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Local business adventures turn to centuries past with new Mediterranean soda

From Roseville to Sonoma, new beverage is generating excitement
By: Scott Thomas Anderson, Editor
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In the ancient world, the famous Silk Road allowed merchants from Persia to share their treasures with far-off communities from Africa to eastern Asia: Following in that tradition, two Roseville entrepreneurs are bringing a time-honored drink from “the Cradle of Civilization” to stores and restaurants across the region.

Srijun Srinuanchan and Payam Fardanesh first met in 2009 while earning master’s degrees in business at California State University, Sacramento. For the last year, they’ve been working together to launch Silk Road Soda, a Mediterranean beverage company meant to bring new flavors to the region by reaching back into the past.

Payam lived in Iran until the age of 10. Some of his earliest childhood memories hearken back to his grandmother’s inviting kitchen in Tehran, smelling an ancient drink she would mix from the time of the great Persian empires.

“It’s been called Sekanjabin in Persia for centuries and it’s been mentioned as Oxymel in Greece going back to the writings of Hippocrates in 400 B.C.,” Fardanesh said. “It has a balanced sweet and savory taste with a subtle vinegar note.”

Using his grandmother’s recipe and modern carbonization, Fardanesh began developing a wholly unique take on the drink that could be sold in America. Srinuanchan teamed up with him in order to create a full company that could mix, bottle and market the product as Silk Road Soda. The drink is entirely organic, with cane sugar, natural vinegar and zero processed ingredients. Srinuanchan and Fardanesh started production in February, working with a bottling plant in Sonoma County. Silk Road Soda now comes in three flavors, Original Mint, Pomegranate Mint and Cucumber Mint.

“Originally, we figured there would be a small sub-set of health-conscious consumers who would want this,” Srinuanchan recalled. “Since our launch, the scope has really broadened. We’re seeing a lot more markets opening up to us than we expected.”

Bottles of Silk Road Soda are already on sale at Newcastle Produce in Newcastle, Palms Mediterranean Market in Roseville, Real D’Lish Food in Auburn and The Flower Farm in Loomis. Restaurants that have added the drink to their menus include My Thai Table and Bubba KaBaba in Granite Bay, The Saffron Grill in Folsom, Pachamama Organic Café in Auburn and Opa Opa in Sacramento. Fardanesh told the Press Tribune that every week he and his partner are hearing from new prospective dining houses.

“It seems like the fact that we’re local businessman is really opening doors and generating excitement,” Fardanesh said. “Roseville may not be a huge city, but it’s an awesome village, and people here really take care of each other.”

Srinuanchan agreed, adding, “It seems like everyone just wants to share information and contacts and help support us — it’s really blown us away.”

In addition to holding countless meetings throughout the region, the new business owners are also hosting social events to introduce food-lovers to their bottled tribute to the Mediterranean world. This week, the Silk Road owners appeared at a special soda and food pairing event at My Thai Table in Granite Bay.   

As word continues to get out about Silk Road Soda, Fardanesh and Srinuanchan hope the idea of a sophisticated sampling of faraway lands equals a business proposition with real longevity.

“At the end of the day, it’s a melting of East and West through flavor,” Fardanesh said. “There’s no better way to share culture than through food.”