business development at Rishi Tea & Botanicals
    Jeff Champeau, vice president of business development at Rishi Tea & Botanicals

    Healthful Effervescence

    Jeff Champeau, vice president of business development at Rishi Tea & Botanicals in Milwaukee, Wis., explains that marketing seasonality is a great way to introduce craft-brewed tea into our lives.

    Dan Bolton: Jeff, is fizzy tea destined for mainstream consumption? Will authentic craft-brewed, plant-based, low-sugar, lightly carbonated genuine teas and herbal infusions overcome barriers to distribution to become a significant revenue source for the beverage industry?

    Jeff Champeau: Absolutely. And that is something that all of us in the tea industry around the world should be proud of and should celebrate. This is like coming home. This is a very exciting time to seesugared soft drinks, sodas and beverages being something people are turning away from en masse. They’re looking for more healthful alternatives. It is an awesome trend. Tea has been around for 5,000 years, it’s resilient, and there’s a reason for it. Tea speaks to our soul. It’s healthful. It enlightens us. It’s one of the most ancient plants that people have ever been connected to. And it’s about time that it hasmuch of the consumer market paying attention. It’s so delicious you don’t need sweetener to appeal to the everyday palate, the everyday consumer out there.

    Dan: Breaking the sugar habit appears to be a primary driver of sales.

    Jeff: If you’re using high quality ingredients, if you’re using skillful blending techniques you can deliver a very interesting complex taste without added sweeteners. That’s something that people can really feel deeply refreshed by ? not just satiated. Something that tastes good that scratches that itch to refresh my palate after food.

    Soda may satiate them in the moment, but you can’t have two or three or four of them without feeling it in your belly. Something that really has the kind of cleansing hydrating effect of sparkling tea — that’s something you can really feel refreshed by and drink several. That’s what we sought to achieve with the sparkling botanicals.

    Dan: Tell me more about the characteristics of the new line.

    Jeff: Our sparkling botanicals are brewed using real plants to deliver real virtue. They’re the same super premium direct trade botanicals and teas that we use in our loose leaf and sachet tea blends, many of which are certified organic.

    We microbrew them using proprietary brewing techniques to yield a really balanced and craft brewed tea that is sparkled up with a carbonated water.

    Using rare citrus and achieving a unique balance with teas with herbs, botanicals, spices, were able to develop, a two-year shelf life product with no added sugar, no added sweeteners of any kind, nothing artificial, only zero to two grams of sugar per can, using real infused fruits like berries or citrus.

    Craft brewed sparkling tea
    Micro-brewed sparkling teas and botanicals

    And these offer only 5 to 15 calories, which is really speaking to the fact that they have real plants.

    It all comes down to that part of the balance. You’re getting the balance of the polyphenols, the tannins that are extracted, whether that’s from tea leaves or from of the super fruit botanicals and fruits that we’re using in some of the profiles.

    We have six tasty profiles, with two more scheduled to be introduced online later this year for distribution next spring. Our MSRP is from $2.99 to $3.49 per 12-ounce can. Ordered online a 12-pack sells for $40. Subscribers pay $36.

    Schisandra berries
    Schisandra berries grow like a grapes on a vine. The taste is a balance of sweet, sour, salty, bitter and pungent.

    Dan: Will you describe the functional plant-based ingredients in these blends.

    Jeff: The Schisandra Berry from Northeast China is just amazing. It is an adaptogen that helps the body regulate physical and mental stress. It is used in traditional Chinese and Korean medicine. It’s also been used for centuries as a beauty tonic, to detox the liver, to maintain healthy skin and even an aphrodisiac.

    It is called the five-flavor fruit. The outside of the fruit is a little bit salty, the flesh is sweet and tart in a nice balance. The pit is bitter and pungent and a little spicy. It is a mood booster said to deliver energy to the five meridians and to balance chi. It has an amazingly refreshing character with a color like a sparkling rosé.

