Lawrence startup launches product to compete with Keurig coffee maker; update on proposed fried chicken chain for west Lawrence

Courtesy: Yannie's Tea

Technology is wonderful. Although we don’t have flying cars or paperless offices, we have figured out how to use it to make coffee infinitely more expensive. The engineers at Starbucks once developed a high-tech machine to print money, but decided it would be more profitable to create a new espresso maker. Of course, the technology extends to your home or office too. You can buy a single-cup coffee maker, like a Keurig, for a little more than $100 and enjoy one cup of coffee at a time.

That’s where a new Lawrence company comes into the equation. It has launched a product that is taking aim not only at the Keurig, but also at the drink. Lawrence-based Yannie Tea has begun selling a single-serving tea maker. The product is called Yannie’s Delta Tea Maker. The machine also can be used to brew a single serving of coffee, but Yannie owner Annie Lin will try to convince you that you should dump the coffee for healthy green tea instead.

“We are focusing on the tea now because it is just so good for you,” Lin said. “I think it is our mission to spread the word about tea.”

Courtesy: Yannie's Tea

Lin is hoping the Delta competes with the Keurig both in the price and environmental friendliness categories. Yannie’s is selling the tea maker for $30 to $40, depending on the retail outlet, while Keurigs usually sell for at least twice that amount.

On the environmental front, the Keurig uses a brewing system that includes inserting into the machine a plastic cup pre-loaded with ground coffee. The Delta doesn’t require the use of a plastic cup. Instead, when using it for tea, you insert a paper tea packet. The packets are triangle shaped, thus the Delta name, Lin said. The company also produces those packets, under the brand name Yannie Tea. The tea is imported from the Wuyi mountains of China, which are known for their prized tea production. For coffee, people can use a paper filter and the coffee of their choice in the Delta, Lin said.

“We thought paper would be better because we are trying to promote a healthy lifestyle and a clean earth,” Lin said.

Like a Keurig, the Delta is based on quick brewing. The Delta will brew 12 ounces of tea in about three minutes, Lin said. Of course, Lin said the machine is designed to get the water to just the right temperature to create just the right brewing process.

“People are amazed that it is isn’t bitter,” Lin said. “Good tea brewed right is not supposed to be bitter.”

Don’t expect Keurig to go out of business anytime soon, though. The Lawrence company is still in its infancy. It began receiving its product about a month ago, and thus far has limited retail outlets. The Delta brewer and Yannie Tea packets are available at Lawrence’s Checkers, the two Hy-Vee stores in Lawrence and a few of the Hy-Vee stores in Kansas City.

“Right now we are just hoping the Kansas City and Midwest area will notice our brand,” Lin said. “We realize we are new and don’t have a lot of budget to do advertising.”

Lin isn’t new to the business world, though. For 14 years, she and her husband were in the coffee business. Her husband has professionally designed other food devices and has a doctorate in food science, Lin said.

The company is in patent-pending status on the Delta tea maker. Currently, the product isn’t being made in Lawrence, but rather is being produced in China.

Who knows, perhaps the world of tea will get as crazy as the world of coffee, and Lawrence will have a household hit on its hands.

“We know from experience that people want their tea quick and easy,” Lin said. “They don’t want to mess around.”

Either way, add Yannie to the list of Lawrence startup companies that are trying to break onto the big stage.

In other news and notes from around town:

• As far as I know, no one has ever made a single-serving fried chicken-maker. Who would want to have just one serving of fried chicken?

As we have reported multiple times, there are many fried chicken chains betting that Lawrence residents want plenty of chicken. Here’s an update on one of the fried chicken projects: Zaxby’s has won a key approval from the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission for its proposed restaurant on West Sixth Street.

The Planning Commission earlier this week unanimously approved a final development plan for the project at 4661 Bauer Farm Drive. If your fingers are too greasy to operate the GPS, that is just east of the Burger King near Sixth and Wakarusa.

View Map

We’ve previously reported that Zaxby’s had filed plans to come to town, but now with the approval of the final development plan, I would expect to see work begin on the site soon, although I haven’t received a timeline from the company. Based on the other chicken construction that has occurred in Lawrence, it seems like a lot of these fast-food projects are six- to eight-month construction projects.

If you have forgotten about Zaxby’s, it is a chain that has a heavy emphasis on chicken fingers and chicken wings. And, as is often the case with these sorts of places, there’s enough sauce there to make dry cleaners drool over the number of stained ties I soon will be generating. That’s another way of saying there are about 10 sauces for the chicken. For good measure, the menu also has a few chicken sandwiches, some foreign dish called “salads,” and fries, onion rings, ice cream and cookie desserts and other such offerings.

The company has submitted a rendering of the proposed Lawrence store. Here’s a look:

Courtesy: City of Lawrence