Got (Almond) Milk?
How Three Trees founder Jenny Eu is bottling up her almond milk recipe for the health-conscious of the Bay Area.
Jenny Eu spent her childhood taking long hikes with her grandmother. But it wasn’t your typical walks around the neighborhood. No, they were magical journeys through the subtropical forests of Northern Taiwan. “The forests were lush, covered, and teeming with life,” Eu recalls. “My grandmother taught me which berries were edible and which flowers had nectar. On some of our hikes she would collect seeds, leaves, and roots from various plants.” Eu’s grandmother would then take her findings, which held either medicinal or nutritional properties, home and create teas and sweet and savory soups. “I tried to recreate her recipes but, to be honest, nothing was quite as good,” Eu confesses, “except the nut milks that I stumbled upon!”
One day, Eu decided to throw some almonds into her soymilk maker. And she loved the end result. “It was rich, creamy, and delicious—very different from the kinds available at the grocery stores,” she says. The difference in taste stems from additives. Most nut and soy milks sold in stores contain extra water and, therefore, need to be thickened with various gums. “My nut milks had a naturally rich and creamy taste because of the high amount of nuts I used,” Eu explains. “I’ve always loved food, and had worked in the natural foods industry. To me, it’s equally important for food to be both healthy and delicious. This was my opportunity to make something better.”
So, in 2013 she created Three Trees—whose name was inspired by those educational hikes with her grandmother. She started making the nut milks out of local commercial kitchens, such as Kitchener in Oakland and Kitchentown in Burlingame. Stands at local farmer’s markets and pop-up markets followed. Both Rainbow Co-op and Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco began to carry Three Trees. “When we added more local stores, I bought an old refrigerated van for $5,000. It had 500,000 miles on it!” Eu recalls. “Every time I crossed the San Mateo Bridge I’d mutter a little prayer that the van wouldn’t break down. As hard as those years were, they gave me the opportunity to refine the product, understand what the customer wants, and build relationships with retail partners.”
Fast-forward to the present, and Three Trees remains focused on the importance of plant nourishment. These milks use the whole nut (more fiber for you!), and the flavors, Unsweetened Original (which contains only or-ganic almonds and water) and Unsweetened Vanilla (which contains organic almonds, water, organic vanilla extract, and organic vanilla bean), are sold by the liter. The company is also branching out to reach more consumers around the country. “I’m proud that Three Trees has grown organically, based on the quality of the product, and not because of deep pockets or connections,” Eu says proudly. “We did it step by step, laying down a solid foundation.”
Three Trees is available at local Whole Foods markets and Draeger’s in Menlo Park | www.threetrees.com