While not entirely new to the US market (there are a few other brands producing tea seed oil such as tea company Rishi), Yóu Yóu is looking to plant its flag in the ground as the go-to cooking oil option for home cooks when they prepare Asian dishes (stir-fry, fried rice, etc.).
“Tea seed oil is a little-known secret that hasn’t made it big yet in the US, and we are thrilled to be the ones to bring it to the forefront and put it in the spotlight,” Chen told FoodNavigator-USA.
'Olive oil of the East'
Because of its versatility and neutral taste profile, it has become known as the "olive oil of the East," said Chen.
"When you think of Mediterranean or Italian food, you think of olive oil. When you are preparing for a keto diet, you think of avocado oil. There has never been a go-to cooking oil for Asian cuisines. Until now. Yóu Yóu is going to be the go-to oil for Asian cuisines," claimed Chen, adding that there are benefits to all three types of oil and that the goal of Yóu Yóu is to give consumers more choices when it comes to their home cooking oil selection.
With a smoke point of 485°F (higher than olive oil at 375°F and below avocado oil's smoke point of 520°F), Yóu Yóu tea seed oil is best suited for high-heat dishes such as stir fries and other stove-top frying cooking methods where it really shines and keeps the kitchen smoke-free without compromising the nutrient profile of the oil, said Chen.
When cooking at high temperatures, tea seed oil maintains its powerhouse nutrient profile, which is full of antioxidants, [short-chain] omega-3 fatty acids (more than olive oil), and vitamins E, A, and B, he claimed.
Chen added that the oil can also be used in room temperature applications such as in salad dressings where it imparts a slightly nutty, botanical flavor.
How is it made?
Tea seed oil comes from the seeds of Camellia oleifera, a flowering plant native to East Asia, which Yóu Yóu sources from the Hunan region in China.
According to the company, each bottle of Yóu Yóu tea seed oil takes eights years of harvesting, filtering, and cold pressing to produce as the plant must go through several seasonal growth cycles of rain and sun to create an optimal balance of polyphenols and antioxidants before the seeds are extracted and made into oil, explained Chen.
"The production process adopts low-temperature cold pressing technology to extract oil from raw tea seeds, ensuring a compact production line design and minimal environmental footprint. Low-temperature oil pressing improves the quality of raw tea seeds and is relatively more energy saving compared to traditional production technologies," he added.
Target market: 'Die-hard cooking enthusiasts'
At $39.99 per 16.9 fluid ounce bottle, Yóu Yóu is a premium cooking oil option, said Chen, who is targeting a growing subset of culinary-obsessed home cooks seeking novel products to use in their kitchens.
"Cooking oil may not be top of mind for many consumers, but there is a rapidly growing group of die-hard cooking enthusiasts that live and die by their choice of foundational cooking oil," said Chen.
Yóu Yóu has not yet pursued retail and is instead focused on building a community and loyal following online by selling its oil products directly through its website.
"We've built a great community of tastemakers, from Vietnamese home chefs to professional culinary artists that love our product and creating new dishes," said Chen. "We want to inspire people to not only cook better but also live healthier. We are a team of Asian-Americans bringing the best Asian cooking secrets and ingredients to the world, starting with tea seed oil."