If you’ve ever tried to make matcha at home, you might have started with a store–bought mix. It was probably a yellow–green color and contained additives and sweeteners. If it didn’t have sugar in it already, you probably wanted to add a few spoonfuls to mask the grassy flavor. Unfortunately, this is pretty common in lower–grade matcha—it can be incredibly bitter in its natural state.

PerfectTed—whose name is a play on a co–founder’s name and a reference to the effort the company puts into its products—wants to change this. Its mission is to deliver “plant–based, functional ingredients” in the form of matcha powder, tea, and lattes, while also emphasizing ethical and sustainable business practices. The London–based company launched its Kickstarter campaign on April 13, and by the next day, it had already surpassed its $13,900 goal. 

The three co–founders and roommates, Marisa Poster (C ‘19), Teddie Levenfiche (C ‘19), and Levi Levenfiche (C ‘17), developed a “morning matcha ritual” to get their daily dose of caffeine. They quickly realized that the steady energy, stress relief, and health benefits matcha offered—thanks to the L-Theanine, amino acids, and antioxidants in green tea leaves—made it a superior source of caffeine when compared to most other coffees and teas.

Despite coming from fields like consulting and finance, the three friends wanted to do something that would have a real social impact, even if it was out of their comfort zones. “A lot of people, when they graduate from Penn, they're like, ‘Oh, I'll do investment banking or consulting or jobs I'm not happy with for two years,’ but two years is a really long time in your life,” Teddie says. “And it was longer than I wanted to spend doing something that I wasn't passionate about.”

Brothers Teddie and Levi originally began their foray into beverage making early in the pandemic, in an effort to support local health care workers. They bought a juice press and sold drinks from a stand in their neighborhood in London, which made them realize the importance of building a business that also has a social impact.

“There was a period of lockdown where the weather in London was truly amazing, but you couldn't speak to anyone, and you couldn't do anything but go for an hour–long walk,” Levi says. “So people kind of came together around this idea of picking up a juice with their family, supporting the NHS [National Health Service], and tackling the weather with fresh fruit.”

This business model wasn’t exactly a long term plan—it’s a bit hard to scale when you’ve only got one juicer. Instead, the three friends decided to make matcha after realizing that most prepackaged options tasted either bitter or artificially sweet. 

After outlining their core values—transparency, sustainability, and simple but innovative ingredients—the team began their search for the perfect matcha. Since the quality of matcha  depends directly on the growing conditions, the PerfectTed founders spent months testing samples to find the highest quality product. To them, this meant matcha that not only tasted good, but was grown without pesticides and tested for radiation. Ultimately, they landed on an organic ceremonial grade matcha that was “so pure that you could bathe in it”— and bathe in it they did.

But after finding the perfect matcha, the last thing they wanted to do was add a bunch of preservatives and sweeteners to create their on–the–go option. Thankfully, they were able to find a treatment that allows them to make shelf–stable tea and lattes with only three items each—water, matcha, and agave for tea or oat milk for lattes.

The technique is called ultra high temperature processing, and it’s similar to the pasteurization process that dairy undergoes to make it safe for consumption. In the case of PerfectTed’s matcha drinks, Marisa explains that the liquids are “heated up to a high temperature very rapidly and cooled just as quickly, ” creating a sterile and aseptic environment that allows the drinks to stay good for nine months. 

Most brands don’t use this process because it’s far more expensive. “It's much cheaper to use lower–quality ingredients, and use additives to change the flavor and make it more palatable,” Teddie explains.

But after going through all the effort to find high–quality matcha, adding unnecessary ingredients was a non–starter for PerfectTed. “If we were using additives and preservatives, we wouldn't be doing anything that innovative,” Teddie says. “There are other companies out there that have cut corners to take the easy way out.”

On top of focusing on simple ingredients, PerfectTed also prioritizes transparency and sustainability in its business model—starting with its supply chain. Typically, a café would buy matcha from a domestic wholesaler, who had bought the product from a wholesaler in Japan. This multi–step chain often means less money for the farmer who originally grew the tea leaves, and it creates a disconnect between the business and suppliers that makes it difficult to verify ingredient quality. 

PerfectTed wanted to go directly to the source. Buying directly from farmers in Uji, Japan, allows the company to maintain a closer relationship with its suppliers and avoid the inflated prices that come with going through multiple wholesalers. It also helps the founders ensure that farmers are compensated fairly and that the products are grown in the best conditions.

“We’re very conscious of understanding exactly where our matcha comes from and where the rest of our ingredients come from,” Teddie says. “So our oats mostly come from Belgium, [and] our agave entirely comes from Mexico. And we're in constant communication with suppliers to understand what they are doing to make sure farmers are treated well and what more we can do to ensure that that protection is just kept in place.”

Part of their commitment to supply chain transparency also includes being Rainforest Alliance certified, which means that independent third parties audited their supply chain and determined that the product was produced according to “the three pillars of sustainability: social, economic, and environmental.”  

As the business grows past the startup phase, the PerfectTed founders hope to give back more to the communities they source ingredients from by investing in local infrastructure and farmers’ programs. They also want to offset carbon emissions through tree–planting programs. Expanding the availability of their tea and latte products in America is also on the agenda, since right now only their powder and toolkit can be shipped across the ocean. In the meantime, you can check out their Kickstarter page, website, or Instagram to stay up to date on when their products will become available.