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Originally published Sunday, August 10, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Cha Dao Tea makers make it themselves

Most beverage companies hire someone to mix their flavors and fill their bottles, while people at the home office focus on sales and branding...

Seattle Times business reporter

Cha Dao Tea

LIKE MANY DRINK COMPANIES, Seattle-based Cha Dao has spent years chasing a profit. Unlike most drink companies, it makes and bottles its own products.

Headquarters: 420 S. Massachusetts St., south of downtown Seattle

Employees: 9.

Drink flavors: Chrysanthemum, jasmine with lemon, yin-yang (black tea and coffee), oolong and sencha.

Suggested retail price: $1.99 to $2.50 for a 16.9-ounce bottle.

Most beverage companies hire someone to mix their flavors and fill their bottles, while people at the home office focus on sales and branding.

Drinks from Seattle-area names like Jones Soda, Dry Soda and Zipfizz are made hundreds and sometimes thousands of miles away from their headquarters.

Cha Dao Tea is an exception, brewing and bottling its teas in a factory south of downtown Seattle.

Founder Ghim-Sim Chua decided to produce the teas himself because of a recall just six months after they appeared on grocery shelves. The company's bottler had botched it, and "the tea was rotten. You couldn't drink it," he said.

Unlike most bottled drinks, Cha Dao is not shelf stable, which means it goes bad when it's not refrigerated.

"We realized that it was such a unique product that we had to do it ourselves," Chua said.

The beverage business is completely different from what Chua expected when he settled on it as his new career one year after leaving a software-engineering job at Microsoft.

By now, he has spent about half-a-million dollars on Cha Dao and is raising money from angel investors.

Two years after selling its first bottle, Cha Dao's annual sales are under $1 million. It is available in about 300 stores in 12 Western states.

"I always wanted to create a lasting legacy," Chua said. "However, I think a lot of our investors want to see some form of exit strategy, so our exit strategy has been to be acquired by a larger beverage company."

Melissa Allison: 206-464-3312 or mallison@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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