The tea bag has been the pinnacle of tea making technology for more than 100 years, but now an Australian invention could be set to take tea into the 21st century.
Tstix is a new infusion technique which performs the job of both the teabag and the teaspoon. Made of a mix of aluminium and plastic, Tstix looks like a larger version of the sugar sachets available at cafes.
Australian designer and inventor Geoff Stuart has been working on his revolutionary Tstix product for eight years and is set to achieve a major milestone with the launch of Tstix in the US later this year.
Tstix was awarded the prestigious WorldStar President’s Bronze Award by the World Packaging Organization, and was showcased at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in June.
“I created it based on looking at a tea bag and thinking that it was very much an old style item,” says Stuart.
“I thought that if we could get rid of the string, the bag, and the material and get it into a tube shape then we might be able to have a better product.
“We think we are adding more style to it, and making tea a more interesting drink. A lot of people I talk to say they hate tea bags, but just use them because there is no alternative.”
At the core of the Tstix technology are more than a thousand tiny perforations which form neat symmetrical patterns along three quarters of the length of the product.
The Tstix are made from a special film that is FDA approved in the US and is also BPA free, so there is no taste of paper, as there can be in a tea bag.
While the length of time a tea bag is in the cup or pot determines tea strength, the strength of Tstix tea is determined by the amount of horizontal stirring. And Tstix use pure tea leaves instead of tea dust which is used in many tea bags, delivering less tannin and a purer infusion taste.
The Tstix story, however, is a prime example of how long it can take to develop something from a great idea, and even a practically working invention, to commercial reality.
Geoff Stuart says his search for investment initially linked him with a US citizen living in China, who then linked him to a company in Las Vegas and ultimately to Texas, where he found the investors to fund the US venture.
Now, with patents and IP residing in Australia, Stuart has formed a US company to manufacture and distribute the product throughout the US, which is one of the biggest markets for tea.
“We are looking for substantial volumes,” says Geoff Stuart.
“Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water, and the US is a major market, as are Japan and China where 90 percent of people drink tea as opposed to coffee.
“So the next 12 months is about building a profile and getting consumer recognition in the US.”
While Tstix will be selling its own teas, the company is also open to co-brand with other companies which might be interested in using the Tstix technology to deliver their products.
Stuart says that while the US retail market is much more fragmented than in Australia, Tstix just needs to be taken up by one or two chains to start its momentum. The goal is for Tstix to be available in US supermarkets this year.
“After the US we will really be concentrating on Germany and then South Africa, where we have production machines,” he says.
“And after that it will start to become a global operation.”
Given the smaller size of the Australian and NZ markets, there are no immediate plans to roll out the product in Australasia, although Stuart says he would be pleased to talk to interested licensees.