A few months ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Allen Han, CEO & Co-founder of Teforia, about the company and their revolutionary new tea infuser/machine that was recently launched.
The Teforia machine’s a beaut. It’s the ultimate Keurig for tea, and then some.
In speaking with Allen about the company and machine, it became increasingly obvious that he and his team are passionate about tea, its history, and the communities (large and small) that the love of tea creates. Here is the first part of the interview …
Me: Is this tea infuser the first of its kind?
Allen: Yes, this is the first infuser in the world that is basically the perfect marriage between science and tradition.
Me: That’s wonderful. You may not know this off the top of your head, but you do know how many experts outside of your team gave input and influenced the development of this infuser?
Allen: We talked to over 200 tea drinkers. We also talked to 20 or 30 tea experts. We’ve been sourcing tea in Taiwan for the past few years. We actually seek out artisnal tea makers that make really, really great tea. We befriended a lot of these folks in Taiwan and they’re very friendly to us. Part of our goal is basically not just to provide the best cup of tea, but also to let folks discover. There’s a whole bunch of different varieties. There’s a slogan that we like to use: Beyond green and black. Even within green or black teas there’s actually a variety, there are limitless shades of each and they all have different flavors. There are some black teas you would think – oh, this has to be a green tea, because it has a vegetal freshness to it. I think tea is so exciting if you look at it as a journey.
Me: There is so much to explore! A very similar question, but which countries have influenced or informed the making of this infuser?
Allen: Tea is now very global. And the cool thing about it is each culture has adopted and also refined their own tea tradition. My background is Chinese-American. That has a lot of influence to it. It is also where tea originated, so that has a strong influence on what we do. The second biggest influence is the Japanese [approach to tea]. Right now there’s a huge influence of Japanese Matcha in Western culture. Third is Indian tea. It’s a really unique culture, and tea there is a really unique experience. And lastly is the European tea culture. That’s a combination of the U.K., Germany, and France. Those are major tea drinking countries and they all have slightly different unique tea experiences.
Me: And some are very opinionated about how tea should be had!
Allen: Yeah, yeah! PG Tips. We get that a lot. But the funny thing is that Jane Petigrew, world renowned tea expert, she’s British. We’ve been working with her for over a year now, and she absolutely just loves what we do. Because our mission at the end of the day is about providing a really awesome, powerful platform for tea drinkers around the world, so they can really enjoy tea at a completely different level. As you just experienced, you had a really wonderful cup of tea that we made manually [with a standard tea infuser], but at the same time once I presented the same tea made with our infuser, you said, “wow – this is a whole new side of tea I’ve never tasted before.”
Me: It really is. It’s bolder and fuller.
Allen: Right! And as we were talking about earlier, community is a big component. Tea is now one big global community. We’ve developed a platform now to share tea recipes. We have a recipe for Samovar’s Green Ecstasy. We worked with Jesse [founder of Samovar Tea] to craft that recipe. But let’s say you think, “Hey, I’m Aruna. I like to have things a bit more savory.” You can customize that using our customization tool app. You can make it public, others can download it, and they can try it out.
Me: Wow, the possibilities really do become endless with this infuser.
Allen: Endless. And of course, another cool thing about this system is that it’s an open system. You can use this infuser with your own tea. The recommendation is that you use 5 grams of tea. You put it in the infusion bowl, then go to the app and there’s a button that says “new tea.” The app will ask you three to four questions. What color, what size, and what shape. From that, it will create a recipe. Make the tea using that recipe, try it, then come back to the app to provide feedback. Is it savory enough, is it missing something? It will make it the way you want it the next time. That’s what makes this the world’s first machine learning tea maker. By the third time you give feedback, it will have perfected your recipe.
[To be continued …]