Teforia has raised $12 million in a Series A round of venture funding to take its smart kitchen appliances mainstream.
The company’s flagship product is an internet connected tea infuser that can brew teas from the company’s own line of pre-packed “Sips,” or from loose leaf teas that customers pack into the machine’s “infusion globe” on their own.
The device can be controlled by the Teforia mobile app which lets users create, share and store recipes for what they find is the perfect brew. Or it can be run manually when a user is brewing tea from the company’s Sips.
Prior to starting Teforia (pronounced “tay-foria”) founder and CEO Allen Han was best known as the designer of the XBOX.
Teforia’s design hints at Han’s background in high-tech consumer electronics. It is sleeker than most popular kitchen appliances, which are often made to look ergonomic or durable even if they’re not.
And as Han points out, “Systems like Nespresso, Keurig, or even Juicero are closed. You can’t use your own ingredients. Our app and design lets you use your own tea if you wish, which is a breakthrough in the beverage arena.”
As TechCrunch previously reported, Han started Teforia out of a profound appreciation and nostalgia for the taste of teas from Taiwan, where he once lived.
He launched the company with a crowdfunding campaign that garnered $300,000 in preorders, and later went on to raise $5.1 million in seed funding to complete product development and expand his team.
Based in Mountain View, California today, with 24 full-time employees, Han said Teforia plans to use its new funds on hiring, manufacturing, marketing and customer support. The company makes money from sales of its machines but also from subscriptions and sales of its tea.
A firm that focuses on startups that are likely to gain traction in North America and Asia alike, Translink Capital, led the Series A investment in Teforia. Existing investors Upfront Ventures and Lemnos Labs also joined the Series A round, along with new backers Correlation Ventures and Mousse Partners.
While tea is more popular in places like China, India, Russia and the U.K. than it is stateside, Translink co-founder and Managing Director Jay Eum said he expects Teforia to focus on perfecting operations, and sales in North America first.
“It’s an appliance. You expect it to work every single time for years and years. If it doesn’t you are in big trouble. So the focus of the company has to be making sure the product works as specified, consistently. Then building very strategic marketing campaigns. I would like to see Teforia in locations where people will see the product and get to experience it broadly,” Eum said.
Teforia expects to appeal to world travelers and ex-pats in the U.S., who discovered premium teas abroad and want to recreate that flavor at home; chefs who want to serve consistently tasty, hot beverages to their guests; and people who prefer premium tea but may be going without because their home or office doesn’t have a fast and convenient way to make it.
The wholesale tea market generates more than $11 billion in sales in the U.S. each year, according to the 2105 Tea Market Review from the Tea Association of the U.S.
Specialty teas sold at dedicated cafes, single serve cups (like Teforia’s Sips) and new products in the tea category that look like anything but a traditional tea bag are all driving growth, the association suggests.
Teforia will be competing for a slice of that growing, and already massive market, against single-serving appliances from Keurig, the Chai-specific brewer Chime, or the Bkon brewer which costs tens of thousands of dollars and is marketed to upscale restaurants and cafes.
The company’s executives and investors declined to discuss a post-money valuation or revenue projections for Teforia at this time.