From Victoria family's kitchen, TeaPops take off as trendy treat

Sixteen months ago, David, who is now nine, was making tea.

Brother Joshua, 11, was making frozen treats.

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Inspiration struck.

“Joshua said I should make teasicles,” says the boys’ mother, Dionne Laslo-Baker.

And that’s how TeaPops — a frozen, tea-based treat — got their start, sparked by a Victoria family’s commitment to healthy living.

Produced locally, the first retail batch of TeaPops recently went on shelves in local stores.

DeeBee’s SpecialTea Foods is the name of the company making the treats, which are organic, kosher and vegan. They have no gluten, dairy, nuts, soy, refined sugars or genetically modified ingredients.

Fair-trade white, black and orange pekoe, as well as non-caffeinated herbal teas and organic fruit are used.

Available flavours include mint, cherry-berry, mango, iced tea and coconut. They have between 20 and 35 calories, except coconut, which has 55.

“It’s basically guilt-free,” Laslo-Baker said with a smile.

Organic palm nectar is used as a sweetener for all but the iced tea flavour, which uses honey.

The business is owned by Laslo-Baker, who holds a PhD in medical science with a focus on maternal-fetal toxicology, and her husband Dr. Stephen Baker, an ophthalmologist who performs oculoplastic surgery.

The family enjoys a variety of teas at home and the couple reviewed scientific literature on the health benefits of teas while developing TeaPops.

“Basically, it is simple. We go back to how we did things in a natural way,” she said.

Launching the company and its first product was a way for Laslo-Baker to find out, “if I can take a tiny little idea and make something big from it ... I really wanted to challenge myself and I have.”

DeeBee’s is “99 per cent my baby,” she said.

The boys are learning a lesson as well.

“I tell them, ‘When you are starting a company, sometimes you have to work really, really hard,’ ” said Laslo-Baker, who rises at 5:30 a.m. and sometimes works into the wee hours of the next morning.

DeeBee’s has eight staff, including the family’s former nanny and Laslo-Baker’s personal trainer. All are enthusiastic about the product.

Boxes sell for a suggested price of $7.99 and hold six TeaPops. Individually packaged TeaPops are priced at $2.49.

Stores carrying TeaPops include Mother Nature’s Market and Deli on Cook Street, the Market on Yates, the Market on Millstream, Aubergine Specialty Foods on Gladstone Avenue, and Fairfield Market on Oscar Street.

The treats have also already attracted international attention.

The Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch listed them among “foods you’ll soon be eating,” saying they tie in with a growing interest in tea and contemporary versions of childhood treats.

ABC’s Good Morning America food editor Sara Moulton discovered TeaPops at the 59th annual Summer Fancy Food Show in New York, choosing them as one of her top 13 picks at the recent event. TeaPops also took first place at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in March in the category of Tea as an Ingredient.

Current production equipment can turn out 1,500 TeaPops daily. A new machine will boost that to 5,000 per day, said Laslo-Baker, who is aiming to work with a manufacturer in Eastern Canada to create a larger distribution network.

As the company launches across North America over the next year, she anticipates producing as many as 750,000 to two million TeaPops to keep up with demand.

If that happens, Laslo-Baker will be able to indulge in an even bigger passion — philanthropy.

> On the Web: Specialteafoods.com

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