Philips already knows a lot about making a good cup of coffee, but Philips design and innovation have now turned their expertise and attention to the world of tea. The new Philips tea maker, recently launched in Germany, optimizes water temperatures and steeping times for different types of tea at the touch of a button, to offer tea drinkers a unique taste experience.

Philips tea maker

The development team immersed themselves in the world of tea to gain insights into the habits of tea drinkers around the world. “We set ourselves the challenge of developing an innovative new product  that would appeal to real tea lovers”, explains Joost Jansen, Consumer Marketing Director for Kitchen Appliances. Tea lovers often prefer the taste of loose leaf tea over teabags. They also enjoy trying out different types of tea such as green tea, herbal teas and rooibos. The challenge was to make an electrical product that could be accepted and embraced by these tea consumers as a natural way of making tea, as well as satisfying the subtle emotional aspects of the everyday tea ritual.


“Because tea was mostly a new field for us, we have involved as many people and experts as possible on top of our normal consumer research”, explains Nicole de Klein, Innovation Design Consultant at Philips. “That entailed inviting food experts and tea sommeliers to co-create new concepts and going out to the tea market, where we eventually teamed up with the Germany’s leading specialty tea retailers.”

Philips tea maker

 

Lots of testing phases were included in the development of the product to ensure short and fast learning loops, before scaling up to mass production. Building early prototypes helped to assess how users interacted with the new teapot, and provided important feedback on the design. A small, dedicated multi-disciplinary team worked from the beginning to the launch. “Being fully integrated as a designer in the team really enriches the creative process”, says Nicole de Klein. “You gain a much better understanding of what each discipline is contributing, and you build on each other’s ideas to find meaningful solutions.”


Throughout the development process, the quality of the tea was always the primary objective when making technical decisions. The teapot and filter are both designed to release the rich aroma of the tea, by allowing space for the tea leaves to fully unfold. Stainless steel was chosen for the pot, as it has minimal taste influence and does not absorb flavors. The double-walled pot keeps the tea warm, so that it can be taken into the living room. Elaborate tests were carried out by leading taste institutes in Wageningen and Hamburg and the department of tea science in China’s Zhejiang University to ensure that the tea is brewed in the optimal way.


The tea maker has a number of pre-programmed settings, with different temperatures and steeping times for the four main types of tea - black, green, herbal and rooibos - plus an option to set your own. “We designed the user-interface to keep all the brewing options as unobtrusive as possible - to avoid links to digital appliances”, explains Nicole de Klein. The light ring is used to indicate when the tea is ready - once the tea begins to steep, the ring around the base of the pot lights up in segments, and the when the ring closes it is ready. “This adds a really poetic element to the product that gives it a unique identity”, added Nicole.

 

September 13, 2011