IoT: Smart Connected Planet

Technology That Makes a Perfect Pot of Tea

Ken Kaplan Executive Editor, iQ by Intel

Smart, internet-connected kitchen gadget powered by Intel Edison technology transforms the tradition of tea making into an elegant, sensory experience.

In the same way connoisseurs move beyond basic table wines to develop a taste for the finer flavors of merlot, zinfandel or cabernet, Allen Han and Kris Efland want every tea drinker to embark on a journey to enjoy the perfect cup of tea…each and every time.

“We want to make the coffee drinker jealous of what the tea drinker has,” said Han, CEO and founder of Teforia.

Rather than dip green, black or English Breakfast teabags into hot water – something people have done for thousands of years – the two seasoned Silicon Valley inventors have redefined the tea technology and drink experience with their smart, internet-connected Teforia Infuser.

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“There are 3 billion people worldwide and 148 million Americans drinking tea every day,” said Han. “We want to provide them with a way to elevate their tea experience, a way that allows them to delve deeper into tea.”

Making everyday objects smarter and more connected is quickly bringing the internet of things trend into homes, often led by tenacious startup companies and individual makers.

Connected cooking gadgets help chefs make the perfect steak. Nest created a series of smart thermostats, smoke detectors and security systems. One Oregon kid is even developing a smart microwave that heats food to the perfect temperature.

A recent Business Insider Intelligence report showed that over the next five years sales of connected-home devices such as washers, dryers, refrigerators and other internet-connected appliances will grow faster than sales of smartphones or tablets, reaching 1.8 billion units shipped annually by 2019.

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Teforia founders Allen Han and Kris Efland in their Mountain View, Calif. headquarters.

Bringing computer intelligence to tea making was just a matter of time. By combining style with cloud computing and a mobile application, Teforia founders crafted a device that brings an ancient tradition into the digital age.

“Our tea maker gives people the ability to experiment and make sure good results are repeatable,” said Efland, CTO and co-founder of Teforia. “This gives you the ability to get picture perfect results every time, and it’s a much more visceral experience.”

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Han said that for 5,000 years, it’s been the same. “You boil hot water, put it in a vessel, put tea in and leave it there until you like the taste,” he said, noting that this arbitrary method leaves so much open to interpretation and chances for failure.

He thought if simple temperature and timing metrics could be controlled, people could find other adjustments like dialing up or down the caffeine or floral flavor to suite their particular tastes.

Tea is very complex, consisting of more than 200 major chemical compounds, including caffeine and antioxidants.

“Around 4 o’clock, you might use an extraction that has 65 percent less caffeine than the regular cup you make in the morning,” said Han.

Tea Technology

Inside the sleek counter-top device are pumps, mechanical valves and supporting electronics, but it’s the Intel Edison compute module that controls everything. With built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth wireless capabilities, the processor connects the tea maker to the cloud so it has the latest recipes from Teforia’s database.

“If I scan the RFID (radio-frequency identification) of a new tea I just purchased into the machine, the background information about that green tea will show up on my mobile app. All that orchestration behind how the device, app and cloud work is predicated by my interaction with Edison.”

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Edison allows the device to learn and dynamically adapt to its owners’ fine-tuned or changing tastes. It also enables the machine to wirelessly update software.

“Most kitchen-top appliances have a lifecycle of around seven to eight years, but Edison helps us future-proof our machine,” said Han.

The Design

Making and drinking tea is ritual of peace and serenity, all of which is at the heart the Infuser’s design.

“We present the tea making process in this nice glass globe,” said Han. “You see the tea leaves tumble and dance. You see the transformation from clear liquid to this nice golden, green or another color depending on the tea. You see the dry, humble leaf expand to full leaf. A lot of these magical moments that are a story.”

Teforia’s eco-friendly, single serving packages are filled with tea from all over the world, including private estates in Taiwan.

The RFID tag on each package tracks everything from the tea name, origin, date and other information. This get stored and accessed by the Infuser and app every time a new tea is made. New recipes can be found and created.

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“When you tear open the tea package and see loose leaf tea,” said Han. “You can touch it and smell it, then pour it into the machine. That whole process is very engaging. At the same time, we buried the technology in there so it’s very simple and something people don’t have to worry about.”

The Teforia website helps people learn more about tea and the infuser mobile app allow owners to find new recipes and save their own particular recipe so their tea maker can make a perfect tea every time.

The first batch of Teforia infusers sold out, but new orders are slated to ship in late spring.

Han see Teforia creating a new chapter for tea tradition and unlocking flavors that very few people have experienced from tea drinking.

“What other thing in your home can help you manage caffeine intake or boost antioxidants in the thing you love to drink every day?” asked Han.

Editor’s note: At the 2016 International Consumer Electronics show, meet with the Teforia team at the Intel Booth # 7252, Central Hall South, LVCC.

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