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Covington-area farm's beverage product competing for best in Georgia
Annual Taste of Georgia set for March 28 in Athens
Merlon Harper
Merlon Harper and husband, Joe, operate Deer Creek Farm on the line between Newton and Walton counties. Their Blue Harvest Tea product was selected to compete Tuesday, March 28, in the Beverage category of the finals of the annual Flavor of Georgia contest at The Classic Center in Athens. (Special |Deer Creek Farm)

COVINGTON, Ga. — A Covington-area blueberry farm’s beverage product was among 36 selected for the final round of competition in an annual contest spotlighting Georgia-grown food products.

Deer Creek Farm saw its Blue Harvest Tea product selected to compete Tuesday, March 28, in the Beverage category of the finals of the annual Flavor of Georgia contest in the final round of competition at The Classic Center in Athens

Those entering the event were all based in Georgia and competed among 12 categories. Judges tasted 124 products entered by 82 Georgia businesses in the first round of the contest March 10. 

Blue Harvest Tea earned the right to compete in the finals against Ginger Beer created by Yardie Beverages of Suwanee; and a product called “Energize Original” by HIBO of Bishop.

Deer Creek Farm has operated since 2007 on County Line Road in Covington. It is a farm operation that allows the public to pick their own blueberries.

Though blueberries are its specialty, it has expanded over the years to include muscadines, figs and a variety of garden vegetables, according to its website.

Merlon Harper, who owns and operates the farm with husband Joe, said she is excited to be a finalist in the contest. 

“It feels really good to have our Blue Harvest Tea recognized and spotlighted,” she said. 

“We married the flavors of two of Georgia’s favorites — blueberries and tea. The flavors will remind of a summer day, sippin’ tea on the front porch, enjoying a simple moment in time,” she said.

Judges for the final round of the contest will include food brokers, grocery buyers and other food product experts. Entries are evaluated by category based on their Georgia theme, commercial appeal, taste, innovation and market potential. 

Finalists in the competition — hosted by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences — will face a “Shark Tank”-style panel of judges to pitch their products, according to a UGA news release.

Contestants will provide samples to judges while pitching their products in a three-minute presentation. 

Winners will be named for each category, the overall grand prize and a people’s choice award, which will be chosen by event attendees.

Manpreet Singh, head of the UGA Department of Food Science and Technology, said the Flavor of Georgia contest “is a unique opportunity for the Department of Food Science and Technology to engage with food entrepreneurs from around the state of Georgia.”

“The contest serves as a resource to assist the local food industry with product development and prepares entrepreneurs to have their products market-ready,” Singh said. 

For the first time, the award ceremony and reception will be open to the public, the release stated.

“Attendees will get to sample the cream of the crop from the competition before the winners from each category and the overall contest winner is announced.”

The 16-year-old competition has acted as a launching pad for small businesses and as many as 1,650 products around the state since it began in 2007.

Past finalists report that participation in the contest boosts their annual sales by about 20% on average and may contribute to more than $5.6 million in annual revenue for the Georgia economy, according to a follow-up survey of previous finalists and winners from 2015 to 2019, a news release stated.

Isa Gutierrez, program coordinator for the Department of Food Science and Technology Extension office, plans the yearly event.

“It’s really good to connect with all these small businesses and see the innovation of some of these people,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez referred to the experience of a company that captured first place in the Jams and Jellies category at the 2022 finals.

“There was a company that made strawberry lemonade marmalade at last year’s competition called We Bee Jammin’ — now known as Christie B’s Jams and Jellies,” Gutierrez said. 

“It was so fun to watch people come up and say, ‘Whoa, how did you think of this?’ … It’s great to see how these businesses bloom after the competition.”

2023 Flavor of Georgia finalists

This year’s finalists are listed by company, product name and hometown within the 12 competition categories. Each product comes from a company based in Georgia.


• Deer Creek Farm, Blue Harvest Tea, Covington

• Yardie Beverages, Ginger Beer, Suwanee

• HIBO, Energize Original, Bishop

Baked Goods

• Lady Belle Macarons, Gritscuits – Smoked Gouda and Garlic, Stone Mountain

• Suga's Enterprises, Suga’s Pimento Cheesecake, Powder Springs

• Honey Specialties, Lemon Blueberry Cheesecake, Millen

Barbecue Sauces

• Savannah Bee Company, Honey Habanero BBQ Sauce, Savannah

• Oconee Creations, Oconee Gold White Gold, Statham

• Davis’ Sauces, Davis' 1929 Sauce, Peachtree City

Condiments, Sauces and Seasonings

• Jar Masala, Garden Masala, Snellville

• Braswell Food Company, Vidalia Onion Steak Sauce, Statesboro

• Amici Food Group, Honey Hot Sauce For Wings and other Things, Madison


• Maybird Confections, Dark Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Toffee, Alpharetta

• RoHo Bakery, Give Me S'more, Decatur

• Brittle Brittle Bakeries, Pecan Brittle, Fort Gaines

Dairy Products

• Dulce Gelato, Probiotic- Kefir Gelato, Woodstock

• Gatherings, Kimchi Pimento Cheese, Decatur

• The Cheese Plant at Hidden Creek Farm, Brasstown Bold – Double Blaze Appalachian Goat Cheese Peppered Honey, Blairsville

Honey and Syrups

• White Oak Pastures, Cane Syrup, Bluffton

• Barlow's, Peach Cobbler Syrup, Atlanta

• L. Franklin's Honey, Cinnamon Creamed Honey, Statesboro

Jams and Jellies

• Elusive Jams, PEARadise Jam, Carrollton

• Christy B’s Jams & Jellies, Peaches 'n Whiskey Preserves, Pooler

• Georgia Jams, Georgia Scorcher Pepper Spread, Williamson

Meats and Seafood

• Jensen Reserve, Biltong Style Bresaola Make Your Own Charcuterie Kit, Loganville

• White Oak Pastures, Beef Jerky, Bluffton

• Rocking Chair Ranch Cattle, Smoked Biltong, Forsyth


• Sweet Treats Cannery, Blueberry Lavender Pie Filling, Springfield

• Woodpecker Trail Olive Farm, First Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Glennville

• Tey's Southern Treats, Southern Fillings, Conyers

Pickled Vegetables, Relish and Salsas

• Point Blank Pepper Company, Hallow Rings, Marietta

• Crazy Nay’s, South Ga Redneck Caviar, Baxley

• Sully's Slammin Fresh Salsa, Mild Fresh Salsa, Roswell

Snack Foods

• All the Fixin’s, Burnin' Slap Up Spicy Pecans, Twin City

• CaJa Popcorn, Vadouvan Curry Popcorn, Smyrna

• The Savannah Cheese Straw Company, Cheese Straws, Savannah

To register to attend the reception and award ceremony and learn more about the competition, visit the Flavor of Georgia website at

Blue Harvest Tea
Deer Creek Farm's Blue Harvest Tea is competing against two others in the Beverage category of the annual Taste of Georgia contest March 28. (Special | Deer Creek Farm)