What took so long?
We launched our first products during the summer of 2019. Many of you who have followed us since then are probably wondering what happened to us in late 2020. We phased out our glass bottles to free up time to work on our shelf stable cans. I want to apologize to everyone for keeping you waiting so long, but the wait is almost over.
Our toughest challenge was to create a milk tea that was true to our original product. Making high quality milk tea shelf stable is no easy task. There are plenty of import brands that do this, but they take some serious shortcuts that we believe negatively impact the product. I explain further down below in #4.
I hope and pray everyday that we are doing the right thing by taking extra time to give our first shelf stable release a little extra T.L.C.
I’m not one to make excuses, but for transparencies sake there were other factors at play as well. To name a few:
A nationwide can shortage, creating a supply chain for real brewed tea, countless pilots, limited manufacturing time, capital.
I’ll promise you one thing, I owe each and every one of you this promise. I promise we will never give up. I promise we will always fight to bring the absolute best made in America milk teas to you.
I guess that was more than one promise lol.
Maxwell - Founder
P.S. Continue reading if you want the nitty gritty details. I’ll share some things I learned along the way. It may get nerdy.
For the nerds
Ok, if you’re still reading you wanna know the deets. I’ll spill the tea for y’all. Some things we cannot share because they are proprietary secrets we learned along the way that make this product possible.
1. wtf is thermal processing.
Basically, it’s cooking. The FDA has guidelines for the cooking time/temp for different products. Ours is like the most difficult and scrutinized category, where as a sparkling water is super easy.
Different thermal processes can result in different shelf life and storage conditions.
The kicker is that this is all packaging specific. So different packaging materials and shapes and sizes require specific thermal processes.
2. Ok so why is this important?
Our goal is to create the best shelf stable milk tea ever and put it in a can. The can was critical because it would reduce shipping costs and allow us to offer free shipping. Aluminum is also the most easily recyclable material out there.
The problem is by putting it in a can, and by requiring ambient storage we were left with one option for thermal processing. And it was the harshest one out there.
The more heat you apply, and the longer the product is exposed to that heat, the more drastic the change in flavor.
Imagine putting some milk tea in the microwave but instead of it heating it up, it also totally changed the flavor, color, texture. EVERYTHING.
This mean’t we needed to reformulate. By reformulate I mean I bought some Instapots and maxed them out to mimic our thermal process.
3. so how'd the reformulation go?
We reformulated a lot. I have a new found love for food science, the job these people do is incredible. For example, one thing I learned is the difference between volatile and non volatile compounds.
A volatile compound is one typically with a low flashpoint, so when you heat it up it breaks down or evaporates. Typically you’ll detect these aromas through your nose.
A non volatile is one that is fairly heat resistent. Usually has a subtle aroma but mostly affects the taste when it’s on your pallate.
Now tea has a TON of VC’s and NVC’s that are really crucial to it’s flavor. Things like Linalool oxide and hexanal. These are all natural compounds in tea that are responsible for each teas unique aroma and taste.
Then there are the bad ones, things like pentanal or 1-Penten-3-ol which when heated up past typical steeping temperatures become pungent or mask the nicer aromas and flavors.
4. Jeez sounds like a science EXPERIMENT.
To me it was, but rest assured nothing about this is fake or chemically engineered. These are all natural compounds inside the raw tea itself, it's just about controlling them and finding the right ratios to enhance the positive flavors and mitigate the negative ones.
Now heres the shortcut. Many of the import brands you will notice use tea flavors, or natural flavors, or tea powders.
These are products designed to create a general tea flavor, and to mitigate the negative things we talked about.
We don’t like these, and heres why.
Unnatural limited flavor profiles.
Part of our mission is to explore the thousands of varieties of real loose leaf tea and create milk teas that showcased these unique flavors. That means we needed to use the real tea. Not a generic "black tea flavor".
Minimized health and wellness benefits
Real tea has tons of antioxidants and a powerful combination of L-theanine and caffeine. Something you cannot mimic with a tea powder.
Missing that natural oomf
This is a weird one, one of the things we like about coffee is that slight bitterness, that little extra oomf past the nice flavor. Tea has the same thing, but the powders are engineered to eliminate those natural but enjoyable externalities. It eliminates the bitterness that balances the flavor profile.
5. working with co-manufacturers and partners.
The last experience I wanted to share was working with partners. A significant proportion of the food and beverages you find out there are made by co-manufacturers. They have specific process that you need to use at scale. Often times you just give them specifications and a recipe and they get to work. And other times you need some help because the scaling process can change your product.
I learned it is incredibly important for anyone in the biz to find a co-packer that believes in you and the brand. These massive companies deal with a lot of brands, and can have varying limitations of resources.
For us we spent tons of time with people from every level ranging from the CEO to our account reps selling them on the vision. Some people may be scared about sharing their idea with a co-packer who could rip them off, but if you build trust and demonstrate you’re the expert of your domain (Plus have a good contract), then the co-packer has a vested interest in your success. The more success you have the more product you manufacture!
6. Ok what’s with the bunnies?
I really don’t know anymore.
Tweet me @max_blessen
if you have questions!