Tea Startup: Tea Bot – A Robotic Tea Blender & Maker

Tea start-ups are hot these days with more and more international attention regarding all the health benefits that are continuously reported by media. Recently, I reported about Matebros‘ tea made for athletes, but today’s highlight is something completely different, but at least as creative: The Tea Bot.

So What Is It?

In simple words, the Tea Bot is basically a vending machine, that allows customers to make custom blends. It can make a custom blend within 30 seconds after you have selected your ingredients, see video below:

Make Your Own

The idea is great as healthy blends are becoming more and more popular, but many tea lovers find it too troublesome to make their own blends. In addition, tea blend vendors made not have the perfect blend that you have in mind, which the Tea Bot might be able to make!

Try First, Then Order

On the website it says that after trying out different blends, customers can choose their favorites and order a pouch for home. That’s pretty cool as it reduces the risk of disappointment if the actual taste is different from what you have imagined.

Not For Everyone

Those the product is very innovative and definitely of added value to many tea lovers. It’s not for everyone.

  • You don’t know what you want: This is a typical problem of many companies that sell custom products. Many tea lovers actually don’t really know what blends they will love and they prefer to be seduced by tea company by presenting their creative blends. It would be great if the Tea Bot can make personalized suggestions based on certain input by the customer.
  • You love to drink pure authentic tea: Blends are great for some, but some tea lovers will prefer to drink pure leaf teas without any added ingredients. Most of this type of customer will also take the time and enjoy making tea themselves, instead of using some automatic way.

Nevertheless, tea start-ups don’t exist to satisfy everyone, and I believe there will be many tea lovers out that that will find the Tea Bot pretty cool.

Tea Kickstarter Startup MatéBros – A Yerba Mate Tea For Athletes?

This month a new company called MatéBros just launched the Yerba Mate a mate tea drink on kickstarter that according to the company is especially designed for athletes. That’s pretty good marketing I would say, especially with a US Olympic gymnast Sam Mikulak behind the startup.

matebros yerba mate founders

Source: matebros.com

I personally, quiet like the branding of the can that obviously presents itself as an energy drink. See below:

yerba mate branding matebros energydrink

source: matebros.com

Ingredients

So what’s in the drink? Here are all the ingredients mentioned:

water, sugar, lemon juice concentrate, yerba mate leaf extract, stevia leaf extract and natural flavor.

The list of ingredients seems fine, though I am more a fan of real ingredients instead of using concentrates and extracts. What is kind of contradictory is that on their site it says the drink is brewed from real leaves:

The infusion is prepared by steeping dry leaves (and twigs) of the mate plant in hot water rather than in boiling water.

We source the finest, wild-harvested, yerba maté leaves from Paraguay and Uruguay and engage a 6-step brewing process that includes steeping in custom, professional-grade brew stations and then blended with a combination of fresh lemon juices, sugar-cane and natural flavors.

The ingredient ‘natural flavor’ also needs some more transparency.

One serving contains 104 mg of caffeine, that’s quiet a lot and comparable to a average cup of coffee, confirming that it’s indeed an alternative energy drink.

Will It Be Successful?

Yes, I think so. There are lots of energy drinks out there, but none of them presents themselves as an healthy energy drink. The branding of the current drinks focus more getting energy itself. I wouldn’t buy it myself though, and I doubt this drink is really good for athletes, as I do not think reliance on caffeine is good for long-term performance.

Why You Should or Should NOT Start A Tea Business

Almost every single tea enthusiast, at some point in their life will think of starting a tea business themselves. That’s not strange at all, as you should follow your feelings and do what you love right? While this definitely is true, you need to consider more factors to find out if this is really something for you (or NOT).

+Lisa Lin: During my career I  have advised many customers who are growing their tea start-ups as well as friends & family who manage their tea stores. Each and every business is unique, but over time I recognize that tea business actually face very similar issues in the beginning phase. With this article I want to help tea lovers, who consider running their own business, make the right decisions by reducing the gap between expectations and reality.

two hands holding tea cup startup

Romanticizing Entrepreneurship

Tea entrepreneurs are dreamers, and you probably will picture the future of your tea room to become the Starbucks of tea. Though starting a tea business gets romanticized a lot, especially if you love tea, the reality isn’t that glamorous. Basically, it’s simply going to be a lot of hard work. With a lack of resources you are going to take care of tasks such as sourcing, packaging, doing sales & promotions, with the possibly of facing founder’s depression.

