Customer Spotlight: Dona Chai

A Decade of Innovating and Elevating the Specialty Tea Experience

Since its inception in 2014, Dona has established itself as a trailblazer in the specialty tea industry. Founded by Amy Rothstein, Dona was born out of a need to close the gap in specialty coffee shops by providing a premium and equitably sourced tea program that matches the same high-grade ingredients and single-origin sourcing protocol as specialty coffee. This commitment to quality and sustainability has fueled Dona’s growth from a two-person operation in an industrial test kitchen to a fully operational facility in Bushwick, Brooklyn, with over 20 employees and more than 30 unique SKUs.

Brand Values that Define Dona

At the heart of Dona’s success are its core brand values, which resonate deeply with both its team and its customers. These values include:

  1. Intentional Sourcing: Dona is committed to sourcing the highest quality ingredients that can be traced back to single-origin farms. This practice ensures that each product is not only delicious but also ethically produced, contributing to a more equitable food system.
  2. DIY: Everything at Dona is done under one roof. From R&D and blending to brewing, packaging, and shipping, the team manages and monitors the entire supply chain to maintain the highest quality standards.
  3. Versatility and Multi-Use: Dona’s products are designed to inspire creativity beyond the cup. Their versatile concentrates can be used in baking, cocktails, mocktails, and more, encouraging customers to explore new ways to enjoy tea.
  4. Sustainability: Dona is dedicated togiving back to the Earth. They compost over 40,000 gallons of food waste annually and find innovative ways to repurpose byproducts from their brewing process, such as using spice remnants in baking.

Dona chai using a tilt infuser built by Deutsche beverage + process

Standing Out in a Competitive Market

Dona’s dedication to quality and sustainability sets it apart from competitors. Their products are crafted with meticulous attention to detail, using only the finest ingredients. This focus on excellence is reflected in every cup, making Dona a favorite among specialty coffee and tea enthusiasts. They are proud that every ingredient is traceable back to a single farm or farmer. Because of these relationships, they can source the freshest ingredients possible; fresher spices, teas, floras, and more.

Their Tea Equipment Shopping Process

When it came to upgrading their commercial tea brewing equipment, Dona’s team faced challenges with extracting delicate ingredients like cardamom. They needed a solution that would improve efficiency and reduce waste. After some research, they discovered Deutsche’s tilting infuser, which offered the perfect balance of size, usability, and ease of cleaning. This equipment has significantly enhanced their production process, allowing for better control over extraction times and temperatures, ultimately resulting in a higher-quality product.

Increasing Efficiency with the Tilting Infuser

Dona faced a significant challenge in their production process: the fine ground cardamom used in their chai concentrate was causing blockages and inefficiencies in their kettles. Seeking a solution turned to Deutsche’s tilting infuser. This equipment provided the perfect balance of size and usability without requiring extensive infrastructure changes. The tilting feature made it easy to clean, allowing the team to pull out the basket of ingredients once infused and proceed with the cleaning process smoothly. By switching to the tilting infuser, Dona was able to use 50% less cardamom, a costly ingredient, while achieving a cleaner and fresher extraction. This not only saved money but also improved the quality of their product, illustrating how innovative equipment can drive both efficiency and excellence. The cost savings are so significant that the infuser is expected to pay for itself after approximately 10 brews.

Dona chai using a tilting infuser built by Deutsche

Expanding into Ready-to-Drink Tea Products

Looking towards the future, Dona plans to leverage the capabilities of the tilting infuser to enter the ready-to-drink (RTD) iced tea market. The infuser will enable them to use delicate whole leaf teas, such as white and green teas, without the risk of over-extraction that can occur during large-scale brewing processes. By precisely controlling the time and temperature of the extraction, Dona aims to produce RTD teas that showcase the nuanced flavors of these delicate leaves. This innovation will allow them to expand their product line while maintaining the high quality and craftsmanship that have become synonymous with the Dona brand. The introduction of RTD teas marks an exciting new chapter for Dona, as they continue to explore new ways to bring their exceptional tea products to a broader audience.

Partnership with Deutsche Beverage + Process

Dona’s decision to partner with Deutsche was driven by the need for an efficient, sustainable solution to their brewing challenges. The engineering and sales team at Deutsche was a beneficial resource,

“Deutsche has been very helpful and attentive to our questions and needs. Nikolas (account manager) was even able to visit our production space and has had engineers answer questions specific to our needs and process leading up to our purchase” – Jonathan, Head Brewer/Operations Manager.

This partnership exemplifies how innovative equipment can support a company’s commitment to quality and sustainability.

Exciting New Developments

As Dona celebrates its 10th anniversary, the team is excited about several new developments. They are preparing to launch their popular cardamom rose concentrate in retail sizes, making it accessible to a wider audience. Additionally, as mentioned above, they are exploring the creation of ready-to-drink iced teas, utilizing the tilting infuser to produce delicate, high-quality brews.

The future is bright for Dona as they continue to innovate and expand their product offerings. With a strong foundation built on quality, sustainability, and creativity, Dona is poised to remain a leader in the specialty tea industry for years to come.

For more information about Dona and their products, visit their website at drinkdona.com.

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