FIELD OF THE INVENTION
- BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
The present invention is directed to an implement for making a beverage by infusion and a method for making the beverage. More particularly, the invention is directed to an implement for making a beverage like fruit juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and a drinkable soup. The invention is most particularly desirable for making tea, especially hot tea. The implement comprises a beverage precursor, like tea leaf, that is encapsulated in a solvent permeable or soluble material whereby the encapsulated beverage precursor is associated with the implement at a point on the implement that is sufficiently removed from its handle. The implement for making a beverage by infusion provides for a convenient and enjoyable means for making a beverage.
Next to water, tea is the most popular beverage consumed by man. A variety of mechanisms exist to make tea, and these include tea brewing with an automatic brewing machine, infusion of tea leaf in a tea bag with hot or cold water and tea preparation with water and a powdered concentrate. Such mechanisms, while well known, are not always perceived as being convenient, and typically are not perceived as being very posh or “shi shi” to young adults that frequent beverage houses, like coffee and tea cafes.
- ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
There is an increasing interest to develop a convenient mechanism for making beverages, especially beverages like tea that are excellent sources of antioxidants. This invention, therefore, is directed to an implement for making a beverage by infusion. The invention is particularly directed to an implement for making a beverage like fruit juice, tea, coffee, hot chocolate and a drinkable soup as well as sauces or marinades. The implement comprises a beverage precursor, like tea leaf, that is encapsulated in a solvent permeable or soluble material whereby the encapsulated beverage precursor is associated with the implement at a point on the implement that is sufficiently removed from its handle.
Efforts have been disclosed for making beverages. In U.S. application Ser. No. 2003/0226448 A1, a beverage brewing stirrer with a container having holes is described. The stirrer can be used to infuse or steep a beverage substance like tea.
Other efforts have been disclosed for making beverages. In European Patent No. EP 0 722 410 B1, an infusion package having at least three sides and a drawstring is described.
Still other efforts have been disclosed for making beverages. In U.S. Pat. No. 6,726,946 B1, a multi-purpose beverage infuser is described.
- SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
None of the additional information above describes an implement for making a beverage by infusion wherein a beverage precursor is encapsulated in a solvent permeable or soluble material and associated with the implement at a point sufficiently removed from its handle.
In a first aspect, the present invention is directed to an implement for making a beverage by infusion comprising:
- (a) a body; and
- (b) an encapsulated beverage precursor, the body comprising a first portion that is associated with the encapsulated beverage precursor, the first portion being sufficiently removed from a second portion on the body, the second portion acting as a handle on the implement.
In a second aspect, the present invention is directed to a method for making a beverage with the implement for making a beverage by infusion of the first aspect of this invention.
In a third aspect, the present invention is directed to a beverage made via the method of the second aspect of this invention.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
As used herein, infusion is meant to include soaking, steeping or dissolving within a solvent like hot water. Precursor, as used herein, means a material that can produce a beverage when contacted with a solvent, like leaf (especially, tea leaf), powders, crystals, agglomerates and ground bean. Body as used herein means a tangible item or frame made from a material that will not warp or disintegrate when placed in a solvent like boiling water, and including but not limited to, wood, plastic, wax, coated paperboard or metal. Encapsulated, as used herein, means surrounded by or encased within and solvent permeable or solvent soluble above and below a center plane of the implement. Associated with includes, for example, connected or attached to. Sufficiently removed means at a point that when held by a consumer's hand, it is far enough from the encapsulated beverage precursor to prevent the consumer's hand from contacting solvent when the encapsulated beverage is submerged in the solvent. Beverage, as used herein means a liquid consumable by humans, like tea for drinking as well as liquids to cook with such as sauces and marinades.
The subject matter which is regarded as the invention is particularly pointed out and distinctly claimed in the concluding portion of the specification. The invention, however, may be best understood by reference to the following description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawing figures in which:
FIG. 1 is an illustrative perspective view of the implement for making a beverage by infusion of this invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
FIG. 2 is an illustrative right side view of the implement for making a beverage by infusion of this invention, the illustrative left side view being a mirror image thereof.
