My own taste for seaweed goes back to my great grandmother, Nanna K, who loved snacking on dried dulse, a reddish-purple algae long popular in northern Maine, Canada, Iceland and Ireland. She brought that tradition with her when she and Gramp emigrated from Canada's Maritimes in the 1930s to work in Maine's shoe mills.
This interest deepened over the 12 years I lived in NYC working as a restaurant guide editor at Zagat and on dining content strategy at Google. It was 2013 when I hit on the idea of making seaweed teas. One day at work, I was relaxing with a cup of Japanese green tea, and the aroma and taste suddenly struck me as quite 'seaweedy.' I googled "seaweed tea" and nothing turned up. The gears started to turn.
But it wasn't until I quit my job to move back to Maine in 2016 that I was able to finally start testing out my blends on an unsuspecting public at farmers markets and fairs. Within a year, Cup of Sea was on shelves at more than 50 grocery stores, specialty shops and cafes in Maine, New England and NYC. We also have a booth at Maine landmark Common Ground Fair.
I actually never intended to open a retail shop. But my family was getting crowded out by all of the tea-making supplies in our house — and then one winter day, the pipes froze and burst, soaking thousands of dollars worth of dried organic seaweed, herbal ingredients and tea. Time to find a commercial kitchen.
But during my search, a friend gave me the inside scoop that retail space was becoming available in one of my favorite buildings in Portland. Overnight, I dreamed up the idea for an all-things-seaweed shop. As far as I could tell, it had never been done — at least in the Western Hemisphere. But I wanted a way to showcase, not just my own teas, but the amazing products being made by all the friends I'd made in the seaweed industry since moving to Maine.
So in the summer of 2018, I opened Heritage Seaweed. In our boutique setting, you'll find dried seaweeds like Dulse, Irish Moss, Nori, Wakame, Kombu and Sugar Kelp, plus seaweed food items like jerky, salsa, pickles, puree, seasonings, salad, kimchi and kraut. We also stock seaweed-based bath and body items as well as cookbooks, art and field guides. Beyond seaweed, we've curated a selection of high-quality, uncommon Maine made gifts (no lobsters, lighthouses or loons to be seen, not that there's anything wrong with that). And, of course, this is where we now blend all of our seaweed teas.
In 2019, we launched Seaweed Week, a statewide restaurant week and food festival celebrating the annual kelp harvest. Around 75 of Maine's top restaurants, bars, breweries and distilleries put Maine seaweed on the menu, and the event was covered by Martha Stewart, Forbes and others.
We hope to see you soon!
Josh Rogers, Founder