Thursday, November 9, 2017
“I was looking for something in the area that’s really plentiful but underutilized,” explained Drew Quine, who was raised in Maui, came to Santa Barbara City College in 2008, and graduated from UCSB in 2014 with an environmental studies degree. Then he started working for a Port Hueneme company that was trying to turn biodiesel waste into energy, and he wondered where else that something-from-nothing formula could be applied.
He’d pass countless avocado orchards during his commute down the coast and began wondering what they did with the leaves. Then he found a recipe for avocado tea, took some leaves from his neighbor’s yard, and made a batch for friends, who found it quite pleasant. “It has this sweet flavor without doing anything,” said Quine, who lives on the Mesa. “I was blown away.”
Since no one else made avocado tea commercially, he decided to start a business. “I just wanted to do it as a learning experience,” said Quine, not knowing it would require two and a half years of red-tape cutting, nutritional testing, and environmental certifications to get legal. “I never went into it thinking it would be the next big thing.”
Final approval came three months ago, so Quine started harvesting organic- and biodynamic-certified leaves from Las Palmalitas Ranch in Carpinteria and brewing them into a tea from a commercial kitchen in Ventura. With two flavors — original and sweet, made with organic/biodynamic evaporated, unprocessed sugar — he started stocking shelves at Mesa Produce, Tri-County Produce, Isla Vista Food Co-op, Sam’s to Go, and the corporate cafeterias of both Deckers and Flir in Goleta.
“I didn’t expect a lot to move,” said Quine, who also teaches paragliding, sets up events for Deckers, and is pursuing a commercial helicopter pilot license. “It was a product no one had ever heard of.” But within two weeks, the stores were already ordering more. “People are into it,” he said of the tea, which has a very earthy, tealike flavor. “I was so stoked they were selling that I forgot to even collect money.”
He’s now dialing in his system — he picks the leaves, steeps, and often delivers the tea on the same day, since it has a two-week refrigerated lifespan — and is about to launch blueberry-lemon and citrus-honey flavors. He’s also investigating a place in Santa Paula that would allow him to scale up if he decides to expand, and may hire a nutritional expert to explore the tea’s purported health benefits, which range — depending on which website you believe — from anti-cancer properties to kidney cleansing and pain relief. Quine is reluctant to make any such claims without proof, but at least anecdotally, the tea has helped relieve menstrual cramps for one of his friends.