Tea has long had a deep cultural significance across the Asian diaspora and the history of mankind as one of the most consumed beverages in the world after water. From rare tea leaves that were transported down the Silk Road to Gen Z’s favorite bubble tea you find in every other Instagram story, the timelessness and versatility of this beverage has left its earthy aromas drifting through space. 

Founded by Sashee Chandran in 2015, Tea Drops brings a patented technology to the legacy of tea with an environmentally friendly, organic twist on traditional tea bags. In this business spotlight, EnVi “spills the tea” about Tea Drops and its legacy in the long history of tea-drinking culture.

Thinking Outside the (Tea)bag

For Tea Drop founder and CEO Sashee Chandran, tea has been an integral part of her identity. Although she was born in Los Angeles, Chandran was raised by Sri Lankan and Chinese parents. With both cultures having a rich history of tea, it was natural for her to know how to appreciate a good cup of tea.

Tea Drops founder Sashee Chandran, pouring tea.
Founder of Tea Drops, Sashee Chandran. Image courtesy of Tea Drops.

“We always had tea at every family function,” Chandran said in an interview with Thrillist. “When I was feeling sick, my mom would make me a certain type of tea. When we were at a family gathering, we would have another type of herbal tea or Black Assam tea.” 

Since appreciating tea was practically embedded into her life, Chandran found herself frustrated when walking through market isles of tea, trying to search for a quick and delicious sip between busy days of a fast-paced life. Back when Chandran still worked at eBay from 2011 to 2015, making loose leaf tea was simply too much of a hassle for her tiny work desk. The muted taste from tea bags was not cutting it for Chandran.

Another huge concern developed when Chandran learned more about the negative environmental effects of tea bags. Many tea bags are not just sealed with plastic, but made from plastic — and the idea of soaking plastic in boiling hot water never sounds good. A study in 2019 found that when steeping tea bags with boiling water, plastic tea bags can shed billions of microplastics. 

“I decided a bagless tea would help bypass a lot of these personal concerns,” Chandran said.

Connecting the Dots, Drop-by-Drop

When working in the corporate world with knowledge in marketing, Chandran knew she did not just want to open a tea shop. Her frustrations over making tea in the corporate world spurred her to simplify the tea journey in her apartment kitchen with her mum. After two years of experimentation, Chandran finally developed the notion of a “drop.” 

“One day I saw a shaped sugar cube, and I thought, ‘what if that format worked well for the tea?’” Chandran said in her interview with The Hey Girl podcast. With investing so much time into her then “side hustle” tea business, Chandran soon realized she was not doing either job justice.  

“I had one foot in one boat and another one in another boat, and I felt very conflicted,” Chandran explained. With deep conviction and knowing that she would still have an opportunity to bounce back as a (then) 26-year-old, she made the jump to try. 

Now, Tea Drops are organic, premium, single-serve loose-leaf teas pressed into whimsical shapes. Just drop, add water, and stir — you’ll have a fresh steaming cup of tea in seconds with no fuss. Convenience aside, Chandra also wanted to reflect on the presence of tea culture in her life.

Demonstration of how to make their hot iced tea.
Image courtesy of Tea Drops.

“The more I engage in drinking tea, what I really fell in love with is the experience that tea creates. Tea is almost this bridging vehicle to conversation,” Chandran said in The Passionistas Project podcast. “Yes, I’m passionate about tea, but behind that I’m passionate about creating experiences.” For Chandran, who wanted to share her experiences of relaxation and warmth with tea, the beverage’s association with “snobbery and highbrow” was a barrier to take down. Molds in the shapes of hearts, cubes, and flowers that the tea-drops were pressed into instantly gave the brand a more fun and approachable look. 

“It’s that ritual and experience that allows you that moment in your day to just sit and sip,” Chandran said. “How many of us give ourselves permission in our day to just have those couple of minutes?”

Finding Identi-tea 

“We are one of the very few women-owned tea brands on-shelf,” Chandran said. The brand is based on a ‘70s aesthetic. Colorful, expressive and powerful, the 70s was also transformational 

women’s rights and social issues, with Roe v. Wade and Title IX all established during this period. 

The brand is strictly fair-trade. In her blog, Chandran explains how the women make up 75% of the work force on tea estates, but are marginalized and earn way less than their male counterparts. 

“They can never really reach managerial positions the way that it’s set up, so what we vowed to do is always purchase fair trade with our tea,” Chandran said in an interview with Thrillist. “And not only is there a sustainable component, but it also ensures gender equity when it comes to wages.”

Tea Drop furthers their philtrophy by partnering with The Thirst Project, a non-profit that aims to alleviate the global water crisis. For their first campaign “No Water, No Tea,” Tea Drops donated a year’s supply of clean water to someone in need. Through all their efforts, Tea Drops’ customers have helped build four water wells, fund 10 scholarships, and support 167,000 people with clean water.

Join the Tea Party 

Over the few years, Tea Drops has branched out to cover products beyond tea. From lattes to boba, Tea Drops’ many options with caffeine level labels will help you find your personal cup of tea. As a women-founded and philanthropy business, its mission statements also create a new space in the industry that hones into the comfort and wellness fundamental to the tea experience. 

Not sure where to start? Opt for a tea sampler to test and sip. Once you decide on a few too many favorites, you can look into their subscription service that sends a customizable tea-drop box every month with free shipping! Below are a few of EnVi’s favorites:

Turmeric tea - Tea Drops
Tea Drops
Tea Drops - Ube Boba Tea
Tea Drops
Ube Boba Tea
Matcha Latte Duo
Tea Drops
Matcha Latte Duo

Want Asian snacks to pair with your favorite cup of tea? Check out this article for some unique flavors!