Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Contract Tea Formuation Services and Ingredients

Sometimes people view our range of different organic and conventional teas and tea blending ingredients and forget to note that Kopius Teas (www.kopiusteas.com) and its partner QTrade Teas & Herbs are also in the business of contract formulation and manufacturing. In fact the main reason why we even offer our vast selection of herbs spices flowers and fruit pieces is because we use those ingredients in our own contract blending operations. The tea blending ingredients we show on our website are, in fact, only a small portion of the ingredients we actually maintain in our inventories.

Why don't we show all of our inventory for sale? The two main reasons are availability and price stability. Some ingredients may be subject to large price fluctuations based on crop size, climate, and overall demand. In addition we may need to reserve inventory simply to fulfill ongoing, manufacturing commitments.

The other component we do not show on the website are our flavorings. Most of the flavors we use are liquid-based and are shared across the manufacturing of multiple flavored teas. Tea is normally a naturally hydroscopic ingredient, which absorbs and retains applied liquid flavors quite readily.

Now that we know there are many ingredients and flavors to choose from, we can begin to address how new and novel blends are created.

Like many things in life it, product development begins with an idea, a concept. These may be variations of things that we've already tasted, or they can be completely new. I like to think of one company that's brought this to life most recently and that is Jelly Belly. Jelly Belly innovates and introduces completely new and interesting concepts in jelly bean flavors. Buttered popcorn, bubble gum, peanut butter, etc.

You can think of the range of flavors to be at this extreme and even further. Although you may immediately reject the idea of drinking a peanut butter flavored beverage, some of these concepts became immediate hits, just because someone had the foresight and courage and determination to see these items to market.

That same originality can be applied to contract tea formulation. We start with an idea, and build from there. We try different ideas and remain open to variations and subsequent new avenues for pursuit.

As a business, our wholesale custom tea formulation services are geared at working with your ideas and defining a range of alternative recipes that fits your specific pricing needs. We generally offer a series of different alternative sample blends for consideration. Tasting these samples under a range of different steeping conditions is the best way to understand how the product may be accepted by your clients.

Once the formula has been finalized, the manufacturing process then returns to one of sustaining quality and availability.

I should end by noting that not all formulation projects entail the use of flavors. Some of our largest contract formulation projects revolve around the proper blending of pure, natural teas. This is where our expertise in sourcing and cupping becomes paramount. A well balance tea blend, whether served hot or iced, needs to exceed a set range of criteria for flavor, aroma, texture, color, strength and freshness. Tea, being a natural product subject to seasonal variations in rain, moisture, wind, sunshine, soil, and processing, can introduce new considerations from lot to lot.

Seek a business partner who will take a personal interest in the size of your project and can make a commitment to developing and maintaining the resources needed to both formulate and manufacture according to your volume requirements.

Most contract blenders will start with a minimum size order of 50 - 100 lbs of tea. Of course, you may also wish to check how your vendor can accommodate a dramatic increase in scale, should you develop the next blockbuster product in tea and obtain a distribution contract with a large grocery store chain or big box retailer.

Lastly, if you are building an organic tea recipe, you should inquire about Organic Certification with your vendor. This documentation trail is necessary to support the US National Organic Program requirements for use of the USDA Organic Seal on the package label. Similarly, if you are seeking other certifications, such as Fair Trade or Kosher, be sure to mention these to your vendor early on so you select ingredients that maintain these standards.

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