Honest Tea creator’s new organic tea line: ‘Just Ice Tea’

The Bethesda, Maryland, entrepreneur who created Honest Tea, which is now being discontinued by Coca-Cola, has announced the name of the reboot for an organic tea line he is launching. It will be called “Just Ice Tea.”

The double meaning highlights both the adverb “just,” as in organic and made with few ingredients other than tea leaves, and the adjective “just,” as in based on what is morally right and fair.

Seth Goldman, who started Honest Tea with business partner Barry Nalebuff in Bethesda in 1998, will continue Honest Tea’s 24-year commitment to fair trade sourcing of tea leaves and ingredients. For Goldman, that means everyone in the supply chain, down to tea leaf pluckers in small villages, is paid a fair wage, and their communities get financial and social support.

“With every pound of ingredients we buy, we pay a premium that goes directly to the workers for them to reinvest in their communities,” Goldman said in a Twitter post announcing the name.

“The workers democratically vote on how the money is spent, empowering the workers, especially the women who form the majority of tea pluckers, with financial resources and a say in their future.”

Goldman said over the years, fair trade tea premiums have been used for things such as a village school, eye care, health care and water access for an entire village, and a playground and science classroom for a village school.

“Just” also means no pesticides or herbicides — tea leaves are one of the few agricultural products that are never rinsed before production, Goldman said.

Just Ice Tea will roll out to national retailers this fall. The new company includes both Goldman and Nalebuff, along with business partner Spike Mendelsohn, the celebrity chef who co-owns the two-year-old healthy eating, planet-friendly snack company Eat the Change with Goldman.

Coke bought a 40% stake in Honest Tea in 2008 and bought the company outright in 2011. It cited prioritizing fewer, bigger bottled tea brands with the greatest potential for scale and profitable growth as its reason for discontinuing the Honest Tea line.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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