Rick Ha and Karen Wan brought their prototype smart brewer to World Tea Expo last June as one of the final steps prior to launching a crowd-funding campaign.
They were delighted that the Qi Aerista Smart Tea Maker was named a finalist in both Innovation and the Brewing Gear categories because of its app-controlled ability to brew a range of teas from delicate green to Russian black.
It even cold-brews teas to make fresh iced tea. The awards went to other winners, but Ha and Wan were excited to attend and pleased that so many tea professionals approved of their design. They said they could feel the momentum building.
Since 2013, Ha’s three colleagues at Keyway Innovations, who reside in Hong Kong and Shanghai, China, have continuously worked to realize their dream of a smart kettle versatile enough to make cold tea and hot hassle-free tea with perfect taste. They built a prototype and named it the Qi Teamaker before launching a Kickstarter campaign in late 2014 to fund the project. Unfortunately, the campaign failed.
Instead of defeat, Ha’s team redoubled their efforts, redesigned the brewer, integrated the app, and developed a multipronged marketing effort that in its first week convinced more than 800 backers to fund the Qi Aerista. The brewer can steep greens for as little as 2 minutes up to rigorous extractions needed for Turkish and Russian-style drinks as well as Hong Kong-style milk tea where the tea is boiled for 10–15 minutes.
After launch, the Qi Aerista reached its goal in 28 hours and has since topped $100,000 in pledges that will finance the mass manufacture of the brewer for delivery in June 2017. Ha and Wan were one of the first businesses to host a streaming event on Facebook and did the same on Kickstarter Live. The brewer’s Facebook page has 7,000 likes. The team has generated 1,000 Tweets.
“Tea is delicate. Brewing it properly makes a tremendous difference in taste,” said Ha, a computer and electrical engineer and Keyway founder and CEO. “We created Qi Aerista to simplify the brewing process for all types of tea. Even someone new to tea can enjoy a perfect cup every time.”
Wan is a certified tea evaluator who helped ensure Qi Aerista could handle any type of tea. The Wi-Fi enabled brewer shares data via Apple and Android apps, maintaining a brewing profile with steeping times (calibrated to the second) and precisely controlled temperature settings by degree from 68 to 212°F (20 to 100°C). Soon, available app upgrades will feature a tea diary to record sessions and share recipes and settings, and online resources to discover new teas.
The design is simple. The 2-lb brewer is made of heat-resistant borosilicate glass. Water is continuously driven into a steeping basket, without the use of a water pump, where the tea (loose leaf or in teabags) is fully immersed to insure a good infusion. The tea is then filtered and returned to the pot in a circulative manner for the duration of the brewing cycle. Presets determine brew strength (light, medium, and strong) and by tea type (floral, green, black, oolong milk tea, and cold brewing). Qi Aerista uniquely separates the water reservoir and steeping chamber to solve the problem of over- or under-steeping of tea, and after brewing is done the tea will be kept warm for up to one hour.
“Qi Aerista has been showcased at various international tea events and we’ve received great support and feedback from the tea community,” said Wan. “After years of developing Qi Aerista, we can’t wait to bring this unique smart tea maker to tea lovers around the world.”
The Qi Aerista will retail for $239. The Kickstarter campaign ends Dec. 15.
Learn more: www.qi-aerista.com
Source: Keyway Innovations