But a new line of dissolvable, fun shaped tea from Tea Drops – previously available only online and at events, but now launching in grocery stores – provides a whimsical and healthy solution.
Tea Drops – organic tea, spices and sugar that are pressed into lighthearted shapes, such as a star, flower or heart – allow consumers to enjoy the fragrance, taste and quality of loose leaf tea but without the fuss of preparation, said company founder Sashee Chandran.
She explained that consumers simply add a drop to a cup of hot water and stir to enjoy without worrying about measuring tea or finding a tea bag, steeping or disposing of waste.
Chandran explains that the inspiration for Tea Drops was born out of her own frustration with trying to make loose leaf tea in a corporate office environment where she lacked appropriate tools – a kettle, strainer and way to measure the tea – and time.
“It wasn’t until I joined a more corporate office environment that I realized how difficult it was to make loose leaf tea at work. You needed a kettle, a strainer – a lot of tools and props,” she said.
Even tea bags were difficult at work, she said, noting that if she made tea and went to a meeting she didn’t know where to put the tea bag and her cup often ended up over-brewing and becoming bitter.
“I also noticed with a tea bag on the string it can actually start dripping and create a little puddle at the end [of the string]. I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced that at your desk, but it’s a common frustration,” she said. “So for me, [I thought] if there was a way to just have a very simplified tea experience where everything was all encompassing – the tea, spices and the sugar, that would be ideal for me. So, I really was inspired to make something that I would personally drink and it happened to be something, I think, a lot of people are looking for.”
The end result – dissolvable tea drops – creates a perfectly brewed cup of sweetened tea that has only a small amount of fine sediment, similar to that of coffee made in a French press, and can be made quickly anywhere there is hot water.
Unique packaging for a unique product
Recognizing the tea category is crowded with many options, Chandran further distinguished her Tea Drops by packaging them in a wooden box that added a sense of luxury to the brand.
She explained that she landed on the idea of the wooden box because she wanted packaging that stood out on the shelf, and because it was “modern, but it pays homage to the tea chest in the 17th century that the tea was originally shipped in on boats.”
As Tea Drops transition into the grocery channel, Chandran created a more practical cardboard box in which the tea bags are stacked upright – a concept used by many competitors. But her design still delivers a premium feel with artistic photos of loose leaf tea and spices along the bottom of a white box, which recalls the high-end status of Apple products. A photo of a single pressed tea shape near the top of the box combined with a color-coded ribbon around the middle helps consumers quickly understand what the product is and identify the flavor – Citrus Ginger, Vanilla White Tea, Sweet Peppermint or Rose Earl Grey.
While the packaging may be designed to appeal to a higher end shopper, Chandran says the product is for “anyone who wants to experience loose leaf tea conveniently. So, that tends to be a working professional on-the-go, moms on-the-go, travelers – a whole range of people.”
Growing demand for, awareness of tea creates opportunity
That range is expanding as more Americans seeking naturally healthy, functional beverages discover the variety and benefits of tea, Chandran said.
“Before people were just gravitating towards tea bags or not really caring about the quality of their tea. But now, there’s a lot more education and knowledge around the quality of tea leaves, organic tea and there is this trend towards people wanting to experience that loose leaf ritual, but they’re also contending with having limited time or being on the go,” Chandran said.
She added: “I think there is this movement towards people wanting a premium tea experience, but wanting to experience it very conveniently, and so that is where Tea Drops really fit in – where there is this intersection of premium loose leaf tea with convenience seeking tea drinkers.”
With this in mind, she wants to expand her footprint in the grocery channel and in food service so more diverse consumers can discover and try Tea Drops, she said.
To help the young company better reach these goals, Chandran joined New York-based accelerator AccelFoods’ most recent cohort.
“We’re really excited to join the AccelFoods family and establish a partnership with them. I think that their level of knowledge and expertise in the space, with the number of strategic advisors they have on board and just the number portfolio brands that I can now pull knowledge from is something super exciting for me, and I think that’s really going to help us grow in 2016,” she said.