We have all been inundated with fancy techno-centric tea brewing devices over the past few years. Not your average kettles seem to come out of nowhere to bring the “next best thing” to tea each time. And each time we are forced to evaluate our compunction for the thematic enjoyment of the tea brewing rituals we’ve come to know and love.
It’s a wonder then why these brewing devices keep coming out. Why release a product so similar to where others have failed? Why bank, as a startup founder: your savings; reputation and heart on something so seemingly doomed to failure?
NOTE: This piece brings more opinion than I have in the past. Its conjecture and thought provides only those from my own mind and does not contain influences from any vendor, other bloggers or promotional agents. At the end of this post you will find that I have preordered a Teplo brewer and why.
In 2011 I founded a site called Teaity. Its goal was to become a community, like Steepster, where tea drinkers could congregate and communicate in a variety of ways.I had many grand ideas on where its future could lead. The goals and futures were never fully realized, and I was forced to make a decision on whether to keep the site alive for the dozens of active users at a continuing cost, or to shut down something I continued to have a passion for… but no path forward.
I discuss Teaity here not because Teplo does anything similar at this time, but because the founder, Mayuresh, whom I conversed with at some length shares a similar passion for his product. He knows what it does, how and why. This is important. Many founders chase a dream or an idea but never have the ability to paint the picture for others as to why the dream they have should influence others in the way they expect.
Teaity didn’t make it, and while it’s possible I may try to bring it back someday… I think Teplo has a chance to succeed in building something lasting, and they’ve got something I believe is not only cool in the technology sense but useful.
It was relatively warm the Wednesday afternoon I spoke with Mayuresh Soni, the co-founder of Teplo. I was on my way out of St. Louis, Missouri where I’d been on business and so I had prescheduled the call at least partly to fill some of the five and a half hour drive back to Cincinnati where I live.
The conversation started innocuously. We discussed our backgrounds, our interests in tea and how we got to where we are today. The next hour and fifteen minutes or so were spent in a conversant back and forth discussing the Teplo itself, the various features and the care and thought which went into each part of the experience.
I came into the conversation skeptical. I mean, technology is my business during the day, but tea is my love all the time. The two can mix, of that I am confident. But I have been burned before by other devices promising me the best tea love of my life, and leaving me unsatisfied. How was Teplo going to be any different?
Not ‘Just Because’ Technology
The Teplo device is first and foremost designed around the macro-ritualistic nature of tea. These are experiences many have come to love and enjoy, surrounding moments of mindfulness or practiced calm preparation.
The spirit of the Teplo and its design comes from the matcha rituals in Japan where slight variations in the preparation of the tea lead to a more deterministic outcome. Basically, small adjustments based upon: mood, stress, health and other factors.
The design process for the device included “expert” feedback on what a tea master may do when brewing tea for someone, which is unique compared to other devices.
Heart Rate Sensor
The touch based heart-rate sensor on the Teplo’s base is used to measure stress, mood and whether the user is sleepy. This bit of technology seemed superfluous to me before I understood its deeper intent.
The inclusion of this sensor is still the most tenuous piece of the Teplo from a justification in my mind. It’s nice, and it drives automatic adjustment to brew temperature and steep time using the mobile app. However, You’ll still be able to brew tea without using the sensor which is good.
The infusion pod in the Teplo will take any loose tea you like. Whether tisane, or pure. What’s great about the pod unlike most techno-tea-brewers is that it will only begin to infuse the leaves once the water is at the target temperature and will remove the leaves once the target steep time is reached.
I believe the infusion pod mechanism resolves a long-standing issue for tea drinkers which is over-infusion of a tea. A person gets distracted and forgets something is brewing or that it’s getting cold. Teplo removes the tea from infusion and the heating element in the device can keep the tea warm until ready to infuse again. I am excited for the implications of this all by itself, especially for my office tea habits!
My experience tells me that this is the mechanism likely to see the most failure over time as it has mechanical movement to it. I’m interested to see how well it holds up, but it’s a very simple and intuitive design which I admit eluded me in my personal quest to design a device such as this.
The dishwasher-safe glass teapot appears to have a sturdy handle and looks like a nice vessel to brew in. There will obviously be those who prefer vessels which have some more intricate design to their appearance, but I happen to find the Teplo’s design to be both attractive and utilitarian in its simplicity.
I love that the pot is small, just a couple inches taller than an iPhone, and I think several of its features are perfect for an office setting where use of a gaiwan or practicing gongfu or tasting practices may not be convenient.
The pot appears to allow for a couple cups of tea to be brewed, but I have been unable to determine the official volume of the pot, let alone that the pot also contains the infusion pod which would reduce total volume.
I made an attempt to leave an FAQ question related to the recommended liquid quantity to use on the Kickstarter, but the feature appeared not to work.
Teplo Tea Glass
The Teplo’s tea glass is unique, at least in “mass-produced” teaware. The glass is thinner on one side than on the other, accounting for differences sipping vs drinking of teas. The glass appears sturdy and follows the teardrop design of the Infusion Pod inspired by the “golden drop” stories.
The Teplo glass has an extremely unique design. It was inspired by the term “Golden Drop” of tea. Golden drop refers to the last few drops in a tea pot. The last few drops of the tea are the most delicious and full of flavor.
It would be great if Teplo would include more than one glass as a “set” with the device, but the Kickstarter allows for only one.
The mobile apps account for the single biggest concern I have with the Teplo. There’s no simple temperature selection directly on the device to brew tea so using the device is dependent upon informing the Teplo of what and how you wish to brew.
Recommendations to Teplo
While in conversation with Mayuresh I made a number of spitball recommendations.
One of my most common frustrations with electric kettles comes from the power cables. There’s really a couple issues here.
- The cable is too short
- The cable is built in to the base of the kettle
If the Teplo could use a removable power cable then customers could purchase a longer cable if needed, but this would also allow the same physical product to simply package a different power cable for different power/voltage requirements or plug/prong styles.
All details evaluated, without a physical unit I can only go so far. I believe the Teplo device is an exciting entry to the market and a great fit for many tea drinkers who skew to the technology side of things with connected devices, and for office settings where the customer may forget a tea is infusing or lack the time or convenience to perform a more ritualized brew process such as gongfu or using a gaiwan.
I will go so far as to recommend a Teplo unit to anyone on the market for a new electric variable temperature kettle or tea brewer who also uses a smartphone for more than calls, texts and emails. I also recommend the device for those in an office setting with little convenience for ritual.
I’ll admit, I fit Teplo’s target market, and I have indeed ordered a unit through the Kickstarter. The device excites me with its engineering and software and the possibilities I see to extend what it can do over time.