We've all been told that once upon a time, angry Bostonians dumped three shiploads of English tea in the harbor to protest taxes, but let's be real here — it was probably just really shitty tea, and they were doing what any of us would do when continually plied with subpar beverage choices. Now, 240 years later, Emerson grad Evy Chen has begun cold-brewing the kind of leaves that make Lipton look bad. Boston, meet Tea Cuvée.
Chen's love of tea and all its allure has been a part of her life from day one: her family tree is rooted deep in the Fujian province of southeast China, known for its production of some of the world's most exceptional tea. "I guess you could say tea runs in my family," she says, noting that her great-grandfather made his living trading teas to the West via ships.
Raised in China and educated in Switzerland and the US, Chen found her formative experiences with tea at odds with the cold-brew options on the market, since many bottled tea beverages are often made with inferior and artificial tea concentrates.
"Even loose-leaf teas available at fine teashops are doused with artificial fruit oils, chemicals, and sweeteners," she says. "This may help boost the flavor, but it destroys the essential minerals and antioxidants this delicate ingredient provides."
So, Chen did what many innovators do when faced with a lack of options: invented her own. Her innate respect for tea led to her sniff out sustainable and flavorful blends from around the world, and she aimed to preserve every bit of the integrity of the taste through cold-brewing: an extensive process that allows for flavor to be drawn out of the leaves slowly without damaging the goods. (Not only is cold-brewing proven to be more environmentally friendly, but it produces a lighter-bodied end result with less astringency and bitterness.) In 2010, in her senior year of college, her business plan to bring high-quality tea to the masses won her first place at the Emerson Entrepreneurship Expo.
A few years later, Tea Cuvée has become available at retailers all over the city. Chen is currently offering two flavors: the Moonlight label, with hints of apricot and jasmine, and the Amber label, scented with rosemary and orange. Both bottles go for $8.99 a pop, a small price to pay for a massive leap in quality.
"I've always thought tea drinking was such an unique experience that we are too busy to notice in our everyday life," she says. "Working with tea reminds me to slow down."
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