• Tea campaigns on Kickstarter

    Tumoi Tea Estate team members from left to right: Peter Jumba, Emmanuel Kipkogei,
    Bernard Maiyo, Christine Chepkemei, Robert Kibiwot, and Hyline Jepkosgei

    Ten thousand kilometers separate Kenya’s Tumoi Tea Estate and South Korean students attending Handong University. How are they connected? Cassidy Bailey at Texas State University in San Marcos, Tex. is the unlikely link. Bailey launched a Kickstarter campaign this month to establish “a new global value chain” directly linking consumers to tea growers no matter how distant.

    “The $20,000 ChakanCha Kickstarter campaign is currently 31% funded. The project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by midnight Nov. 30.”
    Click here to donate.


    Bailey writes that tea growers in Kenya earn as little as $75 per month, toiling in gardens where compensation for their labor amounts to less than 1% of the retail price paid by consumers. Growers and tea processors at origin are not much better off. It takes six months for their tea to reach market and they receive only 3% of the retail value.

    “That’s where we come in,” she explains. “Tea farmers have no control over the large scale variables at play in the global value chain, which are decisive in determining their wage levels,” says Bailey.

    Using IT technologies and smart logistics for tea, a modern supply chain can deliver fresher tea from farm to cup “without any exploitation,” says Bailey.

    Capturing more of tea’s value at origin, the goal of the Chakancha (good tea) project, was initiated by the Global Problem Solving lab at Handong Global University in Korea. The program came to the attention of the Entrepreneurial Innovators Group (EIG) at Texas State who view Chakancha “not only as an ethical business venture to learn from, but a chance to make a tangible impact through international collaboration,” writes Bailey.

    On November 10 CKC (Chakancha) supporters in Handong conducted a tasting of black and milk tea. “We are so grateful that everyone enjoyed their tea time,” they wrote on Instagram.

    There are three million tea growers in Kenya, observes Boaz Katah, who owns the Tumoi Tea Estate and factory, located in the Nandi Hills. The factory has processed tea for generations, working with small-scale farmers west of the Rift Valley, who grow their crop at heights up to 6,700 feet above sea-level but their output of commercial CTC (cut, tear, curl) grades is largely invisible as the teas are sold for blending at auction.

    Now the factory is a leader in the development and branding of single-estate teas. Katah reverted to the early Kenyan production of orthodox tea and now produces black, green, oolong, and purple teas. He grows his tea at 5,600 feet in a lush, hilly region on the equator where the tea is plucked continuously thanks to 12 hours of sunshine and 12 hours of night. “It is a well-balanced climate for growing the right crop for that perfect cup of tea,” says Katah, whose hand-picked, pesticide-free teas are marketed as Chakancha Black.

    Tumoi Estate Chankancha artisan tea

    Donors who contribute $40 will have their name engraved on a tea mural in the Tumoi Village and receive two packages of Chakancha black tea with a holiday card handwritten by a Tumoi tea picker. Donors who contribute $400 receive a video letter, inscription and 10 holiday gift boxes that can be delivered to 10 different loved ones, writes Katah.

    Chai Easy

    Design features of the ChaiEasy brewing machine.

    ChaiEasy is an automated chai maker that eliminates the hassle of pots and strainers, scalded milk, and spills common to stove top methods.

    “Chai time is a tradition and it should be all about enjoying the moment,” explains Samir Sahoo, an Austin, Tex., chai lover determined to come up with a machine that “delivers on the same authentic homemade chai taste, without compromising on quality or taste and be really easy to use.”

    Donors have contributed $8,000 of the $10,000 goal. The project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by December 23.
    Click here to donate.


    “Chai preparation is a very involved and messy process, requiring a lot of clean up afterwards. Makes you wonder: What if it was just easy to make the same traditional cup of Chai?” he writes.
    All ingredients brew together at the same time just like traditional chai is made, writes Sahoo.

    Refillable pods contain the chai ingredients including popular and healthful spices used to make chai. ChaiEasy offers pods in four flavors, original, cardamom, ginger, and masala.

    Donors receive a brewer and an assortment of pods with a brew-to-go cup for $170. Additional rewards at $200, $240, and $280. The brewer ships in April 2021.

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  • Student Designed Infuser Tops $360,000 on Kickstarter – Need to Know

    By Nanette Jackson

    TEABIZ-AudioIcon2_transparent Click here to listen to the inventors tell their story (15 min).

    Three college students in Bellingham, Wash., set out to design an innovative magnetic brewing vessel to flip your world upside-down and throw tea bags into the past.

