Mamacat's Q Tea: A soft drink sub that’s healthy, kid-friendly

If American tradition is be believed, Wiltonian Jeena Choi says, there are only two soft drink options open to consumers: soda for adults and juice for kids.

But if you’re inclined to believe her, there’s a third option many residents may never have considered: Ms. Choi’s own caffeine- and sugar-free Mamacat’s Q Tea, which is perfect for adults, kids and even less-than-talkative teenagers, she says.

“After dinner, after things have slowed down, you can pass around a mug and everyone just opens up,” Ms. Choi says. “I have so many parents telling me, ‘My teenager is talking to me again!’ or ‘My kids love it in their lunch box.’”

The secret is in the process, Ms. Choi says. The steps it takes to make tea — boiling water, steeping a tea bag — can quickly become a family tradition.

“My daughter has always been a very picky eater, and she still hates drinking in general. But one day when she was 3, I was drinking a hibiscus blend. She asked me, ‘Is that tea?’ She had a sip and she really liked it. That’s when I knew I was on to something.”

After she started to host tea parties for her daughter and her friends, other parents started to notice just how good the tea was.

“Everyone is astounded that it doesn’t have any calories or caffeine,” she said. “It tasted better than other teas with whole ingredients.”

Ms. Choi, a native of Queens, N.Y., who has lived in Wilton for the last 10 years, first started producing her tea while she was pregnant with her second child and unable to have anything containing sugar. Mamacat tea uses naturally occurring stevia as a non-caloric sweetener to avoid artificial ingredients.

“Instead of using sugar, we use dried stevia leaves. Artificial sweeteners never leave your body, they just keep cycling,” Ms. Choi said.

The whole business was launched in 2010, Ms. Choi explains, with a simple website and a little help from her husband, a tea master, who helps pick ingredients for new teas.

“I dream up the flavors, and I get the right ingredients, and then he does the test ratios. The key is to try and keep ingredients simple. We try to use less than 10 ingredients,” the tea maker says.

In just four years, Ms. Choi’s business has begun wholesaling orders to a number of grocery stores in the area, including Wilton’s own Village Market — which was the first store to stock her product.

In addition to a weekly farmers’ market in New Canaan, the tea may be purchased at the company’s online store.

Not one to shy away from a popular idea, Ms. Choi has recently begun offering on the website cocktail recipes that use her tea as a base. Among the recipes are drinks like the Ruby Stiletto, which pairs the company’s Ruby Slippers tea with vodka.