University System of Maryland Venture Capital Fund and Lord Baltimore Capital Group Invest in Baltimore-Based Startup Zest Tea

Baltimore, Md. (Dec. 11, 2018) – Zest Tea, a company that creates energizing tea blends with as much caffeine as a cup of coffee, has received a $1 million investment in a funding round co-led by the Lord Baltimore Capital Group and the University System of Maryland’s (USM) Maryland Momentum Fund. University of Maryland, College Park alumnus James Fayal (BS, Finance 2012) is a co-founder of the Baltimore-based startup.

“Zest Tea’s new canned, ready-to-drink flavored teas are expanding into major distribution channels and were identified by 7-Eleven, one of the largest beverage retailers in the U.S., as an emerging brand to watch. The product is beautifully branded, and the founder, James Fayal, is one of the most impressive startup CEOs that we have encountered,” said David Wise, director of the Maryland Momentum Fund.

The Maryland Momentum Fund, which was established by the USM Board of Regents to support promising commercial opportunities arising from advances in research and intellectual property at USM campuses, has previously invested in three other startups, including NextStep Robotics, MF Fire, and the North American Wave Engine Corporation. The Fund is designed to fill gaps in the funding pipeline to push USM’s most innovative ideas into the marketplace. The Maryland Momentum Fund and the Lord Baltimore Capital Group are each contributing $300,000 toward the investment in Zest Tea. Other contributors in the investment round include angel investors and a personal investment from one of the Lord Baltimore Capital Group members.

The company will use the funds to support the new iced tea beverage in retail and convenience stores and grow the company’s distribution in the mid-Atlantic and metro New York City markets. “One of the biggest hurdles for new beverage companies is building a strong ground game to demo and merchandise the product on shelves in order to increase sell through. This round and the support we’re receiving from the Maryland Momentum Fund, Lord Baltimore Capital Group, and our other investment partners gives us the ammunition we need to compete against the well-capitalized incumbents in the tea and energy drink markets,” says Fayal.  

James Fayal, Zest Tea (Photo Credit: BevNet)

About Zest Tea

Using natural tea extracts and a proprietary blending process, Zest Tea is able to produce high-quality tea with 135 - 160mg of caffeine per cup, or about three times the amount of caffeine as normal tea and equal to the amount of caffeine in a regular cup of coffee. Tea’s naturally occurring amino acids, including L-Theanine, help moderate caffeine’s effects, minimizing the jitters and crash often experienced with consuming caffeine. Zest Tea’s bagged products are available in 2,000 grocery stores across the nation and the new iced tea beverage is currently launching with 7-Eleven in the mid-Atlantic as well as other retailers in the region. Zest Tea is also available to order online from and Amazon.

About the University System of Maryland (USM)
The USM is the state’s public higher education system. USM’s 12 institutions, two regional higher education centers, and system office work closely together to leverage their collective expertise and resources, share best practices, increase the system’s effectiveness and efficiency, and advance USM’s mission to improve the quality of life in Maryland.

About the USM Momentum Fund
The Maryland Momentum Fund is a new initiative of the University System of Maryland (USM) to provide late seed investment funding for promising technology ventures that come out of any of the twelve constituent USM institutions, its research parks, and its students, faculty, or graduates. With a $10 million commitment from the System already in place, the Fund is collaborating with UM Ventures (a joint initiative of the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the University of Maryland, College Park to commercialize technologies and expand industry collaboration) to reach out to area venture capitalists and angel investors for additional funds.

Maryland Momentum Fund
David Wise
Phone: 410-706-3361

Contact – Zest Tea
James Fayal
Phone: 860-917-0799


Contact: Mike Lurie
Phone: 301.445.2719