Behind the Brand: Bola Granola

Two summers ago, as we prepared to open Thirst’s first location, we tried a lot of different granola.  We knew that whatever granola we selected had to be vegan and gluten-free, and we wanted it to contain limited added sugar.  We also preferred to purchase granola from a local company, though we tried granola from all over the United States.  When we tried Bola, which is made with all organic grains in small batches in the Berkshires, we immediately knew we had a winner.  All Bola granola is vegan, and they sell a delicious gluten-free line that we use at Thirst on all of our acai and smoothie bowls.  When we added the option to our menu for “extra granola,” it quickly became one of our most popular “boosts”.

Recently, I talked to the founder Michele about what makes Bola so special (other than the obvious fact that it tastes amazing!). Some of the highlights of our conversation are below.

Acai Bowl with Bola Granola

Photo Credit: Stephanie de Bourmont

The Beginning of Bola

I asked Michele about the start of Bola granola, and she explained that creating a granola company was not always in her plans.   She spent years running restaurants, but it wasn’t until after she’d left the restaurant industry that the idea of starting a granola company occurred to her.  Michele had left the food business to “follow [her] dream” of “being an artist,” and had no plans of returning to the food industry.

Even after she stopped running restaurants, however, Michele regularly made granola at home, and her husband was a big fan.  When she reached a point in her life where she was looking for ways to increase her income beyond what she was making as an artist, her granola provided the answer.  She thought about making the granola that would eventually be named “Bola” granola into a business and decided that she “just had to jump in and do it.”

Explaining the early days of Bola, Michele told me, “it was all I did.  It’s basically all I do.  It’s taking care of the baby.” She acknowledged thankfully that these days, “it’s working out very well.”

The Growth of Bola Granola

Starting from a small production facility in the Berkshires, Michele has grown her granola company into a household name in New England.  You can find it on the shelves at Whole Foods and many local markets, at grocery stores nationwide, and Bola ships directly to consumers, too.  I asked Michele about how she was able to grow her company and she explained some of what’s made Bola the huge success that it is today.

It is clearly a business driven by passion.  Michele told me that “I used to think when I taste this and I’m not excited anymore, that’s when I have to stop.  But I still have it every morning for breakfast.”

It’s not only Michele who is excited about Bola – her employees play an integral part too.  Part of Michele’s role is “making sure everybody’s happy here at the bakery.”  She explained, “I’m very grateful.  I’ve had a lot of good luck, a lot of great support, a lot of great employees.”

Customers, of course, are what keeps a business open.  “I love that it means so much to people.  We get really wonderful letters, some of them very emotionally connected with their parents who are gone, or a special occasion or trip.”

She is thankful for the journey so far.  “If I hadn’t had to earn money again, I would not have gone back into business,” she told me.  “But as it turned out, it’s been an amazing ride.  Meeting all kinds of great people.”

Part of what Michele has focused on with Bola is keeping it healthy, and she tries to get her employees to eat better too.  Bola has limited added sugar and comes in a less sweet variety.  When I asked her what’s next for her and for Bola, she told me Bola would keep expanding and that she might go back to school in order to gain more of a scientific background on nutrition.  We can’t wait to see what’s next!

Finding MORE Bola granola outside of Thirst

For those of you who want more Bola granola than you get on your acai bowls, on the Bola granola website, there’s an updated list of all the stores that Bola supplies (available here, and including local favorites like American Provisions and Formaggio) .  And Bola also does a tremendous amount of mail order.

Thanks to Michele for her time and for making sure amazing granola!

To read more about Bola or to place an order, you can visit their website: https://bolagranola.com/.  You can also keep up with Bola happenings by following them on instagram: https://www.instagram.com/bolagranola/.

 

 

 

 

Valentine’s Day Treats

Whether you’re celebrating love for yourself, your friends, family, or a romantic partner, Valentine’s Day is a day to feel good and help those around you to do the same.  And while we love chocolate as much as anyone, we don’t relish the post-box of truffles stomach ache, confused skin, and sugar hangover.

This year, for the first time, we’re introducing a special Valentine’s Day cashew mylk to help you or your loved ones celebrate healthfully.  Meet our new Pink Mylk.

Pink Mylk ($9.25 for 16 oz.)

Pink Mylk ($9.25 for 16 oz.)

