Cold Carbonated Quencher. Tea North Brings the Fizz
There’s something about effervescence that, for some, screams thirst quenching.
David Moore, who owns Tea North — Organic Iced Tea, suspects it’s linked to the chemical process in our brains when carbonic acid hits the back of our skulls.
“Having the fizziness to it propels a bit more flavour to come up out of it,” Moore said of his iced tea offerings.
“You get gas that shoots up your nose when you drink it, a little bit, which makes your sinuses kind of jiggle, which makes your whole head kind of feel a little bit more excited that what you’re drinking has got a little bit more of a pop to it.”
It’s been a winding path to come to this sparkling realization.
In 2010, Moore and his former girlfriend opened a company called Satya Tea.
“We sort of took it over from my grandfather, who owned a tea company before me, changed the name, changed everything, did everything pretty much different,” he said.
Moore’s grandfather ran a company called Darjeeling Direct out of Tucson, Arizona. Moore, whose parents are Buddhist, was born in Halifax after his mom and dad moved here from New York in the 1980s.
Moore, who is also a Buddhist, and his ex ran Satya Tea for about seven years.
“At some point last March, one of our loose leaf wholesale customers asked if we could make a bottled iced tea and I said, ‘Sure, why not?’”
That proved successful, prompting Moore to let loose leaf go by the wayside to focus solely on iced tea.
“When we started it wasn’t fizzy. It was just tea in a bottle,” he said.
That’s where the storage problems started.
“If you ever put tea in a cup and leave it in the fridge for three days it goes bad. It goes really bad. Like mould bad,” he said.
“In a bottle it doesn’t (always) go bad that fast. But sometimes it does. And sometimes it doesn’t. It was a real hard point where I was like, ‘Yay, everybody likes this product.’ But . . . it goes bad. How do I deal with that without loading it with chemicals?”
Moore perused the aisles of local grocery stores, large and small, checking out the contents of every bottled iced tea he could find to see what kind of preservatives were in use.
“Every time it was citric acid, malic acid, ascorbic acid — it was like acid, acid, acid, acid, acid. And they’re loaded with sugar, which really bothered me.”
Tea has a unique flavor on its own, Moore said.
“So we went on this little hunt for about … seven months. Nothing would get in my way. I just needed to find out how this would not go bad in a bottle.”
To that end, he started talking to family friend John Allen at Propeller Brewing Co.
“The first thing he said to me was, ‘I think you need to switch to glass bottles. I think plastic might be part of your problem.’ ”
Moore, who had been using plastic bottles left over from another project, switched to glass. He also accepted an invitation from Allen to work out of Propeller’s Gottingen Street facility for a little while.
After picking the brains of various brewers for months, someone — Moore thinks it was probably Allen — suggested force carbonating the iced tea by injecting CO2.
“It was like a little light bulb went off in my head,” Moore said.
“Oh right — you carbonate and you get the oxygen out of the bottle. I wonder how long it will last?”
Shelf life tests have shown the carbonated iced tea lasts seven months in a bottle without going bad, he said.
Moore, a web developer and former concert promoter of world music, jazz and reggae, was a convert to carbonation.
Tea North produces six flavours of fizzy iced tea including orange creamsicle black tea, berry bliss herbal tea, vanilla mint julep herbal tea, raspberry vanilla mint green tea, jasmine sunset green tea and coconut white tea.
The sugar-free offerings all come in 341 millilitre glass soda bottles.
Depending on where you buy it, they retail for between $3 and $4 a bottle.
Tea North now operates out of Riot Snack Bar on Quinpool Road in Halifax. Moore figures he’s only sunk about $1,500 into equipment.
He rents 120 square feet of space in Riot’s large commercial kitchen.
“It looks very small,” Moore said. “The amount that we can put out in that 120 square feet is quite large, pretty much due to the fact that I’m a research nutbar.”
He produces 300 bottles a day.
The outfit’s fizzy iced tea is for sale at 14 retailers in Nova Scotia including Pete’s Frootique, Deedee’s Ice Cream, Dilly Dally Café, Lucky Penny Coffee and The Other Bean. Montreal’s La Maison des Bières is also selling the drinks. Soon they will also retail at 18 Sobeys around metro.
Sunshine sells iced tea, Moore has learned.
“The hotter it gets, the quicker we sell,” he said, noting that he’s contemplating setting up a winter operation in California.
When the mercury drops below 12 C, that’s a problem.
“When it hits 20 C it just, like, flies.”
He’s already made as many batches of iced tea this year as he sold in all of 2016.
The 28-year-old hopes the deal with Sobeys leads to national distribution.
“I’d like to see how far we can take it with them,” Moore said. “Can we go across the country and can it work across the country? At least for Canada, that’s the big goal I have right now. Maybe it will take a year or two to get there.”