“Our mission is to increase the occasions and use of tea, and really enable consumers all over to be able drink and enjoy tea and the health benefits it provides more easily,” according to Pique Tea’s Founder and CEO Simon Cheng.
He explains that Pique Tea achieves this lofty goal by turning organic, whole leaf tea into crystals that resemble table salt which are instantly dissolvable into cold or hot water – allowing consumers to enjoy the beverage without the hassle of straining, steeping or disposing of tea leaves or a bag.
Pique Tea creates the crystals by slowly brewing top-quality, organic tea leaves for at least an hour to effectively extract all the antioxidants, flavor, nutrients, amino acids and vitamins in the plant and then dehydrating the tea so that all that remains are fine-grained tea particles that can easily be stirred back into water, Cheng explains.
In addition to offering “unparalleled convenience,” the crystals, which are packaged in sachets, are so highly concentrated that they offer seven times the antioxidants as regular tea bags, Cheng said.
At the same time, the crystals also deliver the same loose leaf quality flavor so that consumers are not making a sacrifice for convenience, he added.
A step up from other instant teas
The crystals also differ from existing instant teas on the market in that they contain only tea, except in the case of Earl Grey which also has bergamot, Cheng said.
“The instant teas that are on the market tend to be [blends] of sugar, flavorings and extracts that only deliver a small fraction of the flavor of what tea is supposed to be and a small fraction of the antioxidants,” he said, adding that his product does not have any stabilizers, artificial flavors or ingredients.
The lineup, which currently includes Earl Grey Black Tea, English Breakfast Black Tea, Sencha Green Tea, Mint Sencha Green Tea and Jasmine Green Tea, is launching into Whole Foods in Northern California in August and is available online.
But, Cheng says distribution of the product, which launched online in January, is increasing rapidly and he hopes to add more brick and mortar stores as the young company continues to scale up.
Pique plays on health positioning
In addition to wanting to bring consumers more convenience in the tea category, Cheng says he hopes Pique can be a healthy alternative to other commonly consumed beverages in the US and have an impact on the high rates of obesity and diabetes in the country.
“The rates of obesity and diabetes here are staggering and they are some of the most prolific killers, as well as some of the most preventable killers – a trend that over the past 20 years has accelerated and really spread all over the world,” Cheng said.
He said he saw potential for Pique Tea to help ease these rates by offering a healthy alternative to the soda, beer and sweetened coffee that currently are consumed more than tea in the US.
“The question that I ask is why don’t consumers drink more tea in the US, and the number one thing I hear from public health exerts is that we have to make the healthier choice the easier choice. Fruit juices and soda are easy because they are inexpensive, readily available and kept constantly on our mind by amazing marketing and ad campaigns,” he said.
Pique already is easier to make that traditional leaves and bags, and the company is reducing the price to a recommended point of $6.99 to $7.99 from the original price of almost $10 to make it more accessible, Cheng said.
On the third point, Cheng acknowledged that as a new company Pique Tea can’t afford the high profile advertising campaigns employed by soda and other beverage makers, but he said he plans to promote it through social media, in store demonstrations and the easy of ecommerce.
Future products in the pipeline
While Pique Tea is just launching into brick and mortar stores, Cheng already has his eye on future line extensions and product development.
“We launched with the most-used core lines of tea, but in the Fall we are going to have herbals and in the summer we will launch an iced tea,” he said. “We also want to do more very high end Chinese teas, including one from a 300 year old tree that has a tremendous amount of antioxidants.”
Cheng also is looking at innovating with on-trend ingredients, such as turmeric, gogi berries, ginseng and other ayurvedic fruits, plants and herbs to increase the health benefits of the beverage.
Finally, the company is considering how to make pu-erh tea cakes easier to enjoy. “Several pu-erh tea cakes you have to chip away with a knife and in order to get everything out of the leaves you have to brew it upwards of 10 times. We want to remove that complexity so you can more easily enjoy the flavor and antioxidants.”
Ultimately, Cheng added, the potential for the brand is almost as endless as the possibilities for innovation.