    • Schisandra Berry – An adaptogenic elixir crafted from a single ingredient: forest grown schisandra berry.
    • Turmeric Saffron – This is a blend of tangy Golden Berries from the Amazon, lush California lemons and fragrant saffron, the most expesive spice in the world. The ingredients are steeped with forest-farmed turmeric from Burma and jungle-grown green cardamom from Guatemala. The saffron delivers an amazing hue to the infusion. You can really see that there are real plants used to make these drinks.
    • Black Lemon – Black lemon is a high caffeine blend of black tea from from Northern Thailand with a combination of California dried lemon and black lemon from Guatemala. The Guatemala lemon uses an ancient Persian technique to ripen and oxidize the the lemon – a kind of food preservative. It has a bright, citrusy flavor with a malty finish. There are about 50 milligrams of caffeine per can.
    • Dandelion Ginger – My personal favorite contains dandelion root for detox and ginger. It is an anti inflammatory blend that also features a really cool type of tea called Kuro Koji, which is a Japanese green tea that’s fermented with the Koji yeast that’s used in fermented foods. The dandelion root is roasted and the ginger we use is prized for its pungency, aroma, and spiciness. The combination is craft brewed and combined with red chili and detox tonic herbs. It’s like a ginger beer with zero added sugar that offers satisfying depth and heat.
    • Grapefruit Quince – This blend elevates everyday replenishment with juicy hibiscus, aromatic yuzu and succulent quince. We were inspired by traditional Korean herb teas that feature quince to soothe and support easy breathing. Hibiscus is enjoyed throughout the tropics for refreshing, cooling energy and is widely regarded to help lower blood pressure, promote arterial health and support metabolism.
    • Patagonia Maqui – Wild-foraged maqui berry stimulates the palate with accents from red wine grape skins and forest berries to create a sophisticated flavor with an almost wine-like profile. Maqui berries are a prized source of antioxidants like anthocyanins and have been traditionally used by the people of the Patagonia for vitality and cleansing. The Maqui berry is harvested from the Patagonia region of Chile. It brings to life different kinds of health functions that are derived from a variety of ingredients. This one is great on the way to work, at mid-morning break or as something to go with lunch that offers a little caffeine to support digestion. At the dinner table it can be served as an alternative to wine.

    Dan: Will Camellia sinensis or herbal infusions win the race for market share?

    Jeff: I think herbals will lead in North America, there’s a greater variety and different colors, different levels of tartness, ingredients that appeal to the younger drinkers that are maybe newer to the category, but I don’t think that means that we should refrain from using real tea and in developing the lines out further.

    Dan: How will tea companies win over the hearts and minds of consumers with respect to the healthful benefits of tea?

    Jeff: Tea is part of a broader natural products industry in North America, and I think sometimes what we get wrong in the natural products industry is the too much hype around a particular tea or a particular botanical or herbal ingredient. Being on trend can be exhausting for the consumer. It can treat tea and herb like fashion. Tea isn’t fashion, but that kind of misses the real charm of tea. Tea is not fashion. It’s ancient food and medicine.

    Tea can connect us to the rhythms of nature and to the planet. It can access to people far and wide; the growers, the plucking teams, the artisans, and leaf processing teams, the worldwide traders and promoters of tea, the baristas, the grocery merchants, the consumers. But how can farmers and producers be sustained if their particular crops are hot in the market for two years, only to slow down as some other trends takes off?

    So, I think the question is, how do we how we choose to market tea and botanicals in a way that really encourages a deep and steady and earnest interest into infusing tea into our lives.

    Tea is an agricultural product. It has these different waves of the harvest that come throughout theseasons. Year to year those,harvests are going to fluctuate naturally as mother nature gives us what she can.

    If you ask most tea professionals, what’s their favorite tea, most will likely tell you what their favorite tea is, at that moment, because they’re plugged in to the harvest calendar, they’re tracking with what’s fresh and in season.

    Botanicals have their own harvest seasons and new areas of cultivation. If we cultivate a seasonal approach and recognize that, tea, herbal teas, botanical spices, a part of our broader choices in diet and in what we choose to consume.

    It’s good that we introduce variety into our diet. And it’s good that we introduce variety into our tea habits, too, and embrace that seasonal rhythm of the harvest.

    We have an opportunity to really cultivate a dynamic tea culture in North America that celebrates the seasonality of tea. Not every tea is going to be consistent. There’s a beauty in the variety and some of that unexpected that can come year to year and season to season. And we should have a reverence for the tea traditions, connecting us to the deeper philosophy of tea. But we should also feel a sense of creative freedom to draw inspiration from those traditions to offer the North American market new and exciting ways to infuse tea into their lives.

    In doing so we’re going to open up their minds to thinking about tea as something that they choose to drink and enjoy on the daily basis, maybe at some different occasions than we might expect.

    This interview has been edited and condensed.

    Sparkling Botanicals from Rishi Tea & Botanicals

    Sparkling Botanicals

    “We want to focus the passion and creativity of Rishi’s amazing team on something totally new and exciting — something that honors our enduring relationships with farmers and tea drinkers while transcending our core business of dried teas and botanicals. As a selector, importer and taste maker, our natural progression is to make beverages with teas and botanicals that are ready to drink. People love our teas but have less and less time to brew them. Tea drinkers are moving to bottled and canned teas to save their time but have few options that offer premium botanicals and high-end teas brewed without added sugar, sweeteners or acidic preservatives. Our new line of Sparkling Botanicals elevates RTD with craft brewing and meets this demand for real plants with real virtue.”

