New Company Helps You Find Your Cup Of Tea

By Suzanne Pfefferle Tafur

SITTING IN HIS NINTH-FLOOR LAUNCH PAD OFFICE ON POYDRAS STREET, Knud Berthelsen described his startup business as the “Netflix for tea.”

His company, Free Your Tea (www.freeyourtea.com), is a personalized tea subscription service. New clients receive a sampling of six teas, which they rate. They also can read reviews of teas tried by other clients. Based on the subscriber’s feedback, Free Your Tea sends a fresh batch of teas likely to hit the right note.

“We’re not a tea of the month club, so it’s not like every month everyone gets the same tea, because people have such different tastes,” says Berthelsen, a Norwegian native who now lives in New Orleans with his wife and 2-year-old daughter. “I believe everyone has a favorite tea, but most people just haven’t met it yet.”

Free Your Tea offers brews from major tea-growing regions around the world. The types include dark and strong teas; floral, green teas; light oolongs; and white teas, which are “usually the least processed of the teas,” Berthelsen says. “It’s pretty much just a leaf in a cup.”

Since Berthelsen doesn’t drink coffee, he begins his day with a robust tea, perhaps an Assam Breakfast, enhanced with sugar and milk. He may sip a blend of black teas mixed with a bit of oolong in the afternoon, and then – after the sun sets – a fragrant chamomile.

“I’ve never really enjoyed coffee that much,” Berthelsen says. “When I taste different coffees, to my palate, they just don’t taste that different. But with tea … there’s a much wider spectrum.”

But in New Orleans, and in most cities throughout the country, it’s much easier to find a new coffee drink than a preferred tea flavor.

“If I was a coffee drinker, I could just go into a coffee shop where they know everything about their coffee,” Berthelsen says. “They take great pride in it. There’s not a lot of that for tea.”

He says tea is among the most widely consumed beverages in the world. In the U.S., 80 percent of tea consumed is iced tea. Free Your Tea offers instructions on how to cold brew its teas.

“Tea is a good product in every possible way,” Berthelsen says. “It’s healthy. It’s natural.”

He believes tea should be stored and brewed in its natural loose-leaf state, rather than packaged into tea bags. Whole leaves conserve their chemical compounds longer and remain fresh. When steeped, they infuse at a lower rate, which keeps the tea from tasting bitter.

Several subscription plans, including one called The Coffee Replacer, are available. The Year of Tea, the most popular plan, features monthly deliveries of about 30 cups worth of premium loose-leaf tea, tailored to a client’s tastes. Berthelsen thinks this plan makes a good gift, since the recipient can enjoy the tea all year round.

“You’re giving them the experience of discovering new and interesting teas,” he says. “We’re at a point in society where a lot of people are more interested in collecting experiences than physical items, so it’s good that way. You don’t have to know what kind of tea your friends like, because we’ll work on that.”

This article provided by NewsEdge.