Meet our local vendors – Leelanau Tea

  in Blog

The pandemic years, difficult though they were, bore a different kind of fruit for many people who had unexpected extra time on their hands or who had no choice but to reinvent themselves due to job changes. This was the case for Kevin Vann, founder and head cherrymonger at Leelanau Bottling Company (aka Leelanau Tea). 

Kevin took advantage of the limited work hours at his job in design and sales for a local sign company. During the pandemic lull he reflected on what he really wanted to do with his life. He knew he enjoyed the beverage industry and this interest galvanized him to commercialize his popular home-brewed cherry iced tea he had been making for years for his family and friends. 

The young brewing and bottling operation ran on a shoestring budget for the first year, just to get a toehold in the competitive beverage market, while Kevin maintained his full-time job. In 2021 he did his first full production run and reached out to his large network of store and restaurant owners that he had developed with his sign job. These connections really helped launch his product. The business has been growing steadily since then as he acquires more accounts and distributors. Oryana was one of his first customers.

Kevin continues to work his day job as he aims for a sales goal that will allow him to transition to the tea business full time. Last year the company made 187,000 bottles and this year the plan is to produce 600,000.

 Leelanau Tea is available in many independent stores, regional chains, and large retail chains such as Meijer and Kroger. Kevin says he has about 2,000 locations so far.

Thirst quenching iced tea and lemonade sell particularly well during the warmer months but Kevin’s beverages are developing a following and sales are steady even through the winter. Kevin envisions visitors to our area bringing a little bit of Leelanau summer magic back home with them in the form of his refreshing bottled brews.

Kevin was attracted to the beverage industry like bees to a cherry blossom, and one of the things he particularly enjoys about his business is working directly with store managers and owners themselves. He still delivers to a few select accounts and the relationships he has built with them are treasured. He has a weekly route in the summer and enjoys catching up with everyone during deliveries.

The beverage industry does have its challenges, especially when you are still trying to get your business off the ground. As he works with larger accounts or distributors, it becomes more difficult dealing with pricing discounts, allowances, chargebacks, shipping, etc. With those larger accounts he says he is lucky just to break even, but he is hopeful that the business will grow and work out in the long run.

Speaking of growing the business, Kevin is currently expanding to southern and eastern areas of the U.S. to see if the product has a fit outside of Michigan. If all goes well with that plan, he’ll expand to the west. “I am hopeful that people across the country will come to appreciate our teas and lemonades,” said Kevin.

We invite you to try one of Leelanau Tea’s several delicious flavors that include cherry limeade, cherry lemonade, cherry unsweetened tea, cherry sweetened tea, and cherry half and half. Learn more about Leelanau Tea by visiting their website: