Last week Amai held its very first Tasting Party. The goal was to get feedback on our products and meet people who have supported us through Lovescool since we began. At the end of last year I put up a notice calling for taste-testers willing to volunteer their time. It took us until May to get our recipes set for public scrutiny, but once everything was ready I sent invitations out to all of the respondents.
15 people came to the event, ready to eat and critique. Each product was set out with a questionnaire in front of it, which tasters could use to anonymously provide feedback. On one end of the counter we had our Tea Sweets: Chai Almond, Earl Grey & Currant, Green Tea, Lemongrass & Ginger and new White Tea & Strawberry. On the other end we had our new line of Botanical Brownies; dark chocolate brownies made with real fruit. Our brownie flavors include lychee, cherry, white peach and mandarin orange. We are still developing the packaging for our brownies, so they are not currently available in stores. This was the first time the brownies have been tasted by anyone other than us – a true sneak peak for the tasters. All of the cookies and brownies were served with tea, and tasters could try anything they wanted.
From my perspective, the event was a huge success. I was happy to finally meet people I have been exchanging e-mails with for months, and hear what they have to say about everything we have been working on. It was also amazing to see all of our products together at once, since they have been developed in pieces along the way.
At the end of the night (which went well past the two hours I had originally estimated), I sat down to read the questionnaires filled out for each product. I was touched by how much thought and effort each person put into filling them out. In my past life as an interaction designer, I ran several focus groups and usability tests that included surveys. In my experience, very few people fill them out, and if they do, they put very little energy into it. I expected to get most of the feedback about our products from talking to people as they ate, and set out the surveys as a way to catch comments from people uncomfortable talking in groups. It turns out everyone filled in the forms, as well as discussing their ideas with the group. The forms became an objective record of the evening that I could refer back to and check my memory against. I am lucky to have met such a great group of people who care about making things the best they can be.
So what did the taste-testers have to say about our cookies and brownies? Overall it was very positive. To those who like chocolate the brownies were a success, but many said the fruit flavor is somewhat lost amongst the intense chocolate flavor. In my opinion, too much chocolate is never a bad thing, but in this case I want the fruit flavor to stand out more so I will continue to work on the balance.
The White Tea & Strawberry were given a thumbs up, and we will be offering them for sale online in June. Everyone also loved the Chai Almond and Earl Grey & Currant cookies. As for the Lemongrass & Ginger, the flavor was well received but most felt the pieces of lemongrass tea were too large. I agree with this conclusion, and will grind them finer in future iterations. My biggest challenge is with the Green Tea cookie. Many people who try it, love it. For example, I recently read a review from Kimmie at Kitten Couture who had only good things to say. On the other hand, many people have said there is too much sugar and the tea flavor is weak. I’m not one to change something just because someone doesn’t like it (you can’t please everyone all of the time), but I personally believe this cookie can get better and I will continue to work on the recipe.
If only I could have tasting parties and work on the recipes every day I would be a happy person. Unfortunately the demands of packaging, production, finance and sales are also calling, so I will have to balance my time and work on incorporating this feedback as quickly as possible. I hope to do taste-tests every few months, so if you are interested in attending the next one send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Taste-Test” in the subject line.
Thank you to everyone who attended!