By every external measure, Stephen Cowan ’08 was a success. Ten years after graduation, he had become very good at selling business software and had every material comfort. Inside he was crumbling.

“I was living an artificial existence— artificial food, artificial air, in a building with 1,000 computers all day,” Cowan said. “Anxiety was building, dipping me in and out of depression and apocalyptic thoughts. In that moment of extreme defeat, my intuition screamed, ‘Go back to nature, connect with plants.’”

Knowing he needed something more immersive than the forest reserve outside Chicago where he grew up, Cowan booked a one-way ticket to Iquitos, Peru, in the heart of the Amazon. For four months, indigenous people taught him the wonders of jungle plants.

“My health came back quickly,” Cowan said. “I felt very grounded and alive. And I knew my path: to connect people with powerful plants.”

That path led him, back in the States, to microgreens—specifically broccoli microgreens, the 10- to 14-day-old shoots of the plant, when its nutrients are more concentrated than in any other stage of growth. Broccoli microgreens are the superfood of the superfood. According to Cowan, they pack 40 times as much sulforaphane—a potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound—as mature broccoli.

But microgreens are delicate, hard to transport, and expensive. How do I get them to more people? Cowan wondered.

Along the path of trial and error, he arrived at: tea. In November 2018, Cowan launched Microtea, a line of tea and herb blends infused with freezedried broccoli microgreens. It’s the first shelf-stable microgreen product sold in the U.S.

While production has more than tripled, Cowan’s mission is bigger than selling microgreen tea.

“We want to supply and empower other companies to put microgreens, this medicinal magic, into their products, helping more people come into balance and live their best lives.”

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