Would you ever think to put tea on your baked chicken? Maybe over your frozen yogurt? How about in a cocktail? Oliver Rich of Tea Guys, LLC already has people across western Massachusetts doing exactly that, and he’s betting that you soon will, too. And you’ll be using his creation – tea beverage concentrate - to do it.
“Anyone who’s watched the more upscale cooking shows in the last decade has seen a chef make a wine reduction,” beams Oliver, the creative force behind this unique product. “Wine goes into a hot pan and it’s carefully thickened by steaming. The flavor is greatly intensified and concentrated as a proportion of the water is lost.”
At Tea Guys, he’s pioneered the art of creating tea concentrates in much the same way. Oliver begins with small batches of his ultra-flavorful tea blends (typically less than 50 gallons) and painstakingly reduces the volume though kettle-crafting over a period of hours which vary according to the specific blend’s individual properties.
“It’s a laborious, exacting process, but so very worth the effort, because the yield is nothing less than ambrosial,” adds Oliver. “I liken the challenge to making maple syrup, where the proper boil-down is critical to getting this gorgeous, almost honey-like consistency. It’s vastly thicker and stunningly flavor-filled.”
The real key, he points out, is finding exactly the right heat contour for each of Tea Guys’ 20 best-selling tea blends. The precise boiling schedule caramelizes the natural starches and sugars in the large kettles optimally. Pair that with the flavors infused by the tea leaves themselves, plus fruits, nuts and spices, and there’s a great deal of deliciousness in every batch.
The tea entrepreneur becomes even more enthusiastic as he describes the multiple benefits of the tea beverage concentrates, or TBCs.
“First, there’s the flavor, which is just glorious. Because we’re making and steeping the tea blends here ourselves under stringent recipe and temperature control, I know the taste is perfect at the front end,” says Oliver. “The fruit pectins and cellulose remain in the blends, too, adding to the heft and mouth feel of the TBC. All that good stuff on the label is right there in the concentrate. Plus all of the health benefits we associate with tea, such as antioxidants, flavonoids and many cancer-fighting properties still remain.”
Next, he explains, is the high convenience factor. “You can literally drop a half-ounce jot of the concentrate into a cup or glass and add 8 ounces of hot or cold water. Stir, and there’s a fantastic beverage in just seconds. Plus the bag-in-a-box dispenser lets you put the concentrate directly into your drinking vessel. It’s almost instant, with no pot, no oven or microwave really necessary.”
Then there’s the mind-blowing versatility of the TBCs. “Here’s where this product really goes off the charts. You can make any kind of beverages, cocktails or non-alcoholic mocktails. One of the best restaurants in Amherst MA has been innovating with the concentrates; they bartending team has been concocting amazing crafted cocktails for months now as a beta site.”
But wait, as they say on late night television, there’s more.
“The TBCs are a huge hit with customers at GoBerry in Northampton MA and at least one other frozen yogurt shop in the Berkshires. Here’s your basic dish of plain yogurt. But add a handful of nuts plus a squirt of the concentrate, and you’ve got an instant healthy sundae!”
And what about that baked chicken?
“One of our foodie friends dresses chicken breasts in the TBCs before baking them. It creates a sweet, intensely flavorful glaze that also helps seal in the natural juices. Another friend who’s into breads and cakes adds it to her batter. And yet another puts it over salad greens!”
Speaking of greens, there’s a green aspect to the TBCs, too.
“The concentrated form means less packaging, and they are relatively light; they ship with a lower carbon footprint. And the small sized dispenser - needing no refrigeration - is ideal for college dorm rooms, home pantries and crowded restaurant counters.”
But even that’s not all. Oliver holds up a glass with a sample of the TBCs and peers intently into its depths. “I see a day, not far away, where this concentrate product will be the key ingredient in a very exciting new line of Tea Guys branded bottled beverages. Consumers have recognized that corn syrupy, mass-market super-sweet soft drinks are unhealthy."
Oliver Rich, Tea Guys founder and owner, references a study where high school students were offered statistical information about mass-market soft drinks alongside information about healthy beverages alternatives. When presented with the data before going through the cafeteria, their consumption of high-sugar sodas plummeted.
“Concentrates are the key to making tea-based anti-colas that taste good and are still actually beneficial. People love the versatility and flavor, so our next big step is to offer it in a ready-to-drink form; we already know the demand is there,” says Oliver with a confident look; he knows his company is at the forefront of a beverage revolution.
Be on the lookout for the rise of Tea Beverage concentrates, but you can call ‘em TBCs for short. And remember, you read it here first!