Monday, May 16, 2016

Interview: Allen Han, Co-Founder of Teforia

Teforia co-founders Allen Han and Kris Efland
If you are plugged into the tea world, chances are you've heard about Teforia, a company hoping to change the way we enjoy tea. I'm not sure how I feel about using a fancy machine to make tea, but once I heard about it I knew I had to find out more. Part of the reason I drink tea is to interact with the leaves, and enjoy being an integral part of the brewing process. Without human interaction, tea wouldn't be possible. I suppose Teforia takes this interaction to a new level and I admit I've heard great things about the tea maker. I haven't had the opportunity to try tea brewed through the Teforia yet, but I hope I'll have the chance at the World Tea Expo coming up in June. The tea maker's technology allows the machine to know exactly what tea you are making, and how to extract the best flavor. I find it interesting that the user is able to adjust the level of antioxidants and caffeine in their brewed tea. I didn't believe this was possible, so I asked about it. The response:
Every infusion recipe for Teforia teas that we've crafted with the help of tea masters around the world includes dozens of variables -- from water temperature and steeping time to agitation of the leaves and more. What most don't realize when they're brewing, and what is difficult to achieve through conventional methods, is that subtle changes in these variables can completely alter the level of caffeine, antioxidants, flavor, aroma, and more in every Teforia tea.
It's intriguing stuff. I'm excited to present this interview with Teforia co-founder Allen Han. Learn about the journey to creating Teforia, and decide if it's something you'd try for yourself.

Why create a new way to brew tea?

There hasn't been any innovation in tea since the tea bag. That was more than 100 years ago, and it was an innovation in convenience — not in taste or quality of experience.

Tea is the most popular beverage in the world (after water), yet most people are unaware that they're missing out on tea’s true depth of flavor, aroma, and experience. We’ve accepted what our tea bags and hot water produce without realizing that, like so many other craft foods, tea offers an abundance of variety in flavor and richness. In the U.S. especially, wine, beer, and coffee all have gone through a transformation in process, appreciation, and understanding — why not tea?

Tea is as complex as wine, with thousands of varietals nuanced by their terroir and season of harvest. There is so much to learn, discover, and enjoy with tea, but most of this is lost because of two main factors: 1. The prevalence of the tea bag and 2. The complexity of brewing loose leaf correctly. Each varietal demands its own specific treatment during infusion to release its true flavor.

Loose leaf tea is an amazing ingredient but it requires time and patience to master it. We wanted to make that easy for tea lovers and introduce them to all the flavor they have been missing out on.

What is the inspiration behind Teforia?

I was working at a tech company and a friend of mine asked me to come to this new third-wave coffee house. He said they made each cup of coffee to order so it's just the way you like it, and that they had great tea, so I decided to check it out with him. I watched my friend order his coffee, and they asked him about the flavors he liked, how strong he wanted his coffee, they discussed the bean type and the grind. I was getting excited because I loved the amount of thought and care they were putting into each cup. When it was my turn, I asked about the teas they offered. They had a nice selection, so I chose one and they pulled out a tea bag, threw it in a cup, filled it with boiling water, and charged me $5! It was so typical and frustrating. There was no understanding about tea and the amazing diversity it offers in terms of flavor, if you know how to prepare it properly. They cared so much about making the perfect cup of coffee but cared nothing about tea. Tea is the most popular beverage in the world (after water), and I knew it was time to focus on tea and how to make the perfect cup.

How long did it take to design the infuser?

I started working on initial idea three and half years ago. We spoke to over two hundred tea drinkers, experts and farmer in Asia and US before we made our first design. We been refining, testing, validating our design ever since then. The shipping product is actually the fifth iteration of the infuser.

I imagine it is difficult to reach the die-hard tea purists who prefer brewing in traditional ways. How do you convince them to try Teforia?

We built the Teforia around a deep respect for the ritual of tea. The act of making tea is a ritual tea drinkers love, and we’re tapping into this ritual to create moments of reflection and connection. When designing the Teforia, it was important for us to transition the user’s experience of ritual from the physical act of making tea (since the Teforia does the work) to an engagement with the infusion process. Thus, we designed the Teforia’s tea infusion process to be sensory driven. The user watches the dancing tea leaves in the infusion chamber during the brewing process and sees the crystal clear water transform into any number of beautiful colors. The subtle sounds and relaxing sights of the Teforia’s infusion cycle creates a moment for the tea drinker to turn off the noise and chaos of the daily grind.

