In his 1906 long essay “The Book of Tea,” Kakuzō Okakura, while linking the role of chadō (teaism) to the aesthetic and cultural aspects of Japanese life, wrote: “[Tea-masters] have given emphasis to our natural love of simplicity, and shown us the beauty of humility. In fact, through their teachings tea has entered the life of the people.”
More than a century later, born out of a love for crafting and brewing organic tea blends, Owl’s Brew Co-Founders Jennie Ripps and Maria Littlefield launched their Owl’s Brew Boozy Tea.
Before launching the New York-based company, Ripps notes that she fell in love with tea and botanicals by accident, more than a decade ago.
“At the time, I was searching for something immunity-boosting and antioxidant-rich for a family member who was ill. I started blending tea and botanicals for them. Along the way, tea became the passion of my life,” she says.
In 2012, after linking up professionally with Littlefield, it was then the two were convinced that tea — fresh-brewed or spiked — could be a business.
“Together we launched a tea company, Brew Lab, based on the belief that we could make great-tasting beverages with tea and botanicals as a base,” Ripps explains. “Our clients soon included places like Sweetgreen, Quality Eats, Upland, Momofuku, Soho House and others.
“While Brew Lab grew, we started hosting tea cocktail parties together, brewing up boozy teas at events,” she continues. “The more we steeped, spiked and poured, the more feedback we got that people wanted to drink the same way we did — with delicious ingredients that could be trusted. In 2018, Brew Lab was acquired by a bigger tea company. In 2020, we launched Owl’s Brew Boozy Tea, a spiked and sparkling tea made from clean and delicious ingredients.”
Although hard seltzers have seen much growth during the past few years with numerous competitive products entering the market, Littlefield notes that the category has seen very little innovation when it comes to tea.
“Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world after water,” she says. “For example, during lunch the three most ordered beverages are water, tea and seltzer. We’ve taken it a step further, and since we’ve been in the tea business for over a decade — first with our tea company, Brew Lab, then the cocktail mixer and now Boozy Tea — there is so much more that you can get from tea and botanicals than just through so-called ‘natural flavors.’
“When tea is actually fresh-brewed, it’s loaded with good stuff (think vitamins and antioxidants) so you can actually get something back when you drink,” she continues. “That’s what’s most exciting to us about what we’re making. And how much we love the taste.”
Beyond healthy ingredients
Although more consumers are seeking out clean label products, from the beginning, Ripps and Littlefield always believed in the motto “drink wise,” and the idea that everyone deserves a great-tasting beverage made completely clean.
“Seltzer started this fourth category revolution,” Ripps explains. “It started the consumer thinking about what they were drinking, when they were drinking and began the shift toward more conscious consumption — how many calories, carbs, sugars, etc. Seltzers took away all the ‘bad’ stuff, but they didn’t add anything back.
“The category took off of course, but has become so crowded with a lot of the same products racing each other on calories and price,” she continues. “We find that consumers are looking for more out of their beverages — more transparency, more flavor, better quality, and we’re going to see this category evolve to meet that demand.”
Besides adding healthy ingredients to its Boozy Tea, the company also believes in giving back to the community.
For instance, through its Wise Woman Collective (WWC) the company aims to support women within the industry and beyond.
“We started WWC to shine a light on other women in our industry,” Littlefield says. “We also wanted to promote female voices, so we launched our ‘Boozy Book Club’ and we partnered up with Penguin Random House authors for our monthly author interviews.
“We have some cause-based partnerships, as well, including Keep A Breast, and Women’s Voices for the Earth,” she continues. “We support causes both on a national and regional basis. You can submit for your event or a charity to support on our website.”
Most recently, Owl’s Brew turned its ParTEA Pack pink in support of Keep A Breast this October, Ripps notes.
“Consumers can scan the box to download their app, which promotes prevention and early detection, and we are donating $1 for every social share,” she says. “You’ll find Pink ParTEA locally at retailers like Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Total Wine, Sprouts and others.
“We actually have another ‘cause’ pack coming out in March that we are extremely excited about,” she continues. “It will align with our Wise Women initiatives and be really eye opening and educational to a lot of people — it certainly has been for us.”
As Owl’s Brew is currently sold in 19 states, and now can be found at places like Trader Joe’s, Target, Whole Foods and Total Wine, nevertheless, the company is excited about its future endeavors.
“We have just launched a cozy and delicious holiday pack — trust me you will want to bring this to your holiday parties,” Ripps says. “And, we have something really exciting coming up in early 2023. Stay tuned.”
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