The Tea Spot Awarded Government Grant for Eco-Friendly Product Research

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Loose tea company continues to gain support for their latest innovation, now including a US government grant to help bring the product to market. The Tea Spot will conduct market research on their Patent Pending compostable tea infuser, trademarked ecosteep®, under a small business grant award from the USDA.

ecosteep® - compostable loose tea infuser

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has awarded The Tea Spot, Inc. a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant for its research project, ‘Moving Toward a Sustainable To-Go Container for Hot Beverages in Mass-Market Foodservice’. The award was granted based on the USDA’s priority of assisting the innovation of agriculturally-related manufacturing technology.

The USDA supports high-quality research and development (R&D) aimed at addressing important scientific problems and leveraging opportunities with the potential of significant public benefit. The SBIR program aims to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, as well as strengthen the role of small businesses in meeting federal research and development needs.

The Tea Spot responded to the SBIR program’s call for the development of new marketing strategies designed to bolster U.S. agribusiness product sales – like that of corn-based bioplastics – in niche markets. Given that the premium tea market is currently on the rise within the US, a biodegradable solution to carryout tea service is timely. Further, The Tea Spot’s research will address the long-term environmental goals of the SBIR by implementing a compostable to-go cup and tea steeper based on the market, rather than on regulations.

The funded proposal outlines an innovative, fully-compostable hot beverage system, comprised of a disposable hot cup and loose leaf tea infuser. The company will produce and market the tea infuser component of the system as the ecosteep®, for which it has obtained a US Patent Pending designation. This bio-based loose-leaf tea infuser fits in standard to-go cups and allows tea leaves ample room to steep to their full volume, flavor, and aroma potential. Ecosteep® will be made of renewable plant-based material and fully compostable.

Research funded by this grant will guide the selection of the renewable, bio-based material to balance both economic and ecological considerations. It will also help determine the life-cycle environmental impact of ecosteep®, which is intended for the mass foodservice market. By determining the market viability of ecosteep®, the results will help guide its launch into limited distribution, targeting zero-waste zones and cities with industrial composting infrastructures. This project is aligned with The Tea Spot’s current research and development goals of creating low carbon footprint loose leaf tea products and manufacturing within the United States.

The Tea Spot’s Director of Product Marketing & Development, Jessica Burtenshaw, will lead a team of Tea Spot employees and collaborators from the Economics Department at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the research. Ms. Burtenshaw’s background in scientific research and overall responsibility for product sourcing, development and marketing at The Tea Spot uniquely qualify her with the skills and perspective necessary to guide the proposed research.

“The USDA’s SBIR award announcement for funding the research toward our new product marketing strategy provides us tremendous validation in support of our vision for a sustainable hot beverage delivery system. It is a great honor for our company to be awarded this grant, and speaks volumes as to the importance the USDA places on research exploring compostable plant-based products for general public use,” The Tea Spot’s CEO Maria Uspenski announced today.

The Tea Spot is a certified woman-owned and operated business producing proprietary products for loose leaf tea. Patented tea steeping products are marketed under the Steepware® trademark. They also offer a line of exclusive, organic, and Fair-Trade Certified™ leaf teas. Based in Boulder, Colorado, the company was founded in 2004 by Maria Uspenski, a cancer survivor drawn to the health benefits of leaf tea during her recovery. She set forth to modernize the loose-leaf tea experience, making it an everyday luxury. Her message is simple and powerful: tea in its freshest form renders incredible flavor, unmatched health benefits, and is eco-friendly. The company ensures that its products uphold clean, sustainable and fair manufacturing standards. The Tea Spot’s model of social entrepreneurship incorporates a culture of giving as it grows: Ten percent of every sale made is donated in-kind to cancer and community wellness programs. More at

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