     -Joshua Kaiser, founder of Rishi Tea & Botanicals

    Sparkling Botanicals

    Rishi Tea & Botanicals
    185 S. 33rd Court
    Milwaukee, WI 53208
    (414) 747-4001


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  • Q|A Ravi Kroesen

    “The perfect cup of tea is one shared with others.” This quote by legendary tea entrepreneur Steven Smith adorns oak paneling of Smith Teamaker’s new café in Portland, Oregon. It’s a café with a tea twist — the plant-based menu features dishes and snacks infused with the company’s premium tea.

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    Teamaker Ravi Kroesen on Smith Teamaker’s new cafe concept.

    Portland's Smith Teamaker Cafe Photo by Andrew Vanasse
    Portland’s Steven Smith Teamaker Café. Photos by Andrew Vanasse.

    A Plant-based Food Café where Tea Reigns Supreme

    The intent of the new café concept, says Smith’s head teamaker Ravi Kroesen, is to “develop foods that reflect our ethos of plants, as well as utilizing tea as an ingredient.” Culinary Director Karl Holl developed the food menu, at the new café working with Kroesen to develop a menu that includes snacks, lattés, and iced concoctions with full meals that demonstrate how tea and food can live in harmony from leaf to cup to plate.

    Jessica Natale Woollard: Beets roasted in jasmine tea; quinoa cooked in Sencha; croissants filled with peppermint tea-infused chocolate. These all sound divine. What are these culinary delights?

    Ravi Kroesen: These are items we have started offering in our new plant-based café up on Northwest 23rd in Portland, Oregon. The concept is to further being a plant-based company, to further the concept in terms of developing foods that really reflect our ethos of plants, as well as utilizing tea as an ingredient.

    Jessica: What flavor combinations of tea and food delighted you the most?

    Ravi: I like the sheep’s cheese, sourced locally, used to make our white petal cheese. We blended in our white petal tea, a floral, slightly fruity white tea, and it creates this incredible new experience.

    Fat, as you may know, works in this process called enfleurage where it takes on aromas very easily. The fat and the cheese brings in all the flavors you find in drinking the tea, so they’re expressed very cleanly. We use that process in a couple different dishes. There’s one in a bowl that is a delight to eat.

    Interior Smith Teamaker Cafe
    Interior Smith Teamaker Café

    The sheep’s cheese comes from a local partner, Black Sheep Creamery. Karl Holl, our culinary director, was very specific in terms of working with local partners, so chocolate, salt, baked goods, those kinds of things, were specifically sought out to have local partners.

    Jessica: I imagine the process of developing the menu was filled with experimentation in your lab?

    Ravi: Karl spearheaded everything and worked with my team in the Tea Lab to fine tune a lot of the concepts. He already had some of the dishes worked out, but there were some that needed some fine tuning, and with our help — guiding and offering suggestions on how to best achieve the final outcome of a really wonderful dish — we worked together to create a wonderful menu. My team was integral, but certainly Karl is the genius in this whole process and the driver.

    Jessica: You just opened the café a few weeks ago, but can you share what menu item has been a popular choice so far? And what you think it is about that item that’s attracting customers?

    Ravi: We have a turmeric noodle bowl. Turmeric is such a recognizable ingredient; we’ve seen a rise in consumption in turmeric-based teas over the last five years. There is an understanding in the consumer consciousness on a broader scale now for turmeric being a beneficial and healthy ingredient. Leading with turmeric as part of the overall makeup of that noodle dish allows people to immediately get what they’re buying. The popularity of that dish shows that people who are coming to buy food at Smith, as well as drink teas, are health conscious as well as looking for new and exciting experiences.

    Jessica: What is your personal favorite item on this lovely menu? This is your chance to persuade us all to visit Portland!

    Ravi: I really do like the masala chai spiced cinnamon sugar bun. If you peel off the layers and eat them bit by bit, you’ll experience how well the masala chai is built into that baked good.

    I love to pair the morning bun with our black lavender latté, which is brewed using an espresso machine, or what we like to call a “teaspresso” machine. The machine’s high pressure combined with the heat creates a large amount of dissolved and suspended solids in the brew, which gives a much thicker, richer experience. That was the intention of espresso machines from the beginning, to create this quality of brew that you can’t quite get from brewing in other ways. We use a little bit of oat milk to top off the black lavender latté, and it is such a delight. It pairs so well with the masala chai morning button.

    This interview has been edited and condensed.

    Smith Teamaker Cafe
    Smith Teamaker Café

    Steven Smith Teamaker Café

    The café is located in Portland’s Northwest 23rd district, the same neighborhood where the company was founded in 2009 by the late teamaker Steven Smith.

    ? Jessica Natale Woollard

    Smith Teamaker Logo

    500 NW 23rd Avenue Portland, OR 97210
    (503) 206-7451

    Open 9am – 5pm daily

    Tasting Room
    (503) 719-8752
    (800) 624-9531


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