How Tea Drops Plans to Shake Up Tea Time

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

Tea Drops

Sashee Chandran made brewing tea as instant as dissolving a heart-shaped tablet into boiling water.

The founder and CEO of Tea Drops calls her product the "bath bomb of tea." With a line of bagless blends like chocolate Earl Grey and pineapple chamomile, Chandran is eying the "legacy-driven industry" she said hasn't changed in years.


"The tea industry is where the coffee industry was 10 or 15 years ago," said Chandran. "You still have these huge, old conglomerates like the Liptons and Bigelows, but there really hasn't been much innovation at all."

On Tuesday, the Downtown Los Angeles-based company closed a $5 million Series A round led by BrandProject, the venture fund behind prepared food delivery service Freshly and cookware brand Our Place.

Chandran was raised in a "tea-centric household" — her mother is Chinese and her father grew up on a tea estate in Sri Lanka — but rarely found time for the ritual during her quick-paced marketing job at eBay.

"You need a lot of props and you need to wait for it to steep," she said. "By the time it's ready, you might have to run to your next meeting."

Tea bags weren't the solution. Chandran said they're typically made from "tea dust" — bland scraps leftover from whole tea leaves — and contain microplastics that seep into your drink.

tea drops

From her kitchen in the Bay Area, Chandran spent weekends and nights after work blending and grinding tea leaves. In 2015, she patented the invention: a dissolvable tea pellet that does away with the bleached white tea bags dominating most of the packaged tea market.

"Tea is the world's most-consumed beverage, next to water," BrandProject founder Andrew Black said in a statement, "and yet the overall category has lacked innovation in both experience as well as packaging."

Loose leaf and bagged tea sales hit over $1.3 billion in May of 2020, a 9.4% jump from the previous year, according to Information Resources Inc. data published by the Beverage Industry. Lipton and Bigelow remain top players in the market.

Chandran sources organic, fair trade tea from farms across Japan, China, India and Sri Lanka, but blends and packages the drops in the United States. They're sold both direct-to-consumer and at national retailers like Costco and Whole Foods. By the end of 2021, she hopes to stock shelves in 2,500 stores and turn a profit.

The company has now raised $8.4 million in VC funding to date. This last round, Chandran said, was especially challenging. She's spent years convincing investors her product is not just a "gimmicky novelty item," but one that consumers have incorporated into their daily routines. Her direct-to-consumer sales remain up 350% year-over-year.

Siddhi Capital, AF Ventures, Cue Ball Capital and Halogen Ventures also contributed to the round.

https://twitter.com/frosebillington
francesca@dot.la

Subscribe to our newsletter to catch every headline.

Cadence

Jury Rules in Favor of FIGS, Tosses Out False Advertising Lawsuit

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College and previously covered technology and entertainment for TheWrap and reported on the SoCal startup scene for the Los Angeles Business Journal. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

​FIGS model showing off scrubs
Courtesy of FIGS

Scrubs maker FIGS gained a win in court this week after a jury found there was no merit to the false advertising and misleading business practices claims brought by rival medical apparel maker Strategic Partners Inc. (SPI).

Read moreShow less

This Week in ‘Raises’: Zest AI Snags $50M, Kingswood Capital Collects $500M

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

This Week in ‘Raises’: Zest AI Snags $50M, Kingswood Capital Collects $500M
Modified by Joshua Letona

Online financial platform Zest AI raised fresh funding to continue expanding access to AI-automated credit underwriting for all lenders. While cybersecurity products developer MedCrypt landed more funding to scale its cryptography, behavior monitoring, and vulnerability inventory products across various types of medical devices.

***

Read moreShow less

LA Tech ‘Moves’: ABC Signature Gains New SVP

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech ‘Moves’: ABC Signature Gains New SVP
LA Tech ‘Moves’:

“Moves,” our roundup of job changes in L.A. tech, is presented by Interchange.LA, dot.LA's recruiting and career platform connecting Southern California's most exciting companies with top tech talent. Create a free Interchange.LA profile here—and if you're looking for ways to supercharge your recruiting efforts, find out more about Interchange.LA's white-glove recruiting service by emailing Sharmineh O’Farrill Lewis (sharmineh@dot.la). Please send job changes and personnel moves to moves@dot.la.

***

Read moreShow less
RELATEDEDITOR'S PICKS
LA TECH JOBS
interchangeLA
Trending