More tea is drunk across the world than all other manufactured drinks put together, and yet there has been almost no innovation around how it is made. This is while coffee has seen a significant level of innovation, benefiting the consumer at home as well as in coffee shops. With our experience in innovative product development, beverage systems and understanding unmet consumer needs, we knew we could address this. We set out to raise the quality of tea drunk; reduce the time it takes to get that tea; and give the consumer a multi-sensory exciting experience on a par with that of the coffee drinker.
As with many of our projects, understanding the physical science of a problem is an important step to inform the innovation process. Using our expertise in fluidics, fluid dynamics and beverage systems, we started our tea investigation by developing a proof of-principle prototype which was able to control the key parameters of the tea-brewing process including temperature, timing, agitation and oxygenation. We then used this test rig to characterise and understand tea brewing so we could see best how to optimise it.
With this knowledge in hand, we investigated how this could be implemented in a system. Knowing the commercial value of coffee pods and the benefit they bring to consumers, we focused our innovation process and functional packaging design expertise on how to incorporate our knowledge in a capsule-based tea appliance.
The result is a novel system that embodies the convenience and quality of other capsule systems but brews tea in a traditional way – allowing the tea leaves to contact the surrounding brewing liquor, and not just fresh water. Whilst halving the time it takes to make tea, the system ensures consistently high-quality tea, whatever types of tea leaves are used. The technology generated can also be applied in many embodiments, from a domestic appliance, through vending machines, to out-of-home settings.