Let’s be honest, though there is a lot of tea business opportunities out there, starting your own is extremely hard and you have to be able to endure lots of stress. It’s like growing your own tea plant with lots of care, like a farmer does.

startup tea plant growing

Why It’s So Stressful

There are a couple of reasons why it’s so stressful to start a business. Whether you want to start a tea room, tea shop, or online tea business, the main reason is that you simply have a lot of responsibility. It’s natural to have fear of failure, but when you are a founder do not only have to face your own fears, but also that of your family, as the family’s income is going to depend on your success. And if you have employees, there career are also affected by the success of the company.

So be ready to manage your own psychology. If you are confident about this, the changes of success goes up enormously as long as you listen to your customers and adapt your business accordingly to make it work.

The Worst Reason To Start: Be Your Own Boss

To be your own boss, is the number one worst reason to start-up. If you have watched the movie Horrible Bosses, you know what I mean. If the reason for you is to just be a boss, then you are on the wrong track. Most tea founders I have talked to at some point realized that in practice the real bosses are everyone else around them – investors, employees, customers, or even the local newspaper that could give you lots of exposure. You’re basically working really hard to make everyone happy, before they work hard for you.

So don’t go for it, if you just want to be a boss, because you are tired of working for another. If it’s just power or authority that you are looking for, then go into military or politics. Do not become a founder.

Good Reasons To Start A Tea Business

There are a few reasons that are really good. And with good I mean that if they apply to you, it will greatly improve your chances of success.

Super passionate: This is important, because you need the passion to get through the hard parts of starting up in the beginning. At a later stage, this is also important for recruiting and facing customers, as you need to let your passion about tea shine through when talking to potential employee. Inspire them to bet their career on the tea industry & profession.

Note: Passion is great, but only passion isn’t enough. What you could happen is the possibility that you’ll turn something you really love into something you hate by being forced to deal with all the business aspects. There’s a big difference between doing things you love (with no deadlines). Dealing with things such as marketing, accounting, employees, and debt management comes with deadlines and is different from just being involved in something you love to do as a hobby. (Many thanks to Rochester Glassworks on G+ for this input)

Don’t want to crush anyone’s dreams. Just be very clear and thoughtful about the entirety of the difference between doing something you love as a hobby without the need to make money at it and being forced to do things you may not like or want in order to run your business.

The world needs you:  Very related to passion is that you strongly believe that you have something better to offer, whether it is better packaging, a more practical tea bag or a more healthy tea blend. If you believe you have good tea business ideas that a particular group of tea lovers will like, then you are on the right track. TIP: Do validate your ideas with other tea friends. You must ask them for a honest and critical opinion (otherwise they won’t) to make sure your tea business plan is well validated before you head off.

Relevant skills: Once you believe you have a good idea, ask yourself, if you have a part of the required skill set to make it work. For instance, if you have design skills, than you have the advantage of being able to design the your store/website and tea packaging. If you are a photographer than you are able to take great pictures for your online store or hard-copy catalog. Don’t worry, if you don’t have all the skills, as you can hire employees with those skills or outsource it to a company for a one time project fee. Your skills set is also an important factor in deciding whether to start online or offline first.

The more skills you have the better. If you don’t feel confident enough. Start slow by for instance obtaining skills through national tea certification for tea professionals or to actually visit tea regions to become more knowledgeable about tea.

Industry trends: Tea is the new coffee. So you don’t have to worry about the trend of the industry as a whole. But this doesn’t mean the demand of all types of teas will increase. For example, conventional tea bags are becoming less and less popular. So more focused research, if you plan to sell loose tea blends, then only research this part of the industry. When you open a tea room or tea shop, also research the neighborhood in which you want to settle. Are there competing sellers in the area? Do you think the demographics of this area suits the type of tea that you want to sell?

Figured out whether you want to go for it? If so, then continue read our article series about How To Start A Tea Business Guide

How To Start A Tea Business: Create Your Tea Catalog

create your tea catalog
Is tea a commodity product? No it isn’t. And if you are planning to get into the tea business, than read this article first. Many tea business have a hard time in the beginning phase, because they start thinking about things such as the packaging and the design of the tea shop or online tea store. However, they forgot to ask themselves the single most important question: What tea am I going to sell?

It’s important to start with this basic question, because you’re probably not the only one in your city that sells tea. Or if you are going online, you are most likely not the only online tea store that has a social/online presence. The key is that you have to make choices and tell your audience how you are different and why they should buy from you. Read below in what ways you can be different:

Bags versus Loose: The majority of tea drinkers today are still preferring tea bags over loose tea. The main reason is that tea bags are easier to steep. On the other hand, loose tea is much less consumed, but the market is growing faster.