The only limitation with respect to the type of beverage precursor that may be used in this invention is that the beverage precursor is one which can yield (upon contact with a solvent) a beverage suitable for human consumption. Illustrative classes of the types of beverage precursors that may be used in this invention include leaf, crystal, powder, liquid, agglomerate and ground bean. Preferred leaf suitable for use in this invention is tea leaf. Preferred crystals and powders and agglomerates include those which can be used to make coffee (including expresso), hot chocolate, tea, sauces, marinades and fruit juice, like lemonade. The ground bean that may be used in this invention is preferably ground coffee bean, and when the beverage precursor is a liquid (including a gel) the encapsulating material should be one which is hot solvent soluble.
It is particularly noted that the tea leaf suitable for use in this invention can be that which is useful for hot or cold brewing, and such tea leaf can be harvested from the Camellia sinensis plant and includes black, green, white and oolong tea, including mixtures thereof. It is also within the scope of this invention to use herb tea (e.g., hibiscus, lemon grass, fennel, licorice, chicory, malted barley or mixtures thereof) with or in lieu of tea leaf harvested from the Camellia sinensis plant. Illustrative tea leaf which may be used for hot brewing is described in European Patent No. EP 1202635 B1 and illustrative tea leaf suitable for cold brew is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,780,454, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference. The most preferred beverage precursor suitable for use in this invention is tea powder or tea leaf, especially black tea leaf. In an especially preferred embodiment, the tea leaf is of superior quality and provided from suppliers like Unilever Foods under the Lipton® Tea Brand.
In addition to beverage precursor, it is also within the scope of this invention to combine, with the beverage precursor, optional ingredients like sweeteners (natural or artificial); vitamins and supplements like calcium, zinc, iron, vitamin C, B vitamins or mixtures thereof; natural and artificial flavors like, for example, lemon and apple flavors and flavors provided as flavor granules; acidulants like citric acid, malic acid or mixtures thereof and spices like cinnamon, chai, ginger, cardamon, or mixtures thereof. Yet another optional ingredient suitable for use in this invention is a whitener like a fat comprising or non-fat powdered creamer or milk. Such whiteners typically have a mean diameter particle size distribution ranging from about 0.1 microns to about 10 microns and are commercially available from suppliers like Rich Products Corporation.
As to the beverage precursor, the implement for making a beverage by infusion typically comprises from about 1.5 to about 10 grams of beverage precursor. When an individual serving is desired (e.g., about 0.25 liters), such implements preferably comprise from about 1.5 to about 4, and most preferably, from about 1.85 to less than about 3.5 grams of beverage precursor, including all ranges subsumed therein. When a family size serving is desired(e.g., about 1 liter), such implements typically comprise from more than about 3.5 to about 10 grams, and preferably, from about 6.5 to about 8.5 grams, including all ranges subsumed therein.
Regarding the optional additives, such additives typically are added and thoroughly mixed with the beverage precursor whereby the weight percent of optional additives employed often does not exceed about 15% by weight of the total weight of beverage precursor plus optional additive.
When tea leaf is the beverage precursor of choice, it typically has a particle size distribution from about 0.3 mm to about 0.85 mm, and preferably, from about 0.35 mm to about 0.7 mm, including all ranges subsumed therein.
Turning to FIG. 1, shown is an illustrative implement for making a beverage by infusion 10. The implement 10 has a first portion 12 that is associated with encapsulated beverage precursor 14 that is encapsulated in a material 16 that is either solvent permeable or soluble (e.g., water permeable or soluble). The material 16 is solvent soluble when the beverage precursor 14 is solvent soluble and is solvent permeable when beverage precursor 14 is not solvent soluble (e.g., coffee grounds or tea leaf) but suitable to be infused with a solvent, not shown, like hot water. The implement for making a beverage by infusion 10 has a second portion 18 that is sufficiently removed from the first portion 12. The second portion 18 acts as a handle for maneuvering (like stirring) the implement 10 into, for example, a solvent filled mug or picture (not shown).
When the material 16 is solvent permeable, such material may be woven or non-woven. The material 16, when solvent permeable, is limited only to the extent that it may be used for making a beverage suitable for human consumption. The weight and/or pore size of the material 16 selected should allow for good solvent flow (i.e., infusion) through the implement 10, but not allow beverage precursor 14 and any optional additive (not shown) employed to fall out of the implement and into the solvent of the desired beverage to be made. The woven or non-woven material suitable for use in this invention is typically made commercially available from suppliers like Ahlstrom Fiber Composites and Glatfelter.
When the material 16 is solvent soluble, it typically is prepared with, for example, gelatin, vegetable gum, starch, carboxymethyl cellulose, albumin, carrageenan or a combination thereof. The solvent soluble encapsulant may be made by any conventional technique, and techniques that include spray drying and air suspension are often preferred.
