How a side hustle making bagless tea grew into a powerhouse sustainable brand

Sashee Chandran’s, idea for her company Tea Drops came from a personal need: For her, making a cup of tea simply took too long.

“I wanted a tea experience that was a little more eco-friendly, high quality and, yet, convenient,” Chandran told In The Know. “That simply didn’t exist!”

Chandran’s parents are immigrants — her mom is from China, her dad is from Sri Lanka — so tea was a major part of her upbringing and cultural background. In fact, her dad was actually born on a tea estate.

“You could say tea is in my blood and it was a ritual I was always drawn to,” she added. “Solving a personal pain point with tea-making felt natural to me … I didn’t intend to build this big business.”

Tea Drops started out as a side hustle. The idea was to compress ground loose leaf tea into a bath bomb-like product that you can drop into a mug of hot water.

Chandran also noticed a problem with conventional tea bags that hadn’t been properly addressed — how bad they are for the environment. Most conventional tea bags contain plastic and because of that, they cannot completely decompose.

“Once you learn more about what’s in most tea bags, it is hard to go back,” Chandran said. “A lot of tea bags are made with billions of microplastics that go into your cup, and there are tea bags on the market that are bleached. Beyond the waste component, it was disheartening to learn what’s going into your teacup.”

Chandran’s concern clearly resonated with others. Each Tea Drop sheds 15 percent less waste than traditional tea bags — an eco-friendly appeal that’s earned the brand plenty of attention. Tea Drops is now available in close to 2,000 retail locations, and even Chrissy Teigen is a fan.

The business is now worth millions — in 2018, the company earned a $1.9 million round of seed funding led by the women-owned venture capital fund, AccelFoods.

“I’ve always appreciated a more sustainable approach to life,” Chandran said. “I know it’s not always easy or convenient to do, so our hope with Tea Drops is that we continuously evolve in our approach and create a convenient, no-brainer way for our community to make decisions that are in the best interest of our world and environment.”

Tea Drops also generates over $1 million in revenue annually, which is a milestone only 4.2 percent of all women-led firms achieve, according to the National Association of Women Business Owners.

And with that financial success also comes an opportunity for Chandran to help others.

“With every box we sell, we donate a year’s supply of clean water through the Thirst Project,” Tea Drops says on its website.

The Thirst Project is a nonprofit that aims to bring safe drinking water to communities where it is not readily available.

“I see us as a self-care first, experiential tea company,” Chandran said. “I hope in five to six years that we continue to deliver on self-care-focused experiences that make people feel more connected and inspired.”

For anyone looking to try Tea Drops, Chandran recommends the Ultimate Sampler Kit as the perfect segue into a reduced waste tea-drinking lifestyle.

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