Blend versus Pure: Are you going to focus on being authentic and sell pure tea? Or are you going to go for blends and make cool commercial teas to seduce the customer?

Tea Types:: Though most tea business try to sell different tea types from green, black to white teas, some others are focusing on one particular type of tea. There are for example many pu erh tea stores that are specialized only in this tea type.

Geography: Besides tea types, you can also specialize in tea from a certain country or even region. Teasenz.com is for example specialized in only authentic tea from China.

While you don’t have to make a choice for each of the above consideration, I do advice to do that for at least one factor above. For instance, you could decide to only focus only on loose tea, but you do want to offer all tea types, from different countries, and sell blends as well as pure tea.

Market Reach & Specialization

Unless, you sell internationally, it’s most likely not wise to narrow down your market too much, because you end up in a market that is too small.

In reality, most local tea stores tend keep their offerings as broad as possible so they are able to make most customers happy. In addition, there are usually not that many competing tea stores in the neighborhood, so that specialization is not as necessary.

If you are an online business, it’s a different story. The most visitors will come from Google search, and you will have to specialize to make sure you are different from all the other tea stores that rank in Google.

This post is part of a series of articles about How To Start A Tea Business.

How To Start A Tea Business: Online Versus Offline

tea business online or offline

One major question, tea start-ups have to make is either to start from a brick and mortar tea shop, tea room, or starting a tea shop online. There is no perfect answer to this, and often it depends on your start-up budget, your personal passion, and your skill set. Whatever you choose, do not feel restricted in the future. After all, tea shops can expand into online as an additional sales channel and online stores can expand into offline shops. Read further below in which we discuss the major factors that you need to consider.

Financial budget

As with many businesses in the world, your financial budget and restrict certain options. You might see this as a constraint, but at the same time it can help you make decisions easier. If you are on a tight budget, it can be better to start an online business first as you will avoid major monthly cost of offline tea shops and tea rooms such as rent and employee salaries

Direct sales skills

Some people have very natural communication/sales skills when speaking to people face to face. If you possess this, then opening a tea shop could be an excellent idea to convert more store visitors into customers. In addition, you might as well visit restaurants, hotels and cafes in your neighborhood and become their tea supplier. Let your passion for tea shine through your sales pitch and you will for sure gain some long-term frequent customers.

IT skills

Do not underestimate the initial cost of starting your own online shop though. IT cost for developing a website can range from 2000 to 10.000 USD depending on factors such as web design and site functionality. Besides simply web development, there could be unexpected IT maintenance required. If you don’t have the necessary IT skills and you are on a tight budget, you could consider starting off from an eBay or Amazon store. Though these platforms will take a certain % commission of your revenue, it can save you big on IT development. If you do possess IT skills, then use it to your advantage to create a powerful and great looking web store. Do keep in mind that a new website needs more initial marketing than an eBay or Amazon store, which we will discuss in the next paragraph.

Digital marketing

If you are shy or for whatever reason not excelling in face to face communication, then don’t worry. After all, more and more people are online these days and this means that there is a big potential customer base that you can tap into. Especially the young generation are very used to being online. If you have strong knowledge on how to navigate online environments such as social networks (Facebook, Twitter etc.) and forums, starting an online store can be your best bet to drive traffic from those online environments right to your web store.

This article is part of a series of blog posts about: How To Start A Tea Business

San Francisco International Tea Festival 2014

16 vendors participated during San Francisco tea festival 16 this year with interesting lectures and tea tastings for roughly 1000 visitors. It’s great to see so many tea festivals being organized all over the world to educate tea lovers on authentic loose tea and it’s wonderful culture. See below some pictures of this year’s festival in San Francisco.

Ferry Building, San Francisco, SF tea festival san francisco market hall

Ferry Building, San Francisco

SF tea festival tea tasting

Wanna try this ;)

SF tea festival free tea tasting 2014

Here’s your cuppa.

san francisco tea festival visitors

What should I try first?

I just can't wait to take a sip

Close-up shot, pouring tea

san francisco tea festival gaiwan

They look pretty!

san francisco tea festival gaiwan tea tasting

Yummy, it’s steeped perfectly!

san francisco tea festival enjoy tea 2014

No words can describe this taste…

s.f. tea festival tea shopping bags

Looking good!

s.f. tea festival girl drink tea

You’re never to young to start drinking tea. Watch out for the caffeine when drinking in the evening though.

5 Reasons Why Tea Breaks Are Good For You In Office

Did you know that more than 15% of office workers in US & Canada have never made a cuppa for their colleagues? If you have a busy job, maybe you belong this group. Most of the time, you probably feel rushed in office, so you just can’t be bothered to serve others. However, a humble tea round is one of the most effective ways to stay energetic, efficient and manage stress at work. Here’s why..

