I’m a soda seeker always on the lookout for crafty artisanal sodas with pure flavors. So imagine my surprise when I found carbonated nirvana at a tea stand inside the Fremont Sunday Market.
My guru, James Chang of Shen Zen Tea, crafts tea syrups that, when blended with cold, sparkling water, make bubbly, highly quaffable sodas. Chang and his Shen Zen partner, Neil Buckland, scour the globe for organic teas and blend them with Washington’s seasonal bounty to make ingenious flavors, such as African ginger ale and my favorite, vanilla mint cola. Made with Madagascar vanilla, pure cane sugar and black pu-erh tea leaves from 1,000-year-old Chinese tea trees, the drink has become my summer obsession.
Score a 16-ounce glass (starting at $3) or take home a bottle of tea syrup ($10–$11/16 ounces; $14–$16/750 milliliters) at select farmers’ markets (check the website), or visit Shen Zen tea room inside Capital Mall in Olympia. 625 Black Lake Blvd., Suite 265; 206.414.9533; shenzentea.com.