This article originally appeared on Outside
Entrepreneur Cristina Patwa, producer John Fogelman, and actor Brad Pitt set out to create a new class of beverages one evening over dinner. "Brad, who has been a vineyard grower for 12 years now, began pitching us to do something more," Patwa says. "Why couldn't there be a nonalcoholic version of something that feels like a wine or a beautiful cocktail?" That was the beginning of Enroot, a sophisticated and light tea, pure in flavor, nature, and origin.
This mission immediately appealed to Patwa: she grew up in the Philippines, where her grandmother was a farmer and food entrepreneur. But the trio quickly realized that, while they had the drive and resources to accomplish the idea, they didn't have expert palates to craft the tea. For that, they turned to the James Beard Foundation, which assembled a group of star-studded chefs who had completed its boot camp for policy and change. "We shared that we wanted a certain ethos and wanted to create something special that hadn't been tasted before," Patwa explains.
Twelve chefs signed on to brainstorm, taste, and tweak a never-ending variety of pure-leaf teas, fruits, and botanicals. "The experience of developing the flavors and combinations was quite deliberate," says Florida-based chef Hari Pulapaka, who is a certified master chef, James Beard Award nominee, and founder and CEO of the Global Cooking School. "It wasn't just creating a product for the sake of creating a product."
It took three years to arrive at a three-day cold-brew process and four inspired tea flavors. "They tasted something like 100 varietals. We would get things like, 'This lemon bergamot is like the lemon Pledge I use to clean my restaurant,'" Patwa recalls. That flavor did not make the final cut. The four flavors that did, however, are called Relax (a mix of strawberry, lavender, rosemary, and tulsi), Revitalize (raspberry, mint, and white peony tea), Rejuvenate (peach, hibiscus, and jasmine green tea), and Revive (apple, lemon, cayenne, and yerba mate).
In many ways, dreaming up flavors for Enroot's teas was the easy part. Once those were set, Patwa, Fogelman, and Pitt discovered that most bottling plants weren't suited to process ingredients like real tea leaves and fruit pulp. "They're used to extracts and syrups--things like Snapple iced tea," Patwa says.
So Enroot built its own bottling line in Santa Cruz, California. The process happens in three phases, Patwa says: There's the 20-hour slow cold brew, during which the botanicals and tea leaves are extracted slowly in temperature-controlled stainless-steel tanks. Then the muddled purees, ginger, and ingredients like cayenne are introduced into the recipe. Finally, the liquid is fermented for six hours.
That last step is critical. "The chefs wanted fine, soft bubbles, like in a champagne, not harsh ones, like in a LaCroix, that hit you at the back of the throat," Patwa says. Of course, those gorgeous little bubbles require a careful pour, so Enroot had to invest in customized parts in order to retain effervescence during the bottling. "If you think of how champagne is poured, it's along the side of a flute," she explains. "That's why our bottle is so small at the top--so that the bubbles don't disappear."
Enroot was years in the making, and yet, in this era of sober-curious and zero-proof drinking, the teas couldn't be more relevant. "This is what this time and moment needs," Pulpaka says. Patwa credits Pitt for this foresight: "Here is someone who has lived a creative life, and he's on the pulse of it. Brad's attention to beauty is meticulous."
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