Tycoons: Steeped Games, Langkloof Honeybush/Grounded, Akova Tea

Akova Teas (pictured here) is one of the winners of the Tea Tycoons 2021 program. The three winners were announced during the World Tea Virtual Summit, March 15, 2021. (Photo: Courtesy of Akova Teas)

World Tea Virtual Summit: Strategies for Success, which took place March 15-16, 2021, named the three winners of its Tea Tycoons program.


1. Innovation Category – a dynamic new idea, method or device that demonstrates clear value for tea industry.

Winner: Steeped Games

2. Green/Sustainability Category – a business that focuses on meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Winner: Langkloof Honeybush Co./Grounded

3. Unique Customer Engagement Category – a company that creates a fresh approach to client/customer relationships, to foster brand loyalty and awareness.

Winner: Akova Teas

About the ‘Tea Tycoons’ Program
The new Tea Tycoons program is geared toward celebrating and honoring emerging small businesses that are producing innovative products for the global tea industry. More than 70 entries for Tea Tycoons were submitted from around the world, and nine finalists were named before the winners were declared at the World Tea Virtual Summit on March 16, 2021.

More Details on the Winners:

Steeped Games

Stepped Games started in 2019, and they’ve since sold more than 15,000 copies of their unique tea board game, “Chai.” The company – which also produces the board game “Chai: High Tea,” says it's been a delight meeting many tea and board game lovers at dozens of conventions, and they’re eager to share more board games in the future, including “Chai: Tea for 2” (2021) and more titles in 2021 and 2022. Steeped Games points out that its values are embodied (or steeped) in each of their games, which are all designed to be imaginative, immersive and inclusive. Overall, the creators at Steeped Games are an energetic bunch who are truly passionate about creating memorable, immersive board games surrounding tea. Their core team members are rooted in Canada, and they have talented artists in the United States, India and worldwide.

Langkloof Honeybush Co./Grounded
While cycling through China and Southeast Asia, Thekla Teunis was struck by the erratic state of agricultural lands in one of Earth’s most fertile regions. Some were vibrant and thriving and existing in harmony with nature, while others were taxed and over-utilized, leaching from the ecosystem at large. After weeks of witnessing that contrast, it was clear to Teunis that deterioration was a choice – not an inevitably. In 2014, Teunis teamed up with Commonland, an organization dedicated to the large-scale restoration of degraded landscapes. The following year, Teunis met Gijs Boers in Zambia. A passionate advocate of regenerative farming, Boers had spent the previous three years traveling the world to work with farmers and study best practices. With a shared vision for sustainable agriculture and a kindred spirit of adventure, the two teamed up to help farmers restore their soils, hoping this would also promote fairer economies and more robust food systems. Grounded was born. The company’s mission is to support farmers in their transition towards regenerative agriculture and help buyers access high-quality, ethical products. One of the key products that Grounded supports is Honeybush Tea from
Langkloof Honeybush Co. Honeybush grows in the Langkloof in South Africa, where it's sustainably harvested from wild plants from the mountains and successfully cultivated on farmlands. The caffeine-free tea is produced by fermenting the species, which has a sweet honey flavor and several health-promoting properties.

Akova Teas
Akova Tea offers a thoughtfully curated selection of teas and flavors so that customers can make their own custom blends. Alternatively, customers can choose a tea based on their personalized tasting profile, or choose from a selection of delicious, prepackaged teas that will be sure to inspire the senses. For Akova Tea's Personalized Tasting Profile, customers can participate in a three-month long tasting adventure. Each month, participants will receive a package tailored to finding out their tea preference. At the end of the first month, the customer provides feedback on the teas, and then the next package will be refined based on the comments. By the third month, a final set of teas will be sent, based on the feedback from the previous shipments.

Judges of the Competition
Tea Tycoon judges included: Angelica Palladino, general manager, Four Seasons Hotel, Seattle, Wash; Babette Donaldson, founder, International Tea Sippers Society and owner/publisher of T Ching; Eve Hill Angus, restaurant critic and writer; and James Tidwell, founder, TEXSOM.

To get to know more innovative businesses from the tea community, attend the upcoming World Tea Conference + Expo, July 14-16, 2021. Visit WorldTeaExpo.com.