• Fresh Thinking for a New Era in Tea

    Brook37 founder Mou Dasgupta says the new era of tea is not just introducing tea but also explaining how you consume it. We are saying that yes, traditionally, you drink tea from a cup, but why not break the barriers and drink tea from a champagne glass or chill the tea and drink it in a martini glass? Make other drinks using tea. Open up your imagination; don’t be bound by the past. Take our old drink, modernize it, and just do fun things with tea.

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    Mou Dasgupta, founder of Brook37 The Atelier

    Mou Dasgupta, founder of Brook37 The Atelier

    Elegance Begins with the Leaf

    Mou Dasgupta is pursuing her passion for tea after 25 years of trendsetting corporate leadership in the financial services industry. She developed a love for fine-quality tea while living in West Bengal, India, where she attended university in Calcutta. She trained in the sciences and holds a master’s degree in software engineering. “Brook37 is proud to bring fresh thinking and an ethical and sustainable mindset to all we do,” she says. “Our unparalleled tea selection of flavors, aromas, and colors from around the world, along with exquisite packaging, help you choose a positive and aspirational lifestyle.”

    Dan Bolton: Thank you for taking the time to talk about your vision of a new era in tea and how it led to the launch of Brook37, a premium brand sourced directly from suppliers in the most famous of India’s tea-growing regions. What are some aspects of this new era?

    Mou Dasgupta: In describing a new era of tea, I want to talk about tea reimagined in the USA.

    The new era of tea is not just introducing tea. It’s also explaining how you consume tea. So we are saying that yes, traditionally, you drink tea from a cup, but why not break the barriers and drink tea from a champagne glass or chill the tea and drink it in a martini glass? Make other drinks using tea. Open up your imagination; don’t be bound by the past. Take our old drink, modernize it, and do fun things with tea.

    That’s how I feel that the younger generation may find it more interesting. When I go to a friend’s house, they offer me Diet or a regular Coke, or maybe a club soda as a non-alcoholic beverage. I want people to offer tea. It is a non-alcoholic beverage with fantastic health values. So, keep our tea caddy next to your wine bottle and open a beautiful tea caddy when your special guests arrive. That’s how I want to position tea.

    Dan: You grew up drinking good tea.

    Mou: I moved to the USA from a place that is about 300 miles from Darjeeling about 25 years back, and one of my big struggles was to find the high-quality tea that I used to drink before I moved to the USA.

    Over here, you can find great coffee stores everywhere, but finding a great tea shop takes a lot of work. Tea is also looked upon as a health drink. It has many health values, but I want to make people understand that tea can bring people together. Tea can reconnect people and rejuvenate; it’s a drink that can elevate the moment, and it’s a non-alcoholic drink with value like fine wine. And you know, in wine, the quality of the grapes, the soil, and the weather drive how the taste and the flavor will vary. Darjeeling tea is exactly like that. I want to make people aware. I want them to taste Darjeeling tea and see that it’s a different drink altogether.

    Dan: Many brands position themselves as premium, but only a few succeed in conveying the elegance visible in your color palette, your choice of tins, and a clever pairing of an engraved traditional silver-plated infuser with a modern silver measuring spoon in your gift set Will you discuss your view on what makes a tea premium?

    Mou: First, elegance starts with the look of the tea leaves. A high-quality tea leaf is not dust. It’s a long, beautiful leaf, and it is rolled to perfection. It’s dried to perfection. It’s hand-picked at the perfect time. Recently, on a trip to Darjeeling, I noticed a tea leaf plucked before the rain could taste and smell different than a leaf plucked after the rain. It’s the elegance of flavor. It’s the elegance of taste.

    To that, we added silver accessories. When you drink a high-quality Scotch or a single malt, you could drink it from a plastic cup, but most drink it from a beautiful crystal glass. High-quality Darjeeling tea demands that kind of setting. It is more than just flavor and not just the tea’s color. It’s also the accessories, all of them, that elevate the moment.

    That’s where beautiful packaging comes in and where the look of the tea matters. So that people feel it’s a beautiful moment that they’re creating, whether it’s with their children, whether it’s with their grandchildren, whether it’s their significant other, or by themselves. Tea is an elevation of the moment — any moment.

    Dan: You have a wonderful founding story. You first found success as a software engineer, angel investor, and executive director of JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley before directing your talents to tea.

    Mou: My primary inspiration is that for 25 years, I have been looking for this kind of tea. I had a very hard time finding Darjeeling tea like the tea that I enjoyed in India. In our Country, in the USA, the tea comes through many hands a lot of the time, and every time you open a bag, the quality of the tea goes down.

