teaBOT turned 1 this month! To celebrate our first year, we decided to do some reminiscing about our journey over the past year.

The Idea

While we were incorporated at the end of 2013, the ideation stage had begun well before with our two co-founders, Rehman Merali and Brian Lee. Brian was at his family tea store one day when he noticed customers on their lunch break leaving due to long line-ups. His response was “What if a robot could make me a cup of tea?”

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He discussed the problem with his friend Rehman over sushi one day and the two engineers started sketching a machine which could make a cup of tea. After several brainstorming sessions and much research into the intricate worlds of robots and tea, the idea soon evolved into having the machine create customized tea-blends, and teaBOT was born! Many of the earliest ideas, including ordering through mobile app, sharing blends on social media, and naming blends, are still around today!

A Machine is Born

We were accepted into Rotman’s Creative Destruction Labat the University of Toronto in September 2013, where the idea went from ideation to prototype in a matter of months. Rehman and Brian were joined by some engineers, designers, and business students, many of whom are still with them.We soon finished our first prototype, which made a hot cup of tea for the user. The design has definitely changed a lot since then. We learned what happens when engineers design a machine – it favours function over form!

…and then Reborn

After receiving some great feedback from the CDL and from tea drinkers, we went back to the drawing board to challenge the traditional box-like design of vending machines. Our designers began working on a chandelier-inspired design, which is still the design today – it was definitely unlike any vending machine we had ever seen!

We then began building this prototype, which was all done in-house by our growing team of engineers. In July we were accepted into JOLT at MaRS Discovery Districtand have been excited to be sharing an office space with several startups, where we have gained valuable feedback from peers and customers.

It’s Tea Time

Since late fall of 2014, we’ve been selling tea at a few different sites to understand our customers and to gain feedback on the teaBOT experience, including the University of Toronto, Harry Rosen, and MaRS Discovery District, among others. Our customers have given us great feedback and we’ve been working this feedback into our new designs for the machine and the app. We were thrilled to win an award in Boston at the Canadian Technology Accelerator, to place 1st at a pitch competition at the Gentlemen’s Expo, and to be featured in blogTO!

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We also launched our ecommerce site in Dec. 2014, so that customers can reorder popular blends or blends they have created online or on our soon-to-be-released app. teaBOT has a few new features coming up, including adjustable temperature, payment through debit and tap credit card, and exciting new design features.

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Looking to the Future

We have a few exciting things coming soon, including new locations, new features, and an app! We’re looking at a few high-traffic locations, including university campuses, transit hubs , and malls (don’t forget to follow us@myteabot to see where we’ll be next). You’ll also be able to use our app soon, which allows you to make a blend on your phone to order at teaBOT, purchase for home, or share with friends. We’re excited to spread through Toronto as we continue building teaBOTs!

We can’t wait for everything that 2015 holds – here’s to another year of robots and tea!

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