Almost Tea is a new tea brand that’s focused on creating delicious and “almost like dessert” teas – all inspired by some of the best guilty pleasures.
Each month, Almost Tea partners with a small-batch chocolatier, baker or confectioner within the United States, to inspire a new collection of never-before-seen tea blends. Working collaboratively with the original dessert maker, Almost Tea develops a customized blend that’s vetted and approved to taste just like its dessert inspiration.
The tea company’s first six blends were developed alongside Brownie Points in Columbus, Ohio, and the teas include Brown Butter Bourbon Blitz, Cinnamon Toast Munch, Chai Caramel Latte, Spiked Apple Cider, Double Chocolate Chunk and Raspberry Caramel Fudge. The teas – which are all calorie-free, gluten-free and contain no added sugar or artificial sweeteners – include two black teas, two rooibos teas, one honeybush and one pu'erh in this first box.
Starting in January 2023, Almost Tea will launch a new batch of six teas every single month, in partnership with a different U.S.-based small-batch dessert maker. The overall goal of Almost Tea is to make tea that's as fun to drink as an amazing dessert is to eat.
“We focus on partnering with bakers, chocolatiers, ice cream shops, donut makers that all have an openness to experimentation and are entrepreneurs themselves,” said Almost Tea Co-Founder Monique Zauner. “Our process involves working with the partner to select the products they would want to see be used as tea inspiration, then we have samples sent to our tea blender to taste as she works through her process. We then send samples to the original dessert maker, and they determine the tea that goes into final production."
So far, the company has just worked with Brownie Points, but they’ll announce future partners in the coming months. “We'll be developing a new set of six different dessert-inspired teas every month for at least the next year,” said Zauner. “Seventy-two crazy new blends! We may be crazy ourselves!”
Zauner noted that she received a lot of positive responses from dessert makers, which has been encouraging as she tries to get them involved. “I talk to everyone, and most people I've talked to are really excited about the idea, but they're also doing everything in their business – so there is some trepidation about a massive time investment,” she revealed. “Having been there myself with my first business, I've focused a lot on streamlining the process for [the dessert makers] to participate. We don't require any of our partners to promote our teas. It's all voluntary.”
What kind of feedback has Almost Tea received from customers? “Lots of feedback on the sweetness,” said Zauner. “I think because all the teas are inspired by dessert, people are expecting them to be sweet. They're not sweet. It's tea. I think a lot of people are really pleasantly surprised that we managed to get the dessert's flavor on the tea leaf without adding cloying sweetness.”
How It All Began
The eight-year journey to creating Almost Tea began with Zauner's first business, Universal Yums – an international snack box subscription – which she started with her husband (Eli). That business has experienced more than $100 million in lifetime sales thus far, and they plan to put that expertise to use with Almost Tea.
While working on Universal Yums, Zauner wanted to avoid mindlessly snacking on the company's snacks and candies, so she began drinking herbal tea as a post-lunch ritual about five years ago. “By my 34th cup of chamomile tea, I started to wonder… why can't I try more interesting teas? I've tried haggis potato chips and violet flower dark chocolate,” Zaunder said, “but tea, as a category has been overlooked. It's my goal to make tea that's both an interesting and satisfying alternative to dessert.”
And while Zauner is new to the tea industry with her Almost Tea venture, she did learn to love and appreciate tea while she studied abroad in Shanghai for a semester. “While I was there, I learned a lot of important things about myself, two of them being: I loved trying new food and I loved tea,” she said.
So far, the biggest challenge the Almost Tea business has faced is around resource allocation and deciding what to focus on. “That's true of any new business when resources are scarce and there's so much to do,” shared Zauner. “Certainly, our biggest success has been the interest we've received from our current customer base at Universal Yums. It's been so rewarding for me to get comments from customers saying, ‘I don't really drink tea, but I know whatever product you make is great so I had to try this.’ That's my sole benchmark as a product developer, and I want build that trust with every new customer I'm just now meeting with Almost Tea.”
For future growth, Zauner is very interested in entering retail shops. “Right now, we're only available online, so that's a big focus area for us next,” she said.
The Almost Tea Subscription Service and Boxes
Today, Almost Tea customers can purchase a subscription and receive the brand’s monthly drop of six blends automatically, or they can purchase an individual box of a particular flavor ad-hoc. The teas currently start at $26 per box.
Next Monday, Nov. 21, the company will launch a smaller sampler size. “This will be a product with 12 teas inside for $15 a month,” shared Zauner. “We've seen a lot of early interest from consumers who aren't tea drinkers, and so they're nervous to commit to our 30-count box. We're hoping this product will be a little bit easier for non-drinkers to dip their toes into tea. It's also a great gift for the holidays.”
To learn more about Almost Tea, visit DrinkAlmost.com.
Aaron Kiel, based in Raleigh, N.C., has worked in the beverage, tea and coffee industries for nearly two decades. He’s a journalist and writer at heart, but he also wears a PR hat through his consultancy, ak PR Group. He works as the editor of World Tea News with Questex’s Bar & Restaurant Group, as well as a contributing writer for Bar & Restaurant.
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