NORWALK, Conn. – Norwalk’s Mario Leite has turned his idea for a unique style of ice cream into a brand with a national reach.
A former investment banker, Leite founded Tea-riffic, a line of tea-based organic ice creams, in 2011 out of his Norwalk home. The company has been growing ever since.
“I have had a long time love affair with ice cream,” Leite says on his company's website. “As a child, the sweeter, chunkier and gooier the ice cream the better. However, over time I developed a more discerning palate.”
He decided to try an experiment: making a homemade batch of ice cream flavored with Earl Grey tea. The flavor was “a big hit” instantly with his friends and family, Leite says.
He kept tinkering with the idea, combining different types of teas with other complementary flavors.
“I realized I was on to something when I saw people’s eyes light up with glee over this unexpectedly delicious and complex flavor, offering the malty and subtly citrus notes of Assam black tea and bergamot,” Leite says on the website.
Now Tea-riffic comes in six varieties, from the original Chunky London Mist with Earl Grey, vanilla, chocolate and pecans to the latest, which uses lavender tea and blueberries.
Two of Tea-riffic’s flavors, Chunky London Mist and Masala Chai, tied for first place in the ice cream category at the Connecticut Specialty Food Awards last year, and two other flavors placed second and third. The company also won the “Best New Product: Edibles” award from the World Tea Expo in 2012.
Liete’s ice cream is available in markets across the tri-state area, including Whole Foods Markets and King supermarkets. In fall 2913, he signed a deal with Texas-based Central Market, taking his brand from regional to national.
A full list of stores that carry Tea-riffic is available at the brand’s website.