Interview with Kevin Tang, founder of Kaytea low calorie iced teas

Find out what inspired finance professional Kevin Tang to launch Kaytea, Kate Moss’ favourite low calorie iced tea.

What is cold brew?

Cold brewing is the simple process where tea is steeped in cold water and refrigerated for anywhere between 30 minutes and 12 hours.

Cold brewing tea originated from japan, where it was believed that brewing tea with hot water will scorch tea leaves creating a bitter taste (less tannins released) whilst destroying the leaves’ underlying nutritional worth. The smoother tastes associated with cold brew means that they are also perfectly placed to provide a base for intriguing cocktails and mocktails.

What’s the potential of the iced tea market in the UK?

The UK iced tea market is already worth £114m as is projected to hit £285m by 2024, making it the 2nd fastest growth category within top tier soft drinks.

Throw in the fact that there’s a growing demand for involving flavours, real ingredients, world cuisine thinking and low sugar alternatives that pair seamlessly with great food and you can start to appreciate why iced tea’s moment is now!

Where did the idea for Kaytea come from?

A deep-seated appreciation of tea (travelled the world, strong hong kong ties….). I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that a tea-loving nation like uk had such a limited tea repertoire to choose from.

I soon became convinced that a viable gap existing for a refreshing drink that doesn’t come at the detriment of ongoing good health – in other words, rammed with sugar and synthetic nasties.

What’s your career background?

An array of consultancy/bank-themed roles that covered such enticing fields as complex debt-financing solutions, reduce risk-weighted debt… I know, why did I leave?!

What’s the thinking behind the Kaytea brand logo?

It’s something of an in-house joke that mushroomed into something altogether larger: Koala tea = quality. I know it’s obscure but the traction the brand has enjoyed ever since our sunglasses wearing marsupial arrived on the scene has been nothing short of insane.

What have been your proudest moments so far?

When our new packaging first came down the production line is certainly high up the list. Prestigious listings which include Partridges, Abel & Cole, Sainsbury’s and most recently all the Mai sushi stores (found within M&S stores).

Securing organic status and being on the cusp of fairtrade friendly, and our first tentative export win Dean & Deluca (Kuwait). Oh, and learning that Kate Moss was a big fan of our Rosay (a rose infusion with pink guava)!

And your biggest marketplace obstacles?

Consumers settling for sub-standard. Liptons, for example, is a great brand name with an enviable record in iced tea, but the simple truth is that it has nothing to do with real tea leaves and all to do with mass-produced commercial powders made on an industrial scale.

There is nothing wrong with mass-market solutions, however consumers should never lose sight of the fact that you ‘get what you pay for’ albeit authenticity needn’t cost the earth!

What have been your best lockdown lessons?

Although many brands will tell you that lockdown was the moment that many more consumers sought out and embraced healthier living products and to an extent that is true, our biggest lesson was realising that kaytea must at all times stay true to itself.

Kaytea is about discerning, low calorie refreshment (nothing more, nothing less). We could have easily added a handful of vitamins to our drinks to claim some arbitrary functional prowess, but this was never what our brand was about!

What’s a Kaytea consumer like?

Generation z/millennial types who not only appreciate sunshine and great food in equal measure but actively seek out exciting disruptor brands.

Which brands do you love?

I can give you two. Tony’s Chocolonely for providing a credible alternative to Cadbury’s and shining an long overdue light on many of the unwelcome practices that continue to pervade the cacao industry. And most of all, showing us that great taste and social responsibility can indeed go hand-in-hand.

And Yo Sushi, the undisputed uk sushi pioneer and the dream flagship account of our sublime iced teas
some founder wisdom.

What’s your advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs?

Take temporary set-backs with good grace as they will undoubtedly provide your most compelling insights!

Find out more about Kaytea.