Note: For a tea lover like me, I am happy to know that the other 85% do take part in this wonderful office ritual.

tea in office

Connect With Your Colleagues

No matter how busy your day is, nobody is too busy to just say “Do you fancy a cuppa?”

I believe that tea always has been a drink that connects people. Originated from China, cities here are full of tea houses where people gather and share their stories. In addition, it’s very normal in China that business deals are discussed while steeping a cup of tea together on a traditional tea set like the one below.

teaset in office

But this doesn’t hold only for China. It’s an universal thing that, even small chats with people around you can have a significant impact on your sense of well being. No matter how busy your day is, nobody is too busy to just say “Do you fancy a cuppa?”

The office can sometimes be a boring or lonely place. I really believe these small gestures of including your colleagues in your tea round can brighten their day. In addition, a relaxing and friendly surrounding can never hurt. In some cases I think it can actually increase productivity as well as decrease employee turnover.

Take Care Of Your Eyes

tea bag eye mask hydrateNot everyone works behind a computer the whole day but many people do. More and more people suffer from dry eyes as a result of staring at the computer screen all day.

It’s highly recommended to give your eyes a break every hour. It could be just simply looking away from your bright screen and staring outside the window and let your eyes gaze at something far away. Even better, make yourself (and others) a cup of tea to stay hydrated (as if you are giving yourself a tea bag eye mask) while relaxing your eye muscles. Your precious eyes will thank you for it.

Improve Weight, Posture And Avoid Back Issues

Not only our eyes, but our bodies are suffering from more stressful office environments. It’s reality, millions of office people are suffering from obesity, posture issues and as a result often also back and neck problems.

Tea is proven to support any type of weight loss diet. The caffeine in tea makes you more alert, be more efficient and burn more calories while avoiding an overdose that you could get from drinking coffee. In addition, the caffeine effects is more evenly distributed over several hours while coffee gives you a kick but the effect works out fast. I regularly post articles about tea versus coffee. Recently, I also posted an article about why coffee is a silent career killer.

Not only increased calorie consumption helps you lose weight, as I mentioned before, tea helps to digest a heavy lunch. If you’re interested in other health benefits then click here for other posts related to this topic.

Get up now and make yourself a cup of tea. A short walk to the kitchen can give body’s blood circulation is given a short boost and your limbs and joints deserve some relaxation as well. So never shy away from those tea rounds. And by the way, do a few stretches while you’re waiting for your tea to be steeped ;)

Reduce Your Stress

There is more than enough academic proof that tea helps you feel more calm and less stressed.

Tea

It’s not just what’s in your teacup that’s doing its job, but the fact that you regularly divert your attention away from the overwhelming to-do list for a moment can be very helpful to refocus and get back to it. So if you’re too busy to steep a cuppa, then you are missing the trick to actually stay organized.

Stay Hydrated

Never underestimate the impact of being dehydrated it really effects your performance and mental focus.

This is kinda related to what I mentioned above. When you start drinking when you feel dehydrated, it’s already to late. The trick is to drink before that happens. Forgetting to drink or just ignoring your thirst can be very counterproductive. So in short, think about your basic needs, get up, steep tea, and be more productive.

Ginkgo Biloba Tea Health Benefits And Side Effects

Ginkgo Biloba is one of the world’s oldest surviving tree species and has been used for thousands of years by traditional Chinese medicine practitioners as a healing herb to improve blood circulation. In the West, the tea is widely used to enhance memory and concentration.

ginkgo biloba leaf

What is Gingko Biloba?

Ginkgo Biloba is one of the oldest living tree species originated from China, and it is one of the most extensively researched herbs. The Ginkgo Biloba tree has green leaves that grow up to 3 inches long. During the fall season, the leaves usually turn chartreuse in color, although some leaves turn golden yellow in excellent growth conditions. The ginkgo biloba tree has stout twigs that appear gray, tan or light brown in color. The leaves of this tree are very popular in China for making herbal tea.

Gingko Biloba Benefits for Health

For thousands of years Ginkgo Biloba tea has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) to treat a variety of disorders and support health. In TCM, Ginkgo Biloba tea is primarily used for treating dementia, memory loss and age-related cognitive decline. It can also be used to treat asthma and lung congestion. Most of Ginkgo Biloba’s benefits are due to its ability to increase blood flow in the body.
ginkgo biloba tea

Gingko Biloba Side Effects

Ginkgo biloba extract might cause side effects such as nausea, diarrhea, racing heart, headache and stomach upset. In addition, it might not be used together with other medication. In general, the side effects of ginkgo biloba are rare and mild. In theory though, it may also increase the risk of bleeding, particularly among people with certain medical conditions. Do not use ginkgo biloba if you have a bleeding condition, seizure disorder or any similar health condition. If you are a pregnant women, a nursing mothers, or someone taking medication with blood-thinning properties, avoid consuming Ginkgo Biloba.