    Now they are raising money to launch this project – lots of money.

    TEABIZ_NTK_150615_Imbue-FlipA 30-day Kickstarter campaign that ended last week received $362,679 from 6,248 backers. The team’s initial $20,000 goal was met May 4, the day it launched.

    The infuser design was a fund-raising project at Western Washington University created to support the Industrial Design Program.

    The Imbue vessel has a magnetized loose-leaf tea holder on the inside of the lid. When you flip the container upside-down, it brews the tea. Once steeped to that perfect shade, you can flip it right side up and remove the magnetic holder to enjoy your drink.

    All of the vessels were manufactured on campus utilizing student labor. The inventors used a cylindrical cutting tool to robotically cut out all the lids and then did finish sanding and assembly.

    Juniors in the Industrial Design Program Dan Taylor, Leah Cohen-Sapida, and Ashkon Nina are responsible for this new invention.

    In December, once they finished developing a prototype, they made 150 vessels and introduced their product to the public.

    “Then they sold out, and you couldn’t buy them anymore. We got so much good feedback, and people who wanted more. So we decided we were going to take it further,” Nina said.

    TEABIZ_NTK_Imbue Infuser_schematic_closeupThe students then decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign, recording video and publishing schematics. The Kickstarter was meant to bring this product into full production. They’re now working with an overseas manufacturer to produce the infuser in larger quantities and to reach a broader audience, according to Taylor.

    The campaign raised 18 times their goal. Donors purchased as many as 10 at a time and it remains unknown exactly how many units have been sold because there were so many different donor packages and so many backers.

    The Industrial Design Student Association (IDSA) raises money for the students in the Industrial Design program at WWU. The students plan on giving back a lot of their profits to the association once it is determined how much will be needed for full-scale production costs. They are also working on final modifications and new models.

    TEABIZ_NTK_150615_Imbue-MagnetThe team collaborated with a handful of students from the onset, inventing a sustainably produced, practical invention. They said they wanted “something that stood out”

    “We looked at a bunch of other tea solutions out there and none of them allowed you to easily get the tea out once it’s done brewing. So you brew it and it just keeps brewing while you’re drinking. That’s the unique thing about this product [is that you can easily remove the tea],” Taylor said.

    According to Cohen-Sapida, they researched studies on how long you’re supposed to actually brew tea and they found that it was supposed to be around three minutes. But they recognized there are different steep times for various styles of tea. Everyone likes their tea differently, she said.

    “This gives you the opportunity to stop, if you don’t want to keep brewing, you don’t have to,” Cohen-Sapida said.

    Currently, the vessels sell for $30 on their website, http://imbuetea.com, and are may be pre-ordered online. According to the Imbue Tea website, shipments should begin around October 2015.

    Nanette Jackson is a student at Western Washington University.

    TEABIZ_NTK_Imbue Infuser_howitworks

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  • Bitcoin Update

  • Bitcoin Primer

    World Tea News recently published an article on the emergence of many popular tea brands on offer in Bitcoin’s new online MegaStore. 

    Larger retailers with a thorough understanding of the risks should definitely consider accepting Bitcoins as this digital currency promises to significantly lower the cost of online transactions. BusinessWeek reported Dec. 27 that Overstock.com will accept Bitcoins beginning in mid 2014. With 2012 revenue of $1.1 billion Overstock is the largest retailer to accept the world’s leading cryptocurrency. There are now 12.1 million Bitcoins in circulation, valued at $13 billion.

    Should your venture accept Bitcoins?

    The novelty of buying things with Bitcoins has a certain appeal to consumers but most of those who own Bitcoins are holding them tight anticipating an increase in value greater than current savings rates.

    Prices for tea in the MegaStore (which lists 100,000 items and went live in August) are displayed as a percent of the current value of a Bitcoin. A single coin was trading for $858 last week when the article was published. At that rate ?0.0842 was the equivalent of $72 (all dollars US unless otherwise stated). Between Dec. 5 and Dec. 7 Bitcoins dropped from $1242 (the price of gold) to $600 in 48 hours. On Dec. 23 Bitcoins were trading for $634 making a dollar worth ?0.00157. On Dec. 31 the buy price was $735.80. On Jan. 4 the buy price topped $1000.

    This volatility illustrates one of the obstacles to widespread use of any peer-to-peer payment system. To insure that Bitcoins remain “rare” there will ultimately be only 21 million in circulation. This means that even small numbers of speculators trading Bitcoins will alter its value in the market.

