As a teacher, Lori Peha Kezner would often heat a mug of water at school and stir in a bouillon cube for a snack. It was quick, but boring. “It was full of salt and other stuff,” she says. The search for a solution spurred her into another career.
With husband Llance Kezner, Lori owns OneFarStar, a specialty foods business based in Bellevue. They’re the people behind Millie’s Sipping Broth, essentially a tea bag that makes a savory broth when it’s steeped in water — “a simple idea, but very complicated to make,” Llance said.
A pho-flavored version of the broth won a 2017 gold medal from the Specialty Food Association, beating out much bigger competitors like Numi Organic Tea. It’s the second award the Kezners have won since founding their business in 2009.
The honors were especially golden considering the couple didn’t have a big background in food — or business. Lori’s jobs included teaching at Seattle Hebrew Academy and then the Jewish Day School (she’s still a substitute teacher in Bellevue). Llance had worked in wholesale distribution with his dad after college, but more recently was a tech worker. When the economy crashed in 2008, he lost his job. After that, he remembers thinking, “Let’s try and make something for our family that we can rely on, whether or not jobs come and go.”
The idea for their first product, a marinated garlic topping, came from the garlic they used in their own homemade salad dressing. Llance brought samples to a wine show, where a Kroger distributor found them. “We went from zero jars to having 70 QFCs carry our product. We got immersed really quickly in the whole world,” Lori says. “We didn’t know what hit us.”
Since then, “We always have our eye on doing something the market doesn’t have,” hence the tweak of the tea bag format for their sipping broths — a vegetarian, gluten-free, low-calorie, and low-sodium invention that came just in time for the national bone broth craze.
The bags are available in specialty shops and online now, but the couple plans to introduce them to coffee shops and even hospitals. And yes, there really was a Millie: The broth is named after Lori’s mother. “She just loved to have the family around,” says Lori. “And she loved to cook.”
Millie’s Sipping Broth