Meet The Teamaker Behind 8th Wonder — a Q&A with Parker Rush
Meet our founder Parker in this quick Q&A.
The 8th Wonder Tea mission is to “create earth-conscious teas that deliver the extensive benefits of organic, superfood ingredients to power your body and mind." Your teas are 100% organic and gluten-free, and offer a daily dose of Vitamin C and antioxidants. How did you become interested in healthy food?
“I always had an affinity for healthy eating and healthy lifestyle. I went to St. Edwards University in Austin, Texas, a city known for being healthy, and really took an interest in natural foods. Once I graduated, I moved to Boulder, where everyone seems to be on the same page with healthy lifestyle. Everyone was active, loved to be outside and ate healthfully. I felt right at home, and the culture rubbed off on me even more.
My first job out of college was working at Alfalfa’s Market in Boulder — the job wasn’t really for me in the end, but I did learn a lot about the health food industry. I’ve always wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but Alfalfa’s taught me a lot about what I could do to shake things up in the beverage space.”
Why a teamaker, then?
“Well, I majored in philosophy and environmental science, so I was bound to be an entrepreneur, since my degree isn’t exactly applicable in the real world. But, kidding aside, I knew I wanted to create a tangible product that impacted the food and beverage industry, and I was passionate about tea. It was a natural choice.
The beverage industry is interesting. A lot of fads come and go, and although some (like kombucha, for example) have staying power, most fade away. Tea drinking is centuries old, and I do believe it will always have devoted followers.”
So, you decided on tea. Then what?
“Well, at the time, I had no experience making tea, just drinking it. So I started some wild science experiments in a crockpot in my apartment. Some were fine at first, others were horrible. Sometimes there were lingering smells for days.
My upstairs neighbor (literally) got a whiff of what I was doing, and it turned out that he had experience in the beverage industry. He started helping out right away. Over three months, the experimentation became more of a process, and eventually, I landed on something phenomenal."
The next thing to figure out was, ‘How do I go from just messing around in my kitchen, to selling this?’
Then, I found Flavor Man — these flavor architect/chemists out of Louisville, Kentucky. They’ve consulted on tons of beverage projects — from sports drinks and liquor to tea and coffee. I sent them the product, and every two weeks I would get samples in the mail. It was definitely a process — each tea’s had more than 35 iterations. They did blind test studies with employees until they had an 85% approval rating across the board.”
When did you know you had something truly outstanding?
“Well two things, the market and product were finally right. You know, for the first time ever, organic products are becoming for everyone, not just tree huggers in Boulder and Denver like me. It’s becoming more difficult to be ignorant about eating crap. The trend is becoming less of a fad and more of a stable way of life. People are looking for more products like this.
And, the product was ready. So, we started competing for investor money and exposure. In December, we tried to get into BevNet in New York City and Santa Monica. We sent a video in before we even had a completed label, but we were selected out of 15 people as a promising new beverage trend in the new beverage showdown.
We did pretty well — our flavors were unique. People told us it’s something that’s never been done before with green tea or black tea. We were in there with some big names — Starbucks, Bulletproof and Stumptown. It was a surreal and very exciting experience.”
Why bottled tea? Why not a loose leaf or something else?
“Well, pre-brewed and bottled is convenient for the consumer, but that’s not why we did it. We did it to redefine the tea drinking experience.
Tea’s not really for young people — not many of us are sitting down at 4 p.m. for high tea every afternoon. I don’t want tea to be this antique thing that only grandma drinks. We thought about the tradition that surrounds tea drinking, and we decided to turn it on its head. 8th Wonder isn’t your typical tea party. This is tea on-the-go, for the active person. Maybe for those looking to have a “tea party” by popping open a bottle on top of a mountain with friends.
Basically, we wanted to rebel against things that don’t make sense to us.”
On a mountain, eh? Is that what do you like to do when you aren’t working?
“I just love being outside. Hiking, cycling, snowboarding. Why can’t I have teatime while enjoying the outdoors, you know? But, when I am inside, I’m usually hanging with my cats Jasper and Pippa or blowing all of my money on vinyl records.”