Features

Reinventing culture through tea

A new brand promises to reinvent the tea experience, but can it deliver?

Photos courtesy of Ante

A pop-up booth built almost entirely with plastic bottles is Lorenzo Vega’s latest addition to a steadily growing portfolio of brands. The 24-year-old entrepreneur, who is also the mind behind Siklesa and My Shopping Box, has just launched cold-brewed tea brand Ante. The name is a play on the words ‘anti’ (“to be against”) and antecedent (“to be the first of its kind”), and also a reference to the phrase ‘up the ante.’

Free of proper introductions and contextualization, anyone approaching the said booth would have taken it as either a streetwear retailer or yet another speakeasy—and reasonably so, as inside the artful structure are bright yellow hoodies and neon-lit plastic bottles, sporadically blinking with the loud hip-hop tracks that filled the venue.

“When we talk about Ante., we’re not just talking about a drink. We’re not just talking about something that quenches your thirst—although it does—we’re also talking about values. We’re selling a lifestyle, a culture,” says Vega.

The Ante pop-up booth at Whitespace Makati

Aesthetics and an optimistic intentionality are what define Ante. So much so that it would be impossible to talk about the brand without mentioning the neon colors, the  logo emblazoned onto classic art pop pieces, and the speeches made by Vega when explaining what their brand is all about: “Our identity is all about challenging the status quo. And I think this is a really rare thing nowadays.”

It’s a clear-eyed philosophy—possibly susceptible to criticisms against its almost excessive idealism, but it’s still somehow admirable, if only for Vega’s and his team’s confidence over their product. The group of young entrepreneurs claim to be purveyors of an alternative culture. Vega says that “This [Ante.] isn’t anything like you’ve seen before.” It’s difficult to objectively react to the claim, given that the brand has just been launched. It is simply too soon to tell whether or not Ante can in fact present “a new tea experience.”

In the broadest sense, Ante is not original. But it does have the potential to benefit from something that’s not too far from such a quality. The local tea market is not saturated with brands that veer towards an “artisanal” approach. Beyond milk tea retailers and commercial sugary iced teas sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, there is no local tea scene to speak of. Vega has figured out that there is ample space in such a market.

But this strategy is most certainly not a new one. It’s not something that people have not seen before. All commodities are, after all, in one way or another laden with politics and personality. And a character type that sells particularly well is uniqueness. It’s almost too obvious to be worth saying, but it’s true—brands want to be different; each one tries to stand out. “Think different,” so goes Apple’s tagline.

Guests try out Ante tea

In the broadest sense, Ante is not original. But it does have the potential to benefit from something that’s not too far from such a quality. The local tea market is not saturated with brands that veer towards an “artisanal” approach. Beyond milk tea retailers and commercial sugary iced teas sold in supermarkets and convenience stores, there is no local tea scene to speak of. Vega has figured out that there is ample space in such a market.

“Recognizing that the market is saturated with tea brands that use inauthentic ingredients and are overloaded with sugar, we deliberately went back to basics to create a product that is 100 percent honest and respectful of the tea-making process. Select tea leaves are first steeped in cold, filtered water, and chilled for 15 hours to fully extract their beautiful flavors. Then, the tea leaves are strained and the cold-brewed tea are poured into special bottles.”

But does the tea itself deliver? The three different flavors, each one infused with different herbs and fruits are different from store-bought iced tea. Light, refreshing, and with just the slightest hint of sweetness, the teas are products of rigorous research and experimenting with various tea brands. Vega and his team has put in the work, and with the advantage of a relatively unsaturated market, only time can determine the degree of their work’s payoffs.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter to receive all the tools and solutions entrepreneurs need to stay updated on the latest news in the industry

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.