In setting out to reinvent the much loved and highly visceral experience of tea drinking in a digital interactive environment, I knew I was setting out on a hard and tortuous journey. Tea and technology is a difficult idea to sell and as it turned out, designing a fun and engaging experience around it, is no tea party either!
Tea is the 2ndmost drunk beverage in the world, with a history spanning thousands of years, and associated cultures and traditions which are as rich as they are varied according to the global region they flourish in. This sweeping history, contained in a single cup of tea, is a riveting narrative that belies the gentle and relaxing nature of this mild-mannered beverage.
The hidden depths and stories, the mystery and adventure associated with this amazing product convinced me, that this the graduate project for me! I realized that while many drink and love tea, most are completely unaware of the rich history of this product and the endless complexities and variations that exist in the world of tea.
- To help initiate potential tea drinkers in the most comprehensive way possible.
- To help educate and train new and casual tea drinkers to better able to improve their experience through knowledge about the various teas and their properties.
- To provide a new experience to established tea drinkers and help them further develop their expertise and tastes.
- To allow users to profile their tea journeys to better direct it and share it with their friends and family.
User Experience Study
I began my research by conducted a user experience study. I wanted to know what tea drinkers look for when they go to a tea houses, what do they know and enjoy about tea and what they believe will make the experience richer. The following trends emerged from the data:
- Casual tea drinkers, who enjoyed tea but did not know much about it wanted intelligence guidance.
- Visit to a tea house warranted company of an intimate few.
- Information helps people feel good about their decisions.
- Users are willing to put in 30-90 minutes at a tea house-it is a leisurely experience.
- Users are comfortable and familiar with touch technologies being a natural extension of themselves.
Since my own love and knowledge for tea was limited to just the “chai” and the generic green tea, I had to necessarily teach myself extensively about the subject. It also meant that I had to edit the content into a form that would not be overwhelming to tea drinkers looking for a comforting cup of tea.
The Experience Design
The Final Designs
Nailing an aesthetic design that would work with the multi-user driven interactive experience was a real challenge. I eventually chose to use the theme of “Tea Journeys”, using memory memorabilia of a tea journey as my visual metaphor.
Tea is a wonderful product, and designing this experience has given me a new respect and passion for user-centric design. Resolving all of the “human needs” into an interactive digital experience has been quite the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do and I hope I get do lots more of it!