Portland seaweed tea maker making a splash

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PORTLAND — Seaweed has many health benefits, from being high in antioxidants to being a good source of vitamins C and B-12.

But Josh Rogers has taken the seaweed craze to a new level by creating a line of seaweed teas.

Rogers, a Maine native and now a Portland resident, said he came up with the idea several years ago.

“I was sipping green tea, and the taste reminded me of kelp. Since seaweed has so many health benefits, I wondered if seaweed tea existed. When I couldn’t find anything online, I decided to make my own,” he said this week.

“I’d always wanted to do something creative with seaweed, and I’m a lifelong tea drinker, so it just made sense to me,” he added. “As I’ve done more research and experimented with recipes, I’ve been amazed at just how much synergy there is between seaweed and tea.”

His own taste for seaweed was inherited, Rogers said.

He remembers that his great-grandparents, “loved snacking on dried dulse (and) they brought that tradition with them when they emigrated from the Canadian Maritimes in the 1930s to work in Maine’s shoe mills.”

Rogers offers his seaweed tea wholesale to local retailers and his line, called Cup of Sea, was recently picked up by the Nature Store at the Maine Audubon in Falmouth.

When Rogers first started his business this past spring, he was blending all his teas, with names like Sea Smoke, Great Wave and Sailor’s Cure-All, by hand in small batches at home.

He’s now grown to the point, however, where “(I) can produce and package (the tea) on a larger, more professional scale. My wife will be extremely happy to get the dining room back.”

Rogers has also recently been able to hire his first employee.

“Jenna Smith is a fellow Portlander with a biomedical engineering degree and a passion for local foods, sustainability and herbalism. I’m happy to have her aboard,” he said.

Each blend of tea uses a different type of seaweed, Rogers said, including bladderwrack, dulse, kelp and sea lettuce. He buys only sustainably harvested seaweed from sources like the Atlantic Holdfast Seaweed Company in Deer Isle.

Once the seaweed is harvested, Rogers said it is dried and milled into flakes. Then, he said, “I get to do the easy part: blending it with other ingredients. The final product is a loose-leaf tea that you can brew just like regular tea.”

People should drink seaweed tea, according to Rogers, because along with tasting good, “our teas are full of nutrients. Seaweeds contain around 60 minerals that are vital to human health. Drinking our tea is an easy, tasty way to get seaweed into your diet.”

Rogers, who was formerly a senior editor with Zagat, a nationwide publisher of restaurant guides, returned to Maine from New York City last year to start Cup of Sea.

He located in Portland because the city’s residents have “always been supportive of local shopkeepers, chefs, artists, musicians and other creative people. So Portland is a great place to incubate an idea like this.”

“My goal is to grow to the point where we can really make a difference in creating local jobs, whether that means working directly (for) us or starting a seaweed farm to supply us,” Rogers said.

Rogers started Cup of Sea, he said, to not only provide an alternative to traditional teas, but also to promote the world’s oceans and to support aquaculture jobs here in Maine.

Currently he has no plans to open a retail store or cafe of his own, but his seaweed teas are available for tasting at various locations, including the upcoming Common Ground Fair in Unity and Maine Audubon’s Apple Day, slated for Sept. 30.

Rogers said it’s an honor when an organization like Maine Audubon picks up his line of teas.

“Since the 1800s, Maine Audubon has been studying, protecting and educating people about the natural world around them (and) Cup of Sea is fully allied with that mission, so it’s incredibly gratifying that they put us on the shelves of their Nature Store,” he said.

His own favorite seaweed tea blend is Sea Smoke, which Rogers said combines “two of my favorite things: dulse, which is a purple seaweed, and lapsang souchong, which is a Chinese black tea that’s smoked over pine fires. It smells like camping by the ocean. And it has a nice, rich smoky taste.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KirishCollins.

Josh Rogers, of Portland, is working to introduce buyers to his new line of seaweed teas, called Cup of Sea.

Josh Rogers’ new line of seaweed teas is available at several specialty retailers, including the Nature Store at Maine Audubon in Falmouth.

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