    When I left my job and decided I wanted to do something on my own, something more meaningful, tea kept coming back to me.

    I realized this was an opportunity because all the best quality teas get picked up by Germany by Japan right away from Darjeeling. In most cases, they don’t come to our country. We are deprived of that highest quality. Brook37 is buying exclusive small lots of seven to ten kilos of the best Darjeeling offers.

    That’s what drove me. I don’t want to just bring the tea; I want to bring the whole experience with it. We call ourselves the Chanel of tea because we present tea as a high-end beverage that celebrates life. We have created a brand that will catch everyone’s attention, all the sensorial organs, the look, smell, touch, and feel all of it together. That’s what inspired me.

    I didn’t want a company that was all about money or finance. It was not a motivating factor for me. I wanted to have a responsible company. There is a saying that we do not inherit nature or the environment from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

    I didn’t want a company that was all about money or finance. It was not a motivating factor for me. I wanted to have a responsible company. There is a saying that we do not inherit nature or the environment from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

    The environment that I’m borrowing from my children, I want to give it back in good shape in a conscious way. From day one, we have been building a conscious brand, plastic-neutral, biodegradable, and reusable packaging, certified by 1% by the planet, etc. It must be empowering, and it must be socially conscious.

    “There is a saying that ‘we do not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ I want to give back in good shape the environment we have borrowed from our children.”

    – Mou Dasgupta

    Dan: Will you share your inspiration for creating a women-led team with listeners?

    Mou: It’s not a conscious decision. I didn’t come in saying that I was only going to hire women. But 90 percent of the people working in our brand are women. We found the best talents who happen to be women. The best tea pluckers are women, and the best tea packaging laborers are women. Our tea sommelier happens to be a woman. Our photographer and videographer is a woman. Even our marketer and our social media leads are women. I just happened to have a team of women I found to be the best at their work.

    By elevating Darjeeling tea, we also elevate the people back in Darjeeling. It’s with pride that we produce one of the best teas in the world. I want them to share that sense of pride. Darjeeling should be a name that stands above the rest, not just a tea; it is a distinguished beverage, and hopefully, Brooke37 will give that to them.

    Dan: Will you discuss sourcing? That’s a challenge in Darjeeling right now, with many of the 87 registered estates in distress, several recently acquired, and all experiencing an overall decline in production from around 10 million kilos 10 years ago to six million kilos in recent years.

    Mou: My primary goal is to bring the best quality tea in my country to the USA. And it is not to promote Darjeeling’s biggest tea growers or tea estates. It’s really to work with anybody who is growing high-quality tea.

    We are looking for small growers. We’re looking for entrepreneurs innovating new types of teas and bringing them here at a good price.  I do feel that, at times, the prices are compromised. When someone gives 70% to 80% off the price of tea, that is just dust of Darjeeling tea, and calls them Darjeeling, they are diminishing Darjeeling tea to the world. Sometimes the price paid at the back end is too low and unfair to the tea growers.

    We are ready to pay $100 for a bottle containing five glasses of fine wine but not ready to pay $100 for 40-50 cups of the finest tea. If we don’t elevate Darjeeling to that point, people in the back end will always suffer.

    I alone don’t have the power to eliminate poverty in Darjeeling. I make sure that I at least do my part. I promote their work, I promote their tea, and I promote their small businesses because I am also a small business owner.

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  • BRU Debuts at CES

    Unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January, BRU is a single-cup specialty tea maker that won several awards for innovation. Swiss engineer and CEO Bogdan Krinitchko partnered with Filip Carlberg to establish the Zurich-based company, which manufactures the BRU Maker One, an IoT (internet of things) powered device that syncs with its own personalized BRU app, allowing users to save their preferred settings such as their brew time, temperature and the water quantity for each cup. The single-cup tea maker uses whole leaf tea, not capsules, with push-button convenience. The tea maker was recently awarded a US patent and is undergoing final certification. Production begins this spring.

    • Caption: Filip Carlberg, left, and Bogdan Krinitchko with BRU Maker One, a capsule-free, single-cup specialty tea maker designed to sequentially steep loose leaf tea multiple times with push-button ease.
    Hear the interview
    Swiss engineer and green tea lover Bogdan Krinitchko on BRU’s debut at CES, Las Vegas.