Turning to FIG. 2, shown is an illustrative right side view of the implement for making a beverage by infusion 10 of this invention. While the implement for making a beverage by infusion 10 is not limited to any particular shape, spoon-like shapes such as the ones shown in FIGS. 1 and 2 are often preferred. The body (or frame) 20 of the implement 10 is typically made of wood, plastic or metal and may be a single layer or a plurality of layers like a series of laminates (not shown). Preferably, the thickness of the body, regardless of how many layers are employed, is from about 1 to about 3 mm. Polyalkylenes like polyethylene and polypropylene (and copolymers thereof as well as other commonly known resins like polyethylene terephthalate, polycarbonates, polyvinyl chloride and epoxy resins) are the often preferred polymers used to make the implement 10 of this invention. Often, the implement 10 is from about 7 cm to about 40 cm in length (i.e., the sum of the first portion 12 and second portion 18). When the implement 10 is for an individual serving, it typically is less than about 25 cm long. When the implement 10 is of family size (e.g., for a 1 liter serving), it typically is longer than about 25 cm.
In an especially preferred embodiment, first portion 12 makes up from about 25 to 50% of the total length of the implement 10.
In yet another especially preferred embodiment, the weight ratio of beverage precursor 14 below the center plane of the implement 22 (represented as 14 a) to beverage precursor 14 above the center plane of the implement 22 (represented as 14 b) is from about 20 to 80 to about 80 to 20, and preferably, from about 30 to 70 to about 70 to 30, and most preferably, from about 40 to 60 to about 60 to 40, including all ratios subsumed therein. Therefore, the implement for making a beverage by infusion 10 of this invention should be infusible via its top and bottom.
In still another preferred embodiment, the width of the first portion 12 (represented as 12 a in FIG. 1) is such that the combined surface area of material 16 above and below the center plane of the implement 22 has a value X in square centimeters and the weight of beverage precursor used has a value Y in grams where:
and D is an integer from about 20 to about 40. The width of second portion 18 (represented as 18 a in FIG. 1) is equal to but preferably less than the width of the first portion 12 a.
When making the implement of this invention, the body 20 may be cut or molded, and the encapsulated beverage precursor may become associated with the body 20 of the implement 10 by employing conventional techniques that include heat bonding, “sandwiching” between laminates, crimping and attaching with an adhesive or adhesive containing laminant. Regardless of the orientation of the implement 10, beverage precursor 14 should preferably not be able to move or migrate out of first portion 12 and into second portion 18.
When making the desired beverage, the consumer should preferably grasp the implement 10 at a point on second portion 18 and agitate (for example, stir) the implement 10 in the desired solvent which is hot, cold, or in the process of being heated where cold is defined to mean above freezing but less than room temperature and hot is defined to mean greater than room temperature to about boiling. Often, the preferred solvent used in this invention is a fruit juice, broth or water, with water being especially preferred. Moreover, when making the desired beverage of this invention, it is preferred that infusion be complete in no more than five (5) minutes, and preferably, in from about 2 to about 3.5 minutes.
There is essentially no limitation with respect to how the implements for making a beverage by infusion 10 are packaged, as long as they are not destroyed during shipping. Typically, however, they are packed in boxes or bags. For food service applications, they may be sold attached to a single serving disposable cup.
- EXAMPLE 1
The following Example is provided to illustrate and facilitate an understanding of the present invention. The Example is not intended to limit the scope of the claims.
- EXAMPLE 2
Implements for making beverages by infusion were made by cutting plastic bodies having shapes similar to the one illustrated in FIG. 1. Approximately 2.25 gram piles of Lipton Smooth blend black tea leaf were prepared and encapsulated in non-woven and food grade material (water permeable). One encapsulated tea leaf pile was attached to each body by placing each encapsulated tea leaf pile onto the body (i.e., at the first portion) and “sandwiching”/connecting the same onto the body with a laminate having an adhesive on one side and a shape identical to that of the plastic body. The resulting implement for making a beverage by infusion 10 had about an equal amount of tea (precursor) above and below its center plane and the total area of the material (top and bottom) was about 67 square centimeters.
The implements made in Example 1 were stirred in cups having eight (8) ounces of hot (about boiling) water for about two (2) minutes then removed. The resulting tea beverages had good taste and appearance characteristics and were enjoyable to make.