FROM EAST TO WEST
Local soda maker brings sparkle to family recipe.
WRITTEN BY NAOMI JIMISON
PHOTOS BY RACHEL VALLEY
Payam Fardanesh, founder of Silk Road Soda, enjoys a Ginger with Mint with his salmon poke at Fish Face Poke Bar in Carmichael’s Milagro Centre
Payam Fardanesh grew up drinking his grandmother’s sekanjabin, a traditional Iranian summer drink combining apple cider vinegar, mint, sugar, and cucumbers. Little did he know then that he would someday bring that Eastern, lemonade-like treasure from childhood into the Western world as a healthy soda alternative.
Fardanesh, who moved to Sacramento from Tehran, Iran, at 10 years old, started carbonating the ancient beverage in March 2013 under the name Silk Road Soda — a name inspired by his grandmother’s birthplace in Tabriz, a busy stop along the legendary Silk Road trade route.
A refreshing change
Fardanesh’s Silk Road Soda journey began during his time attending graduate school at California State University, Sacramento in 2012, when his interest in food preparation led him to cook for groups of 10 or 20 friends at a time. A soda enthusiast as well, he started to brainstorm ways to make the sugary beverage healthier, and the idea occurred to him to carbonate his grandmother’s summer drink using less sugar than other soda brands.
He concocted three other flavors — ginger, pomegranate, and pear — and then introduced to the West this new, healthier soda with a clean taste. Today, through stores and restaurants, Silk Road Soda now reaches more than two million people from Sacramento to the entire Pacific Coast, including Washington, Oregon, and Southern California. The food he prepared for friends and the soda he created have allowed him to share his Persian heritage with friends and, ultimately, the rest of the world.
“Culture should not separate us, but it should unite us, because it gives us each our own story to tell,” Fardanesh says. “The way we eat is a story.”
The organic, gluten-free, non-GMO refresher’s ingredients include apple cider vinegar (which scientific studies have shown to have several health benefits) made by Cerritos-based Fleischmann’s Vinegar Co. Inc. One serving of Silk Road contains 80 calories and 19 grams of sugar, but Fardanesh is working on cutting that sugar content in half with Silk Road’s next generation, to about 10 grams. With the lemon ingredient lessening the amount of sugar needed, the drink currently contains about 50 percent less sugar than a can of Coca-Cola.
That makes Silk Road one of the soda business’ healthiest drinks.
Naomi Jimison is an English honors major graduate from UC Berkeley who grew up in El Dorado County and now lives in Auburn, Calif. She writes for numerous local publications about local restaurants, food news, and events.
Find Silk Road Soda at all 38 Whole Foods Markets in the Sacramento, Reno, and San Francisco regions, as well as Nugget Markets, Cost Plus World Market, Raley's and Bel-Air Supermarkets, and BevMo! Stores in Greater Sacramento. It’s also sold by the bottle at both Fish Face Poke Bar locations in Downtown Sacramento and at Localis in Sacramento.