    BRU break away
    BRU breakaway diagram

    BRU Maker One

    • IoT interactive. The BRU app allows users to control temperature, water volume and steep time. It can be programmed to steep the same tea in sequential steps (stacked steeps), and to make teas that reveal their full flavor at ambient temperatures (ambient tea). Use the smartphone app to set alarms, start the tea maker remotely and store brewing profiles for your favorite teas.
    • No capsules. Unlike capsule machines BRU permits extra long steep settings to properly extract botanicals in sachets.
    • Efficient and economical. BRU saves BTUs because unlike kettles it heats the exact amount of water needed for each cup. Surveys show kettle users boil twice the amount of water they use.
    • Convenient, quick, and clean. BRU delivers temperature-controlled hot water on demand, either filtered or tap water. BRU self-rinses with a programmed cleaning routine—push-button brewing with easy cleanup.

    Conveniently Unlocking the Value in Loose Leaf Tea

    By Dan Bolton

    High-grown teas that mature slowly in nutrient-dense soil are more flavorful and complex. It takes a series of infusions to unfurl the leaf, capture volatile aromatics and awaken the tea, coaxing into the liquor healthful plant sugars and phytonutrients. Unlike oxidized, shredded leaves, whole leaf and broken leaf teas deliver greater intensity in later infusions, not upfront. While it is more difficult and a bit messy, tea connoisseurs recognize that it is well worth the effort to prepare fine tea by quickly steeping small volumes in vessels packed with larger quantities of the leaf.

    BRU Maker One automates the process by utilizing a small glass brewing chamber and stainless steel leaf strainer. The chamber can be rinsed, filled, and re-filled in sequence. Temperature, volume, and steep times can be programmed for each steep. Steeps can be enjoyed individually or the entire infusion “stacked” in your cup or mug. By keeping temperatures low and steep times short BRU extracts nuanced flavor in green teas without bitterness.

    BRU Maker One is a single-cup tea maker designed to extract the full goodness of tea and the best value with consistency, precision, and convenience.

    Dan Bolton: You recently returned to Switzerland after presenting BRU to the 40,000 tech fans who attended the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. Will you tell us about that experience?

    Bogdan Krinitchko: As a small startup, it was a great experience. We were super thankful that we were supported by SwissTech, which is the Technology Innovation Council of Switzerland (Innosuisse). We were one of 15 startups. I think two had physical hardware to demonstrate at the show. Overall, it was just a great experience and also brought us a little bit of media attention.

    Dan: This is the first time that the public has been able to taste tea brewed on the BRU Maker One. How was the new tea maker received at CES?

    Bogdan: It was pretty interesting feedback. In the beginning, people who had never heard about us came to our booth and asked, “Is this a coffee machine?” I said, no, this is a tea machine that makes the perfect cup at the push of a button without any capsules. When I showed how the machine operates, how easy it is to use, I think everybody liked it.

    We won a 2022 CES Editor’s Choice Award from USA TODAY’s consumer product reviews along with coverage in Reviewed and Gadget. Another award that we won from ENVENTYS Partners (a product launch company. It’s called the NICE Awards (New Innovations in Consumer Electronics) and BBC mentioned us as well so we received great PR attention in the UK.

    The product is real, you can touch it, it’s not just an idea anymore.

    – Bogdan Krinitchko

    Dan: I know that the more than 4,300 tea lovers who backed your Kickstarter project in November 2019 and the 5,500 who contributed via the Indiegogo campaign are looking forward to tasting their first cup of BRU maker tea. Will you update listeners on the final stages of manufacturing and when the tea makers will ship?

    Bogdan: We will soon post our monthly update with a deep overview of the machine. Presenting at the show was great timing for us. We even met a few backers at CES. The timing was good because a few months earlier we could not have brought along that machine.

    Right after the Chinese New Year’s, we will continue with the certification. Certification takes a couple of weeks. We want to make sure the product is safe and durable.

    We are being really careful not to promise an exact ship date since we don’t want to disappoint the almost 10,000 people waiting for our product. We expect to begin shipping in the first half of 2022.

    What we can say is the product is real, you can touch it, it’s not just an idea anymore. The injection molds, everything is done. Right now we are working on the whole fulfillment side. This is for us actually a real big handicap, because when we did the calculations back in 2018, we had estimated the shipping cost at around $2 to $3 per machine. Right now, we are facing $10, to $12 to $15 cost per machine. Also, the machine was improved, we added some features and functions that increased cost. Those are currently the challenges that we are solving but we are confident that every backer will get the machine and will be happy.

    BRU is exhibiting at the Inspired Home Show, March 5-7, Chicago (Booth SH1)

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