Made with organic cashews, organic maca, raw strawberries, organic vanilla, medjool dates, filtered water, and just a hint of beet juice (for that vibrant pink color), it’s a Valentine’s Day drink that will help you feel your best.  Cashews are rich in protein, strawberries are a good source of antioxidants, and maca is a natural energy and libido booster.

Valentine's Gift Bag ($35 each)

Valentine’s Gift Bag ($35 each)

Valentine’s Day Gift Bags ($35 each)

We’re also offering special Valentine’s Day gift bags – the perfect healthful treat for you or a loved one.  The gift bags, reusable cooler bags, come filled with one package of Superfood Bites, one Pink Mylk, a 4 oz. mason jar of Bola Granola, and a $10 gift card for your Valentine to use later.

To reserve your Valentine’s Day gift bag or Pink Mylk, email holidayorder@thirstjuiceco.com by Sunday, February 12 at noon.  Be sure to let us know what you’re ordering, which date (2/13 or 2/14) you’ll be picking up, and from what location you’d like to pick up.  We’ll also have limited quantities of individual Pink Mylks, as well as Valentine’s Day gift bags, available in both stores for those who don’t reserve ahead of time on Monday, February 13 and Tuesday, February 14.  Ordering 5 or more gift bags or 12 or more Pink Mylks?  We can deliver to your downtown Boston office on Tuesday for free – mention in your email that you’d like to set up delivery.

 

 

Wellesley Grand Opening – 11.29.2016

Come celebrate the opening of our Wellesley location with us! All day on Tuesday, November 29, we’ll have special deals, samples, and the opportunity to win fun (and healthy) prizes at our Wellesley store.

grand-opening

Join us for:

  • Samples galore! We’ll be making samples of our most popular juices and smoothies all day; plus we’ll have samples of some of our favorite food items like the Tuscan Kale Bowl and Spicy Peanut Noodles.
  • Free stuff! Receive a free Thirst. For Life. cooler bag (perfectly sized for three cold-press juices or one acai bowl) with any purchase of $35 or more.
  • Discounts! Take 20% off all shots.
  • Prizes! Snap your best photo of the opening and tag us (@thirstjuiceco) and use hashtag #thirstwellesley on your public Instagram account for a chance to win one of three gift cards, or the grand prize of a cooler bag filled with your choice of nut milk, plus your choice of cold pressed juice, plus Superfood Bites, and more.  Or join our mailing list and with any purchase to be entered in a raffle to win a $20 gift card.
  • And more!

Celebrations start at 7AM and continue until we close at 6PM!

Thirst Wellesley Construction Update #5: We’re Open!

We’re open in Wellesley!

thirst-juice-wellesley-interior

This past Monday, we opened our doors in the Belclare.  We could not be more grateful for the warm response that we’ve received from our new community.  To all of you who have stopped in for a smoothie (or several) or just to say “hi,” thank you! And if we haven’t met you yet – please come introduce yourselves.  We’d love to meet you!

Much of our exterior signage went up today, though some of it will have to wait for a warmer day.

Exterior Signage

We’ll celebrate our Grand Opening after Thanksgiving all day on Tuesday, November 29.   Please stop by for samples, discounts, and the chance to win great prizes! (Details to follow.)

 

Wellesley Construction – Update #4

If you follow us on Snapchat (for those of you not yet following, we’re “thirstjuiceco”), you know that we spent time at our new Wellesley store yesterday – and that it’s finally starting to look like a juice bar! The floor is in, as are the tiles, some of the cabinetry, and the wall separating the front and back of the house.

Future home of our menu board, above some beautiful new tile

Future home of our menu board, above some beautiful new tile.

We are really excited about how much bigger the back of house space is in our Wellesley store compared to Boston.  In Boston, we basically don’t have a back of house.   That means we peel every carrot, wash every leaf of kale, and cook all of soup on the counter immediately behind the register.  Thanks to the increased prep space in Wellesley, you can expect more prepared foods (think salads, grain bowls, and new snack items) and a wider variety of cold-pressed juices.

Inside Look - Unfinished back of house

Inside Look – Unfinished back of house

We still need to paint, hook up plumbing and electric, and install equipment.  And then we need to pass all of our final inspections.  But we’re close enough that we can now say we plan to open next month!

Stay tuned for more updates as we get closer.   We are also now hiring Team Members and Shift Managers for Wellesley.  If you’re interested or know someone who would be a great fit, check out the job description on Craigslist here: Job Listing and email us at jobs@thirstjuiceco.com.

