For many people, tea is more than just a flavorful drink. It represents comfort, contains numerous health benefits, and can be enjoyed by just about anyone. It has the ability to bring people together and appreciate the unique taste it offers.
Companies such as Evy Tea have been focused on the cold brew tea industry, offering a number of delicious flavors to satiate avid tea drinkers’ palates.
“Cold brew tea isn’t quite a huge thing yet,” said Evy Chen, founder and cold brew aficionado at Evy Tea. “Evy Tea is actually the first cold brew tea company to market in the entire country.” The company was formed in 2014.
Evy Tea is primarily focused on the cold brew industry, selling their drinks in two ways; within ready-to-drink bottles for tea enthusiasts, and on tap in a kegerator for corporate offices and food service. As the name implies, tea is Evy Tea’s specialty – but they also serve cold-brew coffee and kombucha.
Cold Brew Tea is the Way to Go
Before Evy Tea’s formation, Evy Chen attended Emerson College. There, she received a $5000 entrepreneurial grant to invest in her own company.
Since 2014, Evy has promoted the benefits of drinking cold brew tea. Cold brew on tap, in particular, contains less sugar and caffeine than competing beverages, yet remains free of bitter taste.
We spoke to Evy Chen and asked for her thoughts on the business of tea.
“It wasn’t until this year that we’re seeing a lot of traction in categories that are unusual for the beverage industry,” Evy said. “For example, a lot of restaurants are picking it up, a lot of special grocery chains are picking it up. So, I would say that it’s still on its way, versus cold brew coffee that has become pretty popular and pretty major. Dunkin Donuts, Starbucks… Most of the places you go to now for coffee will have a cold brew coffee option. I’ll say for cold brew tea to get there, it’ll probably be another two or three years.”
How long after Evy Tea’s founding did the business begin to take off?
“We’ve always grown more than 100% every single year. This year we’ve grown over 300%. It’s always been a dramatic growth. We’re more than doubling our store count this year; at the end of the year we’ll be in about 1200 locations across every state on the east coast.”
Where are Evy Tea’s tea leaves sourced from?
“Tea leaves are very similar to coffee beans and grapes, in a way. They come from all over the world, and depending on where they’re grown, how they’re harvested, and how they’re processed, they will have very different depths, flavors, and fermentation levels. So for cold brew specifically, because I’m one of the very few people that does nothing but cold brew, so my requirements for leaves are different than, let’s say, a loose leaf tea company, or a regular ready-to-drink iced tea company.
Because of the way that teas are brewed in water, they’re grown differently, with a different time, different temperatures, and different pH of the water… So my selections are mostly Asian tea leaves. China, Japan, Thailand, Korea, Taiwan, for example. Those are the main regions I get my tea leaves from. From there, I have some other herbs like lavender or lemongrass that are coming from different parts of South America.”
Do you have a favorite flavor of cold brew tea?
“My favorite is the chamomile and lavender. The overall ingredient philosophy, for me, is that they’re as straightforward and simple as possible. For example, hibiscus will have hibiscus and honey, and that’s kind of it. Chamomile and lavender is actually the one that’s most difficult to make because I don’t use any flavorings or extracts from concentrate, or things like that. It’s just the herbs, the tea, and the honey themselves. How to maintain a perfect balance where there’s a hint of lavender, and there’s a mellow character, without having the tea taste like soap is a tricky one.
At the same time, my models are very low in calories, so how to maintain the balance between the sweetness and ‘tea-ness’ is another part. If you crack open a bottle of chamomile lavender, you can first smell it, I can smell the chamomile, lavender, and honey, and when you taste it it’s the same. That took me over a year to get there.”
What’s the number one goal you have for your business in 2019?
“Like I mentioned, we’re going to be in 1200 locations. It’s an important year for getting noticed by the mainstream. In the past, we were more of a regional business. We were mostly in the New England and New York Tri-State area. But this year we’re expanding all the way down. It’s really to prove myself. To prove that cold brew tea is a ‘thing’ is a number one goal for me.”
What advice would you give to women looking to start their own business?
“To me, women as a community have been undervalued and under the cover for a long time. And some of us are just coming out and saying ‘I’m proud to be who I am. I’m proud to be what I am.’ I feel like, as a community, we should be more supportive of each other. And talk about real issues, such as money. Where do you get the money from? What are the numbers looking like? What are some of the most difficult and tricky things to do when it comes to money? Do I raise capital from my family? A lot of those questions, women don’t really talk about.
I will say that if women can be more open and straightforward with each other, and not be afraid of touching those tough issues, then we can grow as a whole and as a community. The best answers I’ve gotten for my business are from people that run companies like I do. They’re small like I am. I can ask them tough questions and look them in the eye and know that I can count on them to tell me the real answer, versus some BS. I think that’s what we, as a women entrepreneur community, need to do more.”