While cold brew coffee has spilled over with an innovation rush, cold brew tea has until recently been slowly steeping in the background. But the moment of truth for the subcategory might be upon us; in the past few months a handful of established players have waded into cold brew tea, introducing the drink into mainstream markets. For EvyTea, founded in 2012 by Emerson College grad Evy Chen, the time finally seems primed to reach a larger audience.
The small company has been slowly growing out of its “tea bar” home base in Boston, Mass. focusing entirely on the cold brew process (Evy Tea even netted a web domain coup by registering coldbrewtea.com). While largely focused on local expansion for the time being, the brand’s ready-to-drink line is now available in more than 500 retail stores in the Northeast, including 33 Whole Foods Markets, and there are plans to open a second tea bar this summer.
According to a December U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company is currently seeking to raise $1 million in a seed funding round. Chen told BevNET the financing will enable the company to increase its production, expand distribution, and open more tea bars throughout the Boston area.
In the past few months, EvyTea has seen significant growth, Chen told BevNET, going from a team of 10 employees to 25, and bringing on Chen’s husband Khai Nguyen as CEO to focus on financing while Chen takes charge of branding, operations, and overall growth. Many of the other new positions are focused on production and sales so the company can devote more energy towards expanding the brand.
EvyTea’s current RTD line features three zero-sugar, zero-calorie SKUs in 10 oz. bottles, including a sencha green tea with meyer lemon and basil, black tea with vanilla and earl grey, and white tea with peach and ginger. The company has recently begun working with a new co-packer and now plans to transition to 16.9 oz. bottles while keeping the same retail price of $2.99. Chen is also working on three new flavors, lightly sweetened with honey to debut later this year, made with new fruit and herb variations.
“The way I brew tea is a little closer to the way people brew beer and wine,” Chen said.
While the brand has gotten local recognition in Boston, Chen is now working to dig EvyTea deeper into the Northeast with a focus on increasing its distribution in the region. The company is in the process of converting an old 1976 Airstream Argosy into a mobile tea bar to up the brand’s festival and event presence throughout the summer and the fall. Chen said the Argosy has “an unique vibe” that mirrors the EvyTea brand. While the immediate goal is to remain New England-centric, Chen took the brand down to Austin, Texas last month for the South by Southwest festival and moving beyond the Northeast is something the company is looking at for the future.
“We listen to customers and continually push, reinvent, and rethink things in order to make our products better, more unique, and more enjoyable,” she said.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified EvyTea’s current funding round as a Series A. It is a seed round.