Wellesley Construction – Update #3

Our rough plumbing and electric inspections are complete  – we passed! And last night, the Board of Selectman approved our restaurant license (known generally as a Common Victualler’s License; in this case a “Take Out Food License,” because we don’t have seating).

Check back next week for a longer post with pictures of the huge progress our construction team has made in the past few weeks!

 

 

Wellesley Construction – Update #2

Construction on our Wellesley store continues to progress as planned.  Though there’s still much to do, our construction team has accomplished a lot in the past month.

  • The cement slab, which the team tore up last month in order to install plumbing, is now whole.
  • Framing (to support our interior walls) is now complete.
  • Installation of “rough” plumbing is ongoing.
  • Installation of “rough” electric is ongoing.

Wellesley - Early August 2016

Next up, we have our rough plumbing and electric inspections and the hearing for our restaurant permit (often referred to as a Common Victualler’s license).

Check back soon for more updates and follow us on snapchat (thirstjuiceco) to come with us behind the scenes on our site visits!

New to Thirst Juice Co.?  Learn more about us on our about page and view our menu, too.

 

Behind the Brand: New Grounds Food

When it comes to sourcing, we think long and hard about whom we’re buying from, what they stand for, and the quality of the items they’re selling us.  We work with companies that we’re proud to be associated with.  A lot of those companies, like us, are locally based.  Because we love them – and think you will too – we want you to meet them!

Over the next few months, we’ll be introducing you to some of the local companies we work with in our Behind The Brands series.

September 10, 2014- Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari, DSMB'17 are the co-founders of New Grounds Food and will be launching a kickstarted campaign to help get their Coffeebar, an all natural energy bar with a full cup of fair trade coffee, off and running.

Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari, DSMB’17 are the co-founders of New Grounds Food.

With countless snack bars on the market, our standards for bars are extremely high.  Like everything at Thirst, all the bars we sell are gluten-free and vegan.  Additionally, we look for bars that aren’t just tasty and healthful, but that have something special about them – they’re locally created, a unique concept, or especially delicious.  New Grounds Food Coffee bars check all those boxes.  Created by Johnny Fayad and Ali Kothari during their freshman year at Northeastern (!) and containing a full cup of organic, fair-trade coffee in every bar, Coffee Bars stand out in a crowded field.

Johnny took the time to answer a few questions about what makes New Ground Food Coffee Bars special.

Where did the idea for New Grounds Food come from?

After running late to our 8am classes freshmen year at Northeastern, my co-founder and I never had time for breakfast and coffee in the morning and wanted a quick way to get our boost without sacrificing nutrition. We would joke around asking “Why can’t we just eat our coffee?”, and eventually had the thought of actually creating a way to do it. We started making some and tested the recipes out on friends and family and it started taking off from there!

Tell us a little bit about the founders. How do you know each other? Have you always been entrepreneurs? Food/coffee lovers?

Ali and I met during our freshmen year at Northeastern in Peggy O’Kelly’s 8am Financial Accounting class where we would occasionally find ourselves coming in around 8:05am without our morning cup of coffee! I’m not sure if I’d say we were always entrepreneurs but we always enjoyed making things and solving problems. Food and coffee are definitely a big part of our lives! We don’t exclusively hold ourselves to eating coffee, but also enjoy a nice pour over at a local coffee shop.

There are a lot of “healthful” bars out there these days. What makes yours unique?

There’s a full cup of real coffee in every bar! We want to provide people with clean and simple foods to keep them energized for all of life’s adventures and we thought eating coffee would be a tasty and nutritious way to make that happen.

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Does New Grounds Food have a mission? If so, what is it?

Ya! Our mission, as I briefly mentioned is to provide people with clean and simple foods to keep them energized for all of life’s adventures. This means keeping our products free of ingredients we wouldn’t want to eat by themselves, or another way we like to say, “using ingredients found in a pantry, not a laboratory”.

Anything else we should know or that you’d like to share?

Make sure to keep a lookout for awesome places like Thirst Juice for your chance to eat your coffee! And if you want to follow along, check us out on social media @NewGroundsFood to explore new grounds with us!

Wellesley Construction – Update #1

Thirst Belclare

We’ve been waiting a VERY long time to say this, but we’re thrilled to share that we started construction on our Wellesley store yesterday!

As many of you know, we signed a lease for a great space on the Grove Street side of the Belclare last summer.  We’d hoped that our Wellesley store would be open by now, but we’re so excited that we’re finally getting closer!