    The fact that the currency lacks liquidity and is accepted by only a small (albeit fast-growing) number of vendors suggests Bitcoin will emerge as the strongest of the cryptocurrencies but anyone can create a competing product, make it equally scarce and useful provided enough vendors accept it as payment.

    To reduce this risk Bitpay and Coinbase were established as Bitcoin wallets willing to immediately convert the digital currency into dollars (and other local currencies). Retailers use these wallets to accept Bitcoins and generally sell the Bitcoins they collect every night to minimize risk. At Coinbase there are no chargebacks or exchange rate risk and no fees on the first $1 million in transactions with 1% fee to cash out Bitcoins after $1 million in sales. Bitpay charges $300 per month for accepting Bitcoins on up to three domains with no transaction fees. A single domain account is $30 per month and accommodates 20 shopping cart plugins.

    Other advantages include the fact that retailers can accept mobile payments from any country in the world without PCI Compliance; direct deposit to your bank daily and accept payments over wi-fi and 3G/4G without the need for NFC terminals.

    Critics point out that Bitcoins are not legal tender and therefore are not regulated by legal tender laws. Bitcoins have no intrinsic value which means if they fall in value, unlike gold and silver, they could fall to zero. There is no government backing, no Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. rescue plan. Bitcoins are not going to replace the U.S. dollar.

    All that said, there is value in a frictionless exchange of a universal currency that is not subject to geopolitical influence. The payment system is transparent and math-based, not subject to government manipulation. It protects against identity theft. It is private but not anonymous to guard against money laundering and fraud. Bitcoins will grow in popularity so long as online purchases require credit card authentication with its requirements of a billing address and the burden of fees and onerous service charges.

    Compared to existing payment systems Bitcoin is almost as handy and frictionless as cash.

    Learn more at: Bitcoin.org and BitcoinFoundation.org and BitcoingCharts.com and BitcoinMagazine.com

  • Immerset

    Immerset Kickstarter Image

    Brewing methods continue to evolve at both extremes.

    Last month I wrote about semi-automated $6,000 brewers ideally suited to coffee shop drive-thrus that can make multiple cups of tea in less than 90 seconds.

    TEABIZ-Immerset_CupImmerset is at the other extreme, a simple invention that combines the gentle immersion of a French press with the control of pour over.

    Inventor Chic Kelty enjoys both coffee and tea. He has several award-winning designs for products from portafilters and espresso machines to tampers. I still use his nifty magnetized silicone basket to catch the coffee grounds in my French press.

    “Instead of specialized brewers for each beverage, why not a single brewer with maximum versatility?” he asked.

    The quantity of water and immersion time for brewing ground coffee and tea leaves are similar but hardly the same. The secret to the Immerset is a valve Kelty built into the base to properly control the flow of liquid for either beverage.

    Kelty told me that the patented helical valve design allows for intuitive and simple refinement of cold brew coffee and consistency in pour-over technique. Kelty’s design is also perfect for loose-leaf tea as it allows the water to drain completely between cups to avoid bitterness.

    The Immerset debuted on Kickstarter last week and is already partly funded by more than 205 enthusiasts and $10,000 in funding with a month until the funding deadline. The first production run is this spring with delivery beginning in May 2014.

    Unlike many coffee brewing devices, hidden surfaces and niches have been eliminated to ensure the most hygienic function possible, said Kelty. “The entire water chamber and passage is sheathed in food-grade stainless steel so there is no hot-water-on-plastic contamination,” he said.

    When brewing coffee controlling the grind density, flow rate and immersion time can be difficult and all three are essential to a great cup.

    As Kelty explains, “with French press brewing, the barista is able to control the steeping duration but the system is intolerant of variability in grind density which limits the brew options and results in less dynamic flavor. “ In addition, prolonged immersion of the coffee between cups can result in bitterness and degradation of flavor.

    “In contrast, pour-overs and cold brew methods allow for finer grind which can achieve a more refined taste however it can be a complicated and time consuming task to finely tune the immersion time and consistently produce the desired outcome,” he said.

    Other features include:

    • Integrated insulating design that keeps the brew hot between servings
    • Food-safe, impact resistant ABS for strength and insulation
    • Tool-free assembly
    • Silicon seals for leak-proof assembly

    Click to view a break-away diagram.

    In short, the Immerset is intuitive to use, offers maximum versatility and consistency in brewing by addressing several variables collectively with one device.

    Learn more: Immerset or visit Kickstarter

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