Startup Firebelly Tea hopes to reframe the old paradigm of ‘coffee or tea’ to expand the latter’s reach across consumers, dayparts

By Elizabeth Crawford

- Last updated on GMT

Source: Firebelly Tea
Source: Firebelly Tea

Related tags: Tea

After founding and building DavidsTea to a $200m business that went public in 2015 before leaving the company in 2016, David Segal is at it again with the launch of Firebelly Tea, which aims to make the category more modern, fun and accessible.

“I love tea. I really do. And when I started DavidsTea in 2007, I saw the opportunity to position tea with a higher profile in the mainstream and to make it more fun, a bit more accessible. And I’m really proud of what we did at DavidsTea … but despite how much we advanced the market at DavidsTea, there is still this large audience of people whose experience with tea is either limited to a tea bag, which typically isn’t the same quality as loose leaf, or overly sweetened and artificially flavored tea,”​ Segal said.

Others may skip tea because they see themselves as “coffee drinkers” or because they think brewing and drinking tea is overly complicated, uncomfortable, and stuffy, he added.

To dispel these notions and showcase the broad range of flavors and benefits of premium tea, Segal curated for Firebelly Tea a collection of 20 all-natural teas and tisanes in packaging updated for the 21st​ century alongside a unique and bespoke accessory line.

“I think inspiring people through design and great product is really important,”​ which is why Segal says he places an equal emphasis on high quality ingredients and a visually appealing and comfortable experience.

Real flavors, ingredients offer real benefits

By focusing on premium ingredients and forgoing artificial and natural flavors, Segal says Firebelly Tea drinkers will experience tea and tisanes in a new way – one which he thinks will win over more consumers.

“This flavoring piece is important. Americans tend to like big in-your-face flavors. And that is what lab flavoring does – it gives you a big punch of peach or you get a big punch of another flavor. But using flavoring in tea is like cheesecake. It’s great once in a while after a meal, but it’s incomplete as an entire meal. And if you eat it every day, you grow apart from it versus growing with it. And I think we have designed teas that get better on the second, third, fourth and tenth sip or cup because we use the highest quality ingredients,”​ Segal said.

Real ingredients also offer real benefits – something consumers are increasingly looking from in their beverages.

“It really does have a lot of benefits – whether it is helping you calm down with our After Dinner Mint tea with valerian to help you sleep or I love a good cup of ginger if I am feeling wired at the end of the day and need to bring it down a notch. Or at 2 in the afternoon if I am slowing down, I love a great green tea,”​ Segal said.

The other nice part about not using lab flavorings, according to Segal, is Firebelly Tea is able to use compostable zip pouches inside its boxes. He explains this is an industry first and a better option for the environment. However, they often interfere with added flavorings and the glue in tea bags, so aren’t a good choice for some competitors in the bagged and flavored tea space.

Changing the collective mindset to tea and​ coffee

By offering such a diverse range of teas and tisanes designed with benefits for different day parts, Segal says he hopes to show how drinking tea can fit into anyone’s day and lifestyle without compromise.

“There are a lot of people who think they need to give up coffee to drink tea… We’re used to that expression when we are at a table after a meal and offered ‘tea or coffee.’ But really, it is tea ​and coffee. We’re trying to tell people they don’t have to break their morning coffee habit. By all means, enjoy your coffee in the morning!”​ Segal said.

But, he encourages consumers to also add in an afternoon cup of a tea for a moderated burst of energy – for example a cup of The Crowd Pleaser, which blends organic black tea with vanilla and almond, or of Makes Good Sencha, which combines organic Japanese Sencha and Gyokuro green tea. Or if they want a calmer start to the day, No Ordinary Joe blends organic roasted chicory, dandelion and mate.

“Similarly, you don’t need to not have a drink [of alcohol] on a Friday night. I love a good drink on a Friday. What we’re saying is tea has a place in the daily routine as a great afternoon pick-me-up or an evening wind-me-down”​ or at any other time, Segal said.

For example, people working from home can create a transition ritual from work to leisure with a calming cup of Paradise that combines organic lemon verbena, chamomile and Lavender. Those looking to relax after eating and before bed can pour a cup of After Dinner Mint, which blends organic rooibos, chocolate, mint and valerian root.

A fresh look and experience

Finally, Firebelly Tea wants to modernize the process of selecting and drinking tea, which it does through updated packaging that is designed to look like books on shelf and with a line of thoughtfully designed cups and other accessories.

The brand also strives to simplify the tea brewing experience, which can feel overly complicated or daunting to some people. So rather than direct people to brew teas at specific temperatures, it guides them to add and remove tea based on the amount of steam coming off a cup.

Firebelly Tea further simplifies the tea selection process by offering its product direct-to-consumer – helping shoppers skip the overwhelming tea aisle cluttered with competition, Segal says.

Looking forward, Segal says he plans to offer limited edition blends around the holidays and work with artists to keep packaging and its accessory line fresh and engaging.

Ultimately, Segal says, everything Firebelly Tea does is about inspiring and fueling consumers throughout the day and their journeys.

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