Learn about the origin of Special Leaf iced teas, a new genre of artisanal, chef-created tea made from olive leaves.

Tea is the most consumed beverage in the world after water, according to the Tea Association of the U.S.A. There are over 1,000 varieties of tea1, with iced tea accounting for about 85% of tea consumption in the United States. When most people think of iced tea they picture the classic image: a tall glass, lemon wedge set on the rim, filled with ice, sweating in the summer heat. It’s properly chilled, with just the right amount of sweetness (or not). Generally, the iced tea is brewed from black or green tea – but what if it wasn’t? What if it was made from, say, the leaves of an olive tree? 

Read on to learn about chef innovator Chris Cook and his bottled olive leaf iced tea brand that has opened a whole new genre of tea to love – one artisanal, handmade, healthful bottle at a time.

Tea’s newest genre: what makes Special Leaf so special?

Throughout his career, Chef Chris’s approach to food has come from a desire to support local economies by creating fresh, memorable, unique dishes from locally-sourced ingredients. As a fervent supporter of the farm-to-table movement, this love of all things local was foremost in his mind when he was creating Special Leaf tea, an idea that came to him in 2015 while he was running the culinary department of a local Texas olive orchard. Fast forward five years later and Special Leaf iced tea is now a thriving newcomer in the tea market, sourcing its tea leaves from Texas olive orchards.

A handmade, artisanal tea

Special Leaf teas are not mass-produced products. The teas are hand crafted in small batches, allowing the flavor to develop slowly and naturally. Drinking these hand crafted teas, made by an innovative chef with over 20 years in the culinary industry, is a little like drinking sunshine. You can feel the loving intent that Chris puts into each batch, and it nourishes your soul. So, what is it that makes Special Leaf tea so, well, special?

Packed with health benefits

Olive leaf teas are naturally caffeine free and chock full of compounds like oleuropein, hydroxytyrosol and tyrosol, which can positively influence health. If you’re not just drinking Special Leaf iced tea for its amazing flavor (more on that below), here are a few of the ways olive leaf tea benefits your health:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Natural antioxidant
  • Caffeine free
  • Low sugar
  • Reduces bad cholesterol

Want to learn more about olive leaf health benefits? Check out our blog article “7 Surprising Health Benefits of Olive Leaf Tea” here [link to that article – need to write]

Bursting with flavor

Special Leaf teas are approachable, easy to drink teas that are meant to be enjoyed by everyone. While the health benefits of olive leaf tea are well-documented (see our resources page here [link to https://specialleaf.com/love-the-leaf/#the_science]) the teas can be enjoyed simply for their unique flavor. Similar to a green tea, with herbaceous notes, Special Leaf teas offer a flavor for every palate to love– from the classic slightly sweetened olive leaf tea to the delicate Pomberry fruit flavor.

Thoughtfully crafted from quality ingredients

Chris’s food philosophy of supporting the local economy by bringing locally sourced products into his cooking comes full circle with his innovative tea brand. Special Leaf iced teas are proudly made with minimal, all natural, high quality ingredients and leaves sourced from local Texas olive orchards.

The inspiration for Special Leaf

Bringing a new genre of tea to marketing may seem like a daunting task, but Chris had strong motivation: a desire to show his young daughter that hard work, determination and believing in yourself are the keys to achieving your goals.

Having personally experienced improved health from drinking olive leaf tea (a dramatic improvement in his rheumatoid arthritis symptoms), Chris also wanted to bring greater awareness to the benefits of olive leaf tea. He wanted to present tea lovers with an alternative to traditional iced teas while also highlighting an ingredient (the olive leaf) that has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

This inspiration and ambition ultimately led him to create an undeniably better beverage: a healthy, flavorful, low calorie iced tea made from local, high quality ingredients.

Chef Chris Cook Holding Olive Leaves

Chris’ Early career

At the start of his career, Chris could not have predicted he would become a culinary innovator. In high school in Colorado in the 1990’s, he worked in restaurants to earn spending money. The positions were basic: washing dishes, prepping and cutting ingredients, making pizzas. It wasn’t until he left home at the age of 17 that he really considered cooking as a long-term career. Chris credits his experience working in the kitchen at the Broadmoor resort in Colorado Springs with opening his eyes to the potential of the culinary industry, particularly in working with locally sourced ingredients. The decision to become a chef still wasn’t an easy one; the culinary world can be brutal – it is long hours and hard, physical work (think about having to chop 500 carrots a day, or lifting a 35 pound pot in and out of a hot oven 50 times a shift, not to mention being on your feet for 10-12 hours a day). Understanding this, but also having always enjoyed the fast paced, creative outlet of working in professional kitchens, what sealed the deal for Chris was the sense of camaraderie he felt with other restaurant staff.

Chef Chris Cook, center. Photo by Jon Shapley

Once the decision to pursue a culinary career was made, Chris continued working in professional kitchens on his way to earning both an Associate’s and a Bachelor’s degree in food management and culinary arts. 

After receiving his degrees, Chris set about moving up in the industry. He relocated (back to) Texas in 2005 to work for Chef Scott Cohen of Las Canarias at La Mansion del Rio Hotel and eventually became head of Oro Restaurant in the Emily Morgan Hotel, where he drew on his early experience working with farm fresh, locally sourced ingredients to create seasonal menus that showcased the beauty and flavors of Texas. He then started his own food and beverage consulting business in 2010 to guide and advise his culinary peers. Ever the innovator, Chris and a group of like-minded local chefs formed a cooperative in 2013 aimed at supporting the emerging farm-to-table food movement by hosting culinary events to raise funds for local farms and ranches. The Chef Cooperatives is now a registered 501(c)(3) non-profit with plans to expand to other cities.

Ready to experience the flavors and benefits of this new genre of tea brewed by a culinary innovator? Order online here.

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References:1. Statista https://www.statista.com/statistics/264188/production-of-tea-by-main-producing-countries-since-2006/