Part of our goal with Teforia is to democratize tea knowledge. Using Teforia, every tea drinker has access to the best cup of tea, infused to perfection. How? Every infuser is connected to our database comprising thousands of tea recipes crafted by every other Teforia user, from a rare treasure from the foothills of the Himalayas to a simple Japanese sencha.

We also understand that the palate and the ritual of tea are very personal, and we have designed customization options for every tea drinker to achieve their own perfect cup of tea. Our recipe function, lets users adjust caffeine and antioxidant levels, as well as flavor profiles, to suit their own tastes. We built the Teforia with smart technology so we could create a highly adaptive platform. The infuser learns directly from its user — as well as from recipe and feature updates sent directly to
Teforia through the cloud — so the ritual of tea evolves with the user. We hope this deep respect for the importance of ritual will appeal to traditionalist to come and try the Teforia. We are hoping they will be delightfully surprised.

Allen Han

Are you looking for the infuser to replace traditional brewing methods, or be an addition to them?

I’ve been a tea drinker all my life, having spent every grade school summer vacation with my grandparents on farms where the best green tea is grown in Taiwan. Teforia’s mission is to elevate the tea experience for every level of tea drinker. Teforia is intuitive enough for a novice tea drinker to use, while also being smart enough to help a connoisseur discover new layers and nuances in their favorite teas. Overall, we see Teforia customers becoming better and more intrigued tea drinkers. The intrigue would lead a tea drinker to explore the history, origins, and truth about tea. They might be motivated to take a Chinese tea-making class at their local tea shop or explore how specific types of tea pots are crafted by hand. We really can’t predict what path our customers will take, but we have a feeling that Teforia will play a role in their tea journey.

What’s the greatest challenge in bringing Teforia to the public?

The greatest challenge for bringing Teforia to the public is the current perception of tea. This is the 21st century, yet we are still making tea with 5,000-year-old technology. We’re wasting half of every tea’s potential when we brew the leaves using conventional methods. Every single time a tea drinker tastes tea made with Teforia, they are blown away by new flavors and complexity that they have never experienced before in their tea.

We will have number of tea tasting events coming up over the summer and into the autumn, and we invite your readers to come experience Teforia for themselves.

How do you see Teforia growing in the future?

In 2016, we will launch our first hardware product in Q4 and continue to grow our partnerships with tea masters and farmers across the world to provide our customers with the highest quality and rarest teas previously unavailable to the general market.

Although we can’t share any details around our future product pipeline just yet, we’ve built our company and products in a way that allows us to easily scale and expand — always with the goal of delivering the best tea experience to our customers. Stay tuned as you will be hearing more from us on that front soon. Tea can be a ritual that enhances any lifestyle, and we look forward to continuing to build products that will enhance the overall tea experience.

How did you choose the tea partners you are working with?

We select our tea partners based on an alignment of company values. Teforia’s goal is to elevate the tea experience for tea drinkers. This means curating a collection of the highest-quality teas that are 100% natural or organic and ethically grown and sourced. As a new player in the tea industry, we feel that we have a duty to be a good steward for both the farmers and the land.

Samovar Tea has been in business for more than 10 years and, in that time, has developed amazing relationships with tea farmers around the world. From China to India and Japan, these tea farmers have committed themselves to preserving an ancient art and helping the planet along the way. Samovar sources almost entirely organic products, which means more sustainable practices and a better product for consumers to enjoy.

Steven Smith Teamaker imports teas and botanicals directly from their friends at origin points — in most cases, these are farmers they have worked with for more than 15 years. All Smith Teamaker products are all natural, gluten free, and GMO free.

Mighty Leaf Tea sources primarily from China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka, Africa, and Taiwan.

Thank you so much Allen for taking the time out to answer my questions. Readers, what do you think? Are you skeptical, or would you give Teforia a try? Hopefully I'll get a first hand look in June, and I'll be sure to report back. 


  1. I was fortunate to taste Teforia's infusions last year at World Tea Expo and I'm really looking forward to the big "reveal" this year at WTE.
    Fantastic interview Sara!

    1. Thanks Linda! I'm looking forward to the big reveal! Also looking forward to meeting you!

  2. I too have heard nothing but good things. Can't wait to officially try it out in Vegas.

    1. Hopefully we'll get the chance to try together and we can discuss!

  3. Great questions, Sara! I saw a live demo but wish I could have tasted the tea itself. How fortunate you'll be at WTE to drink their teas.

    1. Thanks Georgia! Hopefully they'll be doing more tastings around the country and you'll be in NYC for one!