Innovating Tea – or, where there there’s a will, there’s a way…
The Brewlux product that The Tea Spot is distributing is a concept patented by my brother and me. The initial inspiration for the product, however, came out of a brainstorm that included his wife Karen and my daughter Laura as well. And the funniest part of the story is that Brewlux might never have come about if Ohio eisweins were more to my liking.
Ashtabula County, Ohio
My brother Alex lived midway between where my daughters were doing their undergraduate work, in Oberlin, Ohio and Rochester, New York. I liked to take the opportunity to visit them all in one trip, and particularly enjoyed our Fall gatherings in this beautiful, rural area of Northeastern Ohio. Two years ago, we were enjoying a gorgeous brisk and sunny day touring the wineries in Ashtabula County, who specialize in eiswein, which is a kind of extreme form of the late harvest wine. The grapes are left to hang on the vine long after the usual moment of harvest. But whereas late harvest wines are commonly brought in from the vineyard in the Fall, grapes destined to make eiswein are left until winter fastens an icy grip on the vines. This makes for an exceptionally sweet dessert wine.
Ohio Eiswein Vineyard
After our fourth or fifth winery stop, we stopped to get some pizza. I was so enjoying the wonderful pizza aromas emanating from the giant oven. But, they were offering eiswein to taste while you waited for your pie! I couldn’t take it anymore, and became almost desperate for a great cup of tea. Needless to say, that wasn’t an option at this pizza-wine barn. All I could do was complain and fantasize about my loose leaf tea…
Being engineers, we started to scribble and draw up designs on a napkin. Our loose leaf tea would need to have sufficient volume to expand in, you should be able to brew it in a standard to-go cup, and it could not contribute to the landfill issue. Lots of ideas, more eiswein and a delicious pizza later, we were on our way home and stopped at a convenience store where we found a set of 10 styrofoam cups and lids. Drawing, cutting and designing into the night, we had a few concepts completed by the end of the weekend, and Alex got them into a computer-aided design model right away.
We have just been granted a Small Business Innovative Research Grant by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to do market research in commercializing the Brewlux thanks to Jessica Burtenshaw. And two years into the development process, and many iterations later, we’re still always working on optimizing the “next” generation model… but now fully able to serve folks a legitimate cup of loose leaf tea to-go, in our fully biodegradable Brewlux filters. Thank you Alex, Karen and Laura, and I should add – Ashtabula County, Ohio and the USDA.