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Baltimore start-up Zest Tea raises $1 million to caffeinate its business

Baltimore start-up Zest Tea raises $1 million to caffeinate its business
Zest Tea, a Baltimore-based tea start-up, recently launched a new line of canned ice tea energy drinks. (Handout/The Baltimore Sun)

Zest Tea, a Baltimore start-up marketing a line of high-caffeine teas and drink, said Thursday that it’s closed a $1 million funding round to spur its continued growth.

The investments came from the Maryland Momentum Fund, a $10 million venture of the University System of Maryland, and Lord Baltimore Fund, a venture fund associated with the Blaustein family, heirs to the fortune of the American Oil Co. — Amoco — founder. The round also included some angel investors.

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“This infusion of funding from Momentum Fund and Lord Baltimore gives us the ammunition we need to fuel rapid expansion and push Zest to the forefront of the rapidly expanding clean energy segment,” Zest Tea CEO James Fayal said in a statement.

Fayal, a University of Maryland graduate, founded Zest Tea in 2014 and moved it from Philadelphia to Baltimore the following year. Its headquarters are in Pigtown.

The company sells a line of bagged teas and canned iced tea energy drinks that are blended to contain about three times more caffeine than traditional teas, giving them a kick similar to coffee. Its teas are available in nearly 2,000 locations across the country, including Harris Teeter, Safeway, Wal-Mart and Whole Foods as well as online on its website, www.zesttea.com, and Amazon. Its canned drinks are being rolled out in 7-Eleven convenience stores in the Mid-Atlantic.

“Zest Tea’s new canned, ready-to-drink flavored teas are expanding into major distribution channels and were identified by 7-Eleven, one of the largest beverage retailers in the U.S., as an emerging brand to watch,” said David Wise, director of the Maryland Momentum Fund.

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