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Check Out The Buzz About Ooohwee Sweet Tea

By Carrie Laski in Food on Apr 1, 2015 7:05PM

Photo credit: Mark Walker

When Mark Walker of Chatham was required to take beekeeping class as part of his sales manager duties at Beelove skincare company, he never imagined he would enjoy it, let alone that it would change his life.

Flash forward to 2015 and Chicago is buzzing about Walker’s year-old business, Ooohwee Sweet Tea. Using honey he harvests from 16 hives around the city, Walker brews small batches of tea then adds honey and fresh fruit to get flavors like strawberry banana, peach and mango, just to name a few. He sells his tea both by the cup (a small size costs $2 and a large is $2.75) and by the gallon ($7) at pop-up tea stands in select restaurants including Morrison’s Soul Food Kitchen and several Harold’s Chicken restaurants.

Photo credit: Mark Walker

Walker insists on this method of operation because it allows people to sample the tea, which he says is his main goal. He wants people to taste the difference between regular, sugar-sweetened tea and his kind that uses local honey. He must be on to something because people are lining up. DNAinfo Chicago reports that the Chatham location has been averaging 300 cups a day.

Besides the opportunity for sampling, Walker says he opts for tea stands and not retail because the stands create jobs in the community. He has full and part-time employees at each of his locations and looks forward to expanding into more restaurants by summertime so he can hire students who are looking for work during the break from school.

What else is in store for Ooohwee Sweet Tea? Walker says he has no plans as of now to bottle the tea and sell it in stores because that would involve adding preservatives, and he wants to keep the recipes as pure as possible. However, he is gearing up to put his honey on shelves. There is no Facebook page for the company yet, but you can keep up with Walker’s progress and whereabouts by following @oooh_wee_sweet_tea on Instagram.

And what is Mark Walker’s favorite flavor? He loves them all but his favorite is “Honey Lemon,” he says, “because that was the first one, the original.”

Check out Ooohwee Sweet Tea at Morrison’s Soul Food Kitchen (8131 S. Ashland Ave.) and at Harold’s Chicken restaurants: 100 W. 87th St., 7348 S. Stony Island Ave., 18044 W. Halsted St., Homewood, IL.