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Meet Craig Buntin, a former Olympic athlete and native Canadian, who is taking on tea in a new way - using coffee beans.
Yep, you read that correctly! Craig has created a new infusion of tea using coffee beans: Teabean. I've tried this infusion and it's definitely unique - and definitely tasty. Teabean combines roasted and nutty coffee beans with the bold, strong taste of chai tea for a marriage that is take charge and delicious. Teabean could be the gateway for coffee drinkers into the world of tea and vice versa. But how did this incredibly unique idea even get started?
1) This is a unique concept for tea. How did you come up with the idea? Why blend coffee and tea?
I was a full time Olympic figure skater for about 20 years and I came up with the idea while at a competition late in the 2008/2009 season. I tried a latte which was made from an under-roasted coffee bean and thought the concept was pretty cool. I tried to find some online but couldn't get any information anywhere. After months of frustration, I just figured I'd try to make it myself. I have been an avid coffee and tea drinker for years (coffee in the morning for the caffeine before training and tea at night for the flavor and health benefits) so experimenting at home with either one of the drinks was a pretty natural step.
2) How long did it take to craft the infusion? What did earlier versions taste like and why did you decide against them?
Under-roasting the beans gives them a grassy kind of flavor, which is pretty unique but I really felt that the process wasn't quite perfect. I had an idea of how to make it better but I knew I needed advice from industry experts, so I decided to speak to companies who might be able to help. I approached maybe 15 companies, 10 of which either didn't respond or laughed at me, four of which said "no thanks" and one that agreed to work with me in developing my vision for White Coffee. Together, we spent about six months tweaking the process. We experimented, with many methods of making the beans White but eventually discovered that by taking a coffee blend that has just the right amount of each flavor attribute and baking it, we could create something incredible.
In November 2009, while still in full training, I began selling bags of White Coffee to local
cafes to be made as flavored lattes. These lattes were delicious, but I couldn't send them out to anyone as they had to be made a specific way by the barista. Montreal
By this point, I had been experimenting with baked White Coffee beans with teas, for cooking, you name it. I found that I could make some pretty amazing tea infusions that had the nutty taste and caffeine of White Coffee and the rich aroma of whichever tea I was blending it with. When I began infusing various blends of teas for their health benefits, I knew I had a winner.
3) Opening up a tea company doesn't just happen overnight. Why did you decide to open up a tea company? How long has it taken you from the conception to reality?
From the time I first thought about selling the White Coffee beans, to the first White Coffee - Chai infusion was about a year and a half. After the 2010 skating season, I retired from competition and really focused my attention on getting the new blend off the ground. I did the graphic design for the pouches and the boxes on my own and as well created the website and facebook site alone. I spent a lot of time on that stuff as I wanted to make sure that the Teabean look and feel was really reflective of how great the drink is. After that, there was the whole legal aspect of launching a company (incorporation, taxes, trademarks, etc), then I was off to the races! In February 2011 the new Teabean White Coffee Infusion was ready to go.
4) I noticed on your Web site that your tea is for sale online, but it also available in select Canadian shops. Any plans to provide your product to other shops around the globe (US and other countries)? Would you consider opening a store front, in
or elsewhere? Canada
I would love to see Teabean all over the world! We are growing every week and I hope to begin establishing relationships in the
(and internationally) with companies that may be interested in helping to make that happen. While we grow, the goal is to be able to launch some of the other tea infusions have already been developed. US
As for opening a store front, I could possibly see that happening someday, but I think there is a lot of work that needs to happen first. I really want to see the product available in cafes, restaurants and tea shops across the continent before looking at that option.
5) Why did you decide to sell the tea in bags versus loose? Do you plan on ever offering loose varieties?
I actually considered selling a "loose leaf" version of White Coffee Infusion, but the problem is this: it is confusing! It is tea, but it is made with coffee beans. I didn't want people taking it and throwing it into their home coffee makers. As other flavored infusions become available, I may reconsider it.
6) Speaking of varieties, you mentioned in your letter that other infusions are in the planning stages. Care to share about any of them?
All I'm going to say right now is that they are amazing. I know this because I drink them, and I really love them. I have come up with a short list based on the flavors and health benefits that I like but before I say anything, I want to hear from the online tea community. I want to hear what others like and their ideas on where to take the company.
7) You are a former Olympic athlete. Tell me about your life and your career before Teabean. (Do any of your skills come in handy with this new venture?)
Wow... I don't think I could handle the hand cramp that would come after the essay I would have to write to tell you all about my athletic career! Suffice to say, it was the experience of a lifetime. I was never the most talented but I worked very, very hard. My family and I sacrificed everything for my shot at the Olympics and I can't tell you how appreciative I am for everything that they, my coaches, my partners & friends did to help me get there.
That said, the skills that have come in handy have been hard work and dedication. I have always been very passionate about every goal I set and I know that if I apply the same attitude to Teabean as I did to my training, the company will be a great success.
8) What do you want people to understand most about your company?
That as of right now, everyone who wants to be a part of the team can be. If people like White Coffee, tell the owners and managers of their local cafes. If people have ideas for blends that they believe could be delicious, email me. If people have ideas on what types of packaging could be better, I really want to hear it. I would love to have current Teabean drinkers help grow the company and feel the same sense of pride that I feel when I see someone taste Teabean for the first time!
9) What do you hope to gain - other than profits - from your company?
Right now, I wake up in the morning thinking about Teabean. I go to bed thinking of ways I can make it better and ways that I can get new people to know about it. I am so passionate about this company and this product. As long as I am living with that kind of passion, the company is giving me everything that I need.
10) So where can people find this new infusion?
4148A Ste-Catherine O.,