The Glass Teacup 

Idaho tea brands prioritize transparency

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Voce Tea

Jeff Synder decided to start his own tea company because, he thought, something was wrong with the ones the world already had.

"At a certain point I just got a little bit frustrated with what I found in the tea industry," he said, adding, "Tea in and of itself is a good product, there's nothing really wrong with it, but a lot of the tea that people buy is really not quite as good as they think it is."

Before he started his Caldwell-based company, Voce Tea, Snyder worked full-time as a professor of Chinese history and religion at the College of Idaho. He was born in Japan and lived in China and Taiwan for much of his adult life, so tea was never far from his mind. As he put it, "I spend most of my time thinking about Asia"—and few things are more integral to Asian culture than tea.

Even so, it wasn't until a few years ago that Snyder started taking a close look at the modern tea industry. What he discovered—including pesticide pollution, environmental degradation, lab-synthesized flavorings, the exploitation of tea workers, and what he feels are false or overstated health claims—is chronicled on Voce Tea's website, In order to find a product he'd feel good about drinking, he started his own company in March of 2018. Today, Voce Tea sells 10 different fruit teas—or tisanes, technically, as they don't contain tea leaves—to customers nationwide.

Snyder said if he had to choose one word to describe Voce Tea, it would have to be "real." Transparency is his No. 1 priority, and it's a creed that extends all the way from his ingredients (organic, additive-free and sourced almost entirely from the Americas) to his packaging (recently revamped to phase out all single-use plastics and include only recyclable and compostable materials).

"As far as I know, we're the only fruit tea company that actually declares country of origin [of each ingredient] on its website," Snyder said.

The dried fruits and herbs for each tea bag are hand-measured, and bags that include whole lemon slices, like the lemon-ginger and lemon-raspberry-mint blends, are hand-filled. It's a lot of work, and these days, Snyder pulls double duty. Helped by an ex-student, Megan French, he alternates between filling tea bags at the University of Idaho Food Technology Center and teaching classes at C of I.

The three women behind another local tea startup, The Vervain Collective, are all experts at striking a similar balance between careers. Dr. Nicole Pierce, Kelsey Nunez and Carolyn Swenson are a naturopathic physician, an environmental lawyer and a sustainable supply chain consultant, respectively. In 2017, they bonded over the idea of filling what they saw as Boise's niche for an herb shop, and this August, they opened their brick-and-mortar location, Vervain Apothecary, inside of Garden City's Roots Zero Waste Market.

"All of the products are plant-based, so if you take it back down to the ingredients, it's plant matter, oils, seeds, roots, shoots, leaves, flowers," said Nunez.

Vervain sells a carefully curated selection of locally and regionally made, minimally packaged goods, including everything from soaps and oils to pun-filled greeting cards. One of the shop's centerpieces, though, is its tea selection, which includes not only nine of its own proprietary blends but a make-your-own tea wall of herbs for amateurs to explore. Customers are encouraged to bring their own jars for the bulk ingredients, which are sourced from Mountain Rose Herbs, Starwest Botanicals and, as much possible, local farmers like Purple Sage Farms, which plans to grow herbs specifically for the collective next season.

Like Voce Tea, Vervain values transparency. Its teas, which come in blends like the chrysanthemum, rose, and spearmint-rich Tranquilium and the savory nettle-and-rosehip based Farm & Forage, are free of additives and sourced close to home. Above all, though, Vervain is committed to enriching the local community.

click to enlarge VOCE TEA
  • Voce Tea

"Our tagline is, 'Informed by nature, powered by community,' and I think that kind of boils down what we're trying to go for," said Swenson.

Just this year, a facet of the tea industry emerged in the Tea Association of the U.S.A., Inc.'s new report, the 2018-19 Tea Market Review & Forecast, that appears to align with the values Voce and Vervain display. The association found that over the last three years, preliminary numbers indicate that the volume of tea imports has fallen, but their dollar value has risen, "implying that the teas brought to the U.S. were marginally more expensive and theoretically, of higher quality."

If a trend toward quality and, perhaps, transparency, is building in the tea industry, both Voce and Vervain are well-positioned to ride the wave.

Voce Tea's blends can be purchased at Boise Co-op, the Boise Farmers Market, the Ketchum Farmers Market or online at Vervain Apothecary can be found at, or inside Roots Zero Waste Market at 3308 W. Chinden Boulevard in Garden City.

click to enlarge VOCE TEA
  • Voce Tea

The Lemon Ginger Fizz


• 1/2 cup bourbon

• 1 cup lemon-ginger Voce Tea, brewed and iced

• 3/4 cup ginger beer

• Juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Combine the tea, bourbon, ginger beer and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker or glass of ice

2. Shake and pour, or simply stir and enjoy!

click to enlarge VOCE TEA
  • Voce Tea

The Hot Colada


• 12 oz. mango-pineapple-coconut Voce Tea, brewed and hot

• 1 oz. dark rum


1. Combine the tea and rum in a glass

2. Stir and enjoy!


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