Forget Earl Grey and English Breakfast: Durham’s Mosi Tea is moseying into a new niche in the on-the-go beverage market, with innovative technology and an internationally sourced loose-leaf tea line on the horizon.
Mosi Tea is named for Africa’s Victoria Falls, which is known as “Mosi-oa Tunya”—“the smoke that thunders”—in the native Sotho language. It’s a reference to founder Paul Davis’ upbringing as a child of missionaries in South Africa and Zimbabwe.
“I grew up ingrained in a tea culture, drinking a lot of loose-leaf tea,” Davis said.
Davis already has plenty of experience scaling up a company, as he was previously the co-founder and COO of the VC-backed SaaS startup Boostopia (which we wrote about last March) and before that was the Brand Manager at Durham-based Diamond Candles. But Mosi arises from Davis’ unique upbringing, which gave him a more international appreciation of loose-leaf tea’s slow, flavorful steep, beyond the sweet tea-or-English Breakfast binary choice that might be typical of an American tea drinker’s palate.
The lack of awareness around tea’s potential, Davis said, spawned an opportunity for innovation, and a better way to drink tea that accommodates a mobile lifestyle.
“It started as this infuser, yes, but it was also a conquest to change the minds of Americans around tea, and to make America a tea culture as well,” Davis said.
Mosi’s multi-sensory technology allows customers to steep hot or cold loose-leaf tea on the go, without risking an over-steeped product. To enjoy tea, customers would fill the flexible sieve and flip over the 12-oz cup. Once the tea enjoyer flips over the device at a blend-specific time, Mosi’s technology filters out the leaves for a perfect, customizable drink.
Attachments to make cold brew coffee and matcha, which can be purchased separately, can screw right into the Mosi infuser.
E-commerce vet and investor-turned-COO Gavin Jocius said he has “never drank so much tea” as he has since falling in love with Mosi’s mission, which inspired him to join the startup’s leadership to put his time and energy where his money was. He says that Mosi addresses a pain point in on-the-go beverage industry, creates convenience and allows customers to bring an artfulness to their caffeine consumption.
“I’ve been fascinated with the tea industry,” Jocius said. “ It’s a lot like selling art, in the sense that you have the stuff that everyone knows—the Van Goghs, or the Earl Grey teas, or the English Breakfasts—but then there’s this giant universe of niche art and tea out there, from all around the world. That’s been incredibly exciting.”
Jocius wasn’t the only person to see Mosi’s potential. The company’s primary source of funding thus far has been a Kickstarter campaign that has been supported by about 7,100 backers for a total of over $450,000 raised. That ranks among the top 1% of all Kickstarter campaigns.
Mosi’s Kickstarter supporters will receive their infusers as soon as this week, which Davis said is a relief following months of Covid-induced supply chain uncertainty.
“We’ve obviously been working hard the past few years on getting it to market going through engineering design, flaws, pandemic shipping crisis, and all of the above,” Davis said. “We’re excited to finally have it at our fulfillment center this week and to ship the first batches out to customers.”
For tea aficionados in the general public, Davis said Mosi’s products should be available on the company’s website and on Amazon in the coming months. The duo is excited for Mosi to grow a global focus from its Durham roots.
“The thing I’ve loved so far—the tea industry is so diverse.” Joicus said. “Our headquarters will be here in Durham because we’re both here and we love it, but we are excited to have as much of a global business as possible.”