Taste Test

by David Roten

When Deer Creek Farm’s own Blue Harvest Tea made it to the finals of the Flavor of Georgia Food Product Contest, owners Joe and Merlon Harper joined an elite group of entrepreneurs in a competition designed to showcase the best food and beverages the state has to offer. The 17th annual Flavor of Georgia contest, put together by the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, concluded at The Classic Center in Athens on March 28 and attracted 124 entrants competing in 12 categories. 

“The contest is the state’s proving ground for small, upstart food companies as well as established products looking for recognition or new markets,” a UGA press release stated. “This year’s finalists represent all corners of the state and the best of Georgia’s diverse culinary heritage.”

Entrants were given three minutes to pitch their products to food brokers, grocery buyers and other food product experts who judged their entry “based on their Georgia theme, commercial appeal, taste, innovation and market potential.” The Harpers presented their Blue Harvest Tea as “a refreshing drink with the distinct taste of blueberry goodness married with the perfect black tea.” They further suggested that “the subtle taste of herbs will tickle your palate, reminding you of a summer day, sippin’ tea on the front porch.”

Even though the Harpers did not win the drink category for their tea, they gained plenty of perks. Along with a one-year membership in Georgia Grown, they were given a personalized press release, a featured spot in a product directory with exposure to buyers and media outlets and permission to use the Flavor of Georgia logo on their label. Merlon touted the connections made and valuable information received at the event. “It was an awesome experience,” she said. 

“There’s just so much to learn. You never learn it all, and it’s just a continuous thing to try to get better at it.”

Joe Harper

The Harpers have already acted on the feedback received from the judges by redoing the label on their bottled tea. “We just paid a design company to come up with a new design,” she said, “so we have a new label.” They expect the fresh look to increase sales and maybe even improve their chances of winning next year. “We’re going to apply again, of course,” she said.

“There’s just so much to learn,” Joe said. “You never learn it all, and it’s just a continuous thing to try to get better at it.”

Click here to read more stories by David Roten.

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