Steamboat’s new artisan tea company full of “GRIT” and South American yerba mate
March 30, 2018
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Last spring, 29-year-old Kristopher DeVogelaere embarked on a backpacking trip exploring the Patagonia region of Argentina and Chile.
Little did he know it would be a life changing trip that all started with tea.
"I distinctly remember it being 3 a.m. when my hiking partner and I took a ‘tea break’ and both had the reaction of ‘this stuff tastes pretty good,’" said DeVogelaere, who tried the Argentinian yerba mate on an overnight hike to the base of Mount Fitz Roy in El Chalten, and he decided to add a few bags of black tea into his thermos full of mate.
"That was the ‘aha moment,’" he said. "After that, every person I met would be told, ‘I'm going back to the U.S. to start a tea company.'"
Eighteen months later his dream has become a reality, transpiring with a bit of GRIT— the name of his artisan tea company specializing in creative tea blends with yerba mate.
"I love how simple yet impactful the word grit is," said DeVogelaere, co-founder of the company who moved to Steamboat in 2015. "To me, grit is a combination of passion, perseverance and a resolute tenacity. I believe strongly that the best indicator of success is not your genetics or background, although those are factors, but it is grit that determines what you can accomplish."
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The main ingredients for GRIT Artisan Teas are black tea and yerba mate, a traditional South American caffeine-rich infused drink. It’s one of the most consumed drinks in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Southern Brazil.
"Rather than the hard crash you get from a cup of coffee, tea lets you ride an energy high for hours on end, before gently dropping you off on Cloud 9. Doesn't that sound lovely," he said. "What makes tea unique is that it contains L-theanine, which is an amino acid that has a synergistic effect with caffeine that provides a sustained feeling of alertness."
Right now, their most popular blend is a fermented black tea with freeze dried coffee and chocolate extract.
GRIT has two blends available for sale.
The Mountain Mama is a blend consisting of yerba mate (Brazil), matcha (Japan), sencha green tea (China), kola nut, ashwagandha root for energy and a natural mango extract for flavor.
Dawn Patrol is a blend consisting of a strong black tea blend from India, China and Sri Lanka; as well as a pu'erh (fermented black tea) from the Yunnan province of China, freeze dried coffee (Columbia) and a natural chocolate extract.
"My goal was to utilize high quality ingredients that a tea connoisseur would appreciate, while creating a flavor profile that would appeal to nontraditional tea drinkers," said DeVogelaere, who anticipates to release five more GRIT blends throughout the next few months.
Artisan tea, for DeVogelaere, is defined as something created with meticulous attention to detail and involves making things by hand, which is what GRIT specializes in. Each artisan tea recipe is made in small batches by hand.
"I think the people within the artisan tea industry mimic their product; they are warm and inviting like a cup of tea," DeVogelaere said.
The batches are sourced from a small tea business in Boulder that has a separate sourcing and blending team. DeVogelaere was introduced to the team and the collaboration flourished to create the primary blends GRIT offers.
Each blend supports a different social cause by donating 5 percent of that blend's total sales to a nonprofit organization. The Mountain Mama blend will support the empowerment of women within the outdoor industry, and the Dawn Patrol blend will donate to organizations that support enriching the lives of those with disabilities through outdoor recreation.
"Beyond beverages, I want GRIT Artisan Tea to represent a sense of adventure and the feeling of embracing your fears and vulnerabilities that most travelers experience," DeVogelaere said.
GRIT can be found at its online store at grittea.com and in Townies by Ohana by summer and will be in Out Here Yoga soon.