Here’s what the interior looks like now:

Wellesley 1 - Interior

As you can see, there’s lots to do! But our construction team is committed to getting this done as quickly as we can.  Equipment is ordered and the additional permitting we’ll need in order to open is in the works.  We’ll post regular updates on construction here, and we’ll let you know when we have an opening date.  If you want  updates sent straight to your inbox, sign up for our newsletter (enter your email at the bottom of this page).  Also, add us on snapchat to get a behind the scenes look at our progress! We’re ThirstJuiceCo.

 

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Featured Food: Acai

Acai, pronounced ah-sigh-ee, is a berry that grows on acai palm trees.  Acai is known for its high antioxidant content and has become popular in the U.S. as the essential ingredient in acai bowls (frozen blends that typically include acai, banana, and other fruits, and are topped with various toppings like fresh fruit, coconut flakes, and granola).

Acai Bowl

photo credit: Tori Kendrew, kitchen + kraft

History of the Acai Bowl

Acai grows in Central and South America, and has been eaten for centuries.  Historically, many in the Amazon ate acai daily, often alongside other foods, including as a part of savory meals.  It wasn’t until travelers brought Acai from Northern Brazil to the cities of Southern Brazil in the 1970’s that acai bowls came into existence.  Some say the bowls were first popularized by Carlos Grazie, founder of Brazilian Jiujitsu, as a way to fuel his trainees.  Others say the bowls first became popular among surfers, who would eat the cold bowls as a way to gain energy and cool down in the hot Brazilian sun.  Either way, the bowls began as a delicious way for athletes to fuel their workouts, or to recover from them.  Acai bowls later started appearing in other warm areas with surfing communities, like Hawaii and California; you can now find acai bowls at juice bars and health focused restaurants in many cities throughout the U.S.  We’re proud to have four different types of acai bowl on the Thirst Menu!

Health Benefits

Acai, which is often referred to as a “superfood” is high in antioxidants and contains fiber and healthful fats.  Some studies also suggest that consumption of acai may help boost immunity, help control blood sugar, and support heart health.

Coconut Acai Bowl 1

Coconut Acai Bowl

Questions You’ve Been Asking:

  • Are acai bowls vegan?
    • Great question! The answer is, it depends. Like everything at Thirst, our acai bowls are vegan (and gluten-free), and it’s easy to make a vegan acai bowl.  However, some restaurants and cafes (including traditional Brazilian ones) blend the acai with dairy (milk or yogurt), pour cream on top of the blend, or include honey as a sweetener. Keep in mind that even if the base is vegan, not all cafes use vegan granola. If you aren’t sure about the ingredients and follow a vegan diet, always be sure to ask!
  • Are acai bowls healthy?
    • Yes! Acai bowls are packed with beneficial nutrients, and make a great snack or meal. If you are concerned about limiting your calories, make sure your bowl is made with an unsweetened nut milk as a base, and that you don’t overdo it on the toppings.
  • What does acai look like?
    • Acai berries are small, blue berries that grow in clusters on acai palm trees. You won’t see fresh acai in the U.S.  It grows primarily subtropical regions of Central and South America and must be eaten or frozen within 24 hours of harvest.  If you are looking for acai in your grocery store, look in the frozen fruits section.  You’ll likely find acai in single-serve frozen packs.
  • Does powdered acai contain the same benefits as frozen acai? What about acai juice?
    • The most healthful form of acai that you’ll find in the U.S. is the frozen form. Powdered acai contains antioxidants, but lacks the fiber and healthful fats of frozen acai.  And any acai juice you’ll find here has been pasteurized (heated at extremely high temperatures); this process kills bacteria, but also destroys many of the healthful enzymes in the juice.

Make Your Own Acai Bowl!

Want to make your own acai bowl?  These bowls are easy and fun to make in your home blender.  A basic recipe follows, but feel free to experiment!

  • Blend:
    • ¾ Cup Unsweetened Almond Milk
    • ½ Frozen Banana
    • 1 Frozen Pack Acai (you can purchase Sambazon brand at many Whole Food markets)
    • ½ Cup Blueberries
  • Top With:
    • Granola
    • Coconut Flakes
    • Cacao Nibs
    • Fresh Strawberries

Curious about acai?  Come try a Peanut Butter Acai Bowl at Thirst today or stay tuned for our next Smoothie Bowl Social!