Why Coffee Is A Silent Career Killer And Why You Should Switch To Tea

If you believe that coffee can improve your performance at work, it’s not. In fact, it’s actually a silent career killer. Learn why you should sip tea instead.

The Benefits Of Coffee Reviewed

Many coffee drinkers drink coffee in office because it improves performance, but is this true? According to a 2010 publication that summarizes a wide body of research articles on this topic and concludes that even though caffeine increases alertness, it usually does not improve performance of learning and memory related tasks.

coffee or tea?

The study also finds that low caffeine consumption reduces anxiety while a high dose actually increases anxiety. At last, there is mix scientific evidence on age related effects. Some studies find no age related effects while other studies actually find a decline in mental performance when older people consume coffee.

Even more recent, a new research by the Johns Hopkins Medical School shows that caffeine-related performance improvement is nonexistent without caffeine withdrawal. In other words, stop drinking caffeine actually reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. So the only way to get back to normal performance is to drink coffee, and when you do consume it, you feel like it’s improving your performance significantly. In fact, caffeine is only taking your performance back to normal level  for a short period!

At last a known side effect is that caffeine makes it harder for you to fall asleep. However, what less people know is that the worst comes when you finally fall asleep: caffeine disrupts the quality of your sleep by reducing the rapid eye movement (REM) when your brain is recuperating and processing emotions. As caffeine disrupts this, you will wake up the next day with an emotional handicap. So what happens after is that you will naturally long for another cup of coffee and the vicious cycle continues…

See also the image below for some other side effects of coffee.

coffee side effects

Why You Should Switch To Tea

But don’t worry, tea is luckily offered at many workplaces around the world besides coffee. Here’s you should make the switch:

  1. Tea contains caffeine, but at a much lower dose, so you will not easily get an overdose. Here’s a tea caffeine guide if you want to know more.
  2. There are decaffeinated teas for those who are very sensitive to caffeine (even though it will still contain some caffeine). Besides, there are many herbal teas that are free of caffeine such as this calming Chrysanthemum tea and Rooibos tea.
  3. Tea does not only contain less caffeine but it is also distributed over a longer period of time, so result in mood swings. See the image below for further clarification.

coffee tea caffeine table distribution over time

Purple Tea, Coffee Leaf Tea, Alcoholic Tea & More

Lots of things are happening around the world when it comes to tea. Here’s a summary of all the news that you have to know about from this week.

Purple Tea?

Nelson Kibara has been growing tea in the Kerugoya region for 40 years. He said the prices this year have been so low that he has been left with almost no profit at all. To survive, he said, he needs to diversify. He thinks growing ‘Purple tea’ is the solution…Read More

Invest In Pu Erh Tea

Pu erh prices can sometimes be from another planet as we mentioned before in our article about Taetea’s pu erh tea cake. A growing number of Chinese are buying pu erh as an investment, like wine. In one of China’s biggest recorded sales, two kilos of Pu’erh tea sold for five million yuan, or around 800,000 US dollars. But the market isn’t always stable…Read More.

Coffee, Tea Or Coffee Leaf Tea?

It’s a completely innovative way to look at the plant and it’s disrupting the tea industry as well due to its higher antioxidant content than green tea. The main question remains though: How does it taste?…Read more
If you happen to try it out in the future, but you don’t like the taste, you can always try out our coffee-tea recipe.

Working Conditions Of Tea Pickers In India

Somewhat less pleasant news but important to highlight are the bad working conditions and exploitation tea pickers in India’s tea industry. This goes back centuries but recently about 100 tea workers in the Dooars region of West Bengal have died over the last 12 months brings the feudal conditions under which these workers are forced to toil into sharp focus…Read More

Rain Fall & Tea Taste

With a longer rainy season as a result of climate change, a larger proportion of the annual harvest is likely to be of lower-quality. Another concern for farmers is that tea harvested in the monsoon season needs more drying, which can also reduce its antioxidant properties…Read More

Alcoholic Tea?

Recently we reported about this Mar-Tea-Ni, but the trend towards alcoholic tea is continuing! Here’s the worlds first certified organic alcoholic ice tea…Read More