LittleTea: Robotic Tea Brewing




This project was made as part of the June Instructables Build Night with littleBits at the Taipei Hackerspace.

Whenever I'm trying to brew some tasty tea (and that happens quite often) I always miss the right amount of time needed for the brew. Talking to someone, reading a book, watching a bit of YouTube, browsing Instructables while I'm waiting, and suddenly the 5 minutes becomes 15, and my tea is not as good as it could have been.

Enter littleTea - it is a little Bits controlled robotic tea timer that takes care of your timing. It removes the teabag from the cup after the correct amount of time has passed, and let you know that you are ready to enjoy your beverage...

Required parts for the project:

The whole project can be assembled in less than 10 minutes. The programming part took the longest time in the entire development.

Step 1: Prepare the Assembly

Cardboard was used as an easy way to mount the servo motor, which will use a stick as a lever to lower the teabag and raise later.

The cardboard has to stand pretty solid. Cut two vertical lines in a tall (~20-25cm?) piece of cardboard. Cut two other pieces that fit in there. The original slots should be narrow enough that the fitting pieces cannot wiggle much (at all).

Higher up on the board cut a suitable square slot to fit the servo. It should be very snug as well! Can cut it by drawing the outline of the servo on the board, or directly cutting around the servo held at the board (just be careful not to cut the servo's wires). Unplug the servo from the littleBits module, that way it fits through the hole, and plug it back later.

Find a good stick (e.g. the type used for ice cream, but preferably an used one!) that will be the lever. Fasten it on the servo some way. Here I used rubber bands, but can be anything else as well that works for you. Near the top (but not at the total top) of the stick make a little wedge. That's where the tea bag's string will fit, and it is used to keep it sliding down the stick as it is raised.

One thing to keep in mind: mount the stick that way that it stands horizontally and has some way to move both up and down a bit from it's horizontal position!

Step 2: Prepare the Teamaking

Now almost everything is ready. Can add some decoration to the cardboard - here I was very minimalistic.

When mounting the tea bag, make a little loop and tie it. That way the bag won't accidentally fall off.

Connections needed for the modules to match the code mentioned above:

  • power to one of the analog input pins of the Arduino module
  • button to the d0 (in) channel
  • buzzer to the d1 (out)
  • servo to the d5 (out), can use an extension cord to move the module away from the cup (and potential water). Set output to "analog" mode
  • extension cord from d9 to the input side of the button (to power the button correctly)

The source code for the Arduino module is in the imrehg/littleTea repository on Github. The servo values of the off (not brewing) and on (brewing) case are hardcoded in there, and you will need to adjust those values (based on trial and error) to have a good setup. The tea bag should be completely out of the tea cup originally. When lowered it should submerge.

For flashing, use the Arduino Leonardo settings (the littleBits Arduino module is equivalent of that).

Now ready for some tea!

Step 3: 5 Minutes Later

The default setting is 5 minutes brewing time. After that the servo will carefully lift the tea bag out of the cup and sound the buzzer.

To see - with a shorter time setting - the behaviour of the setup, check out the video above.

Cheers, have a happy tea time!

2 People Made This Project!


  • Beauty Tips Contest

    Beauty Tips Contest
  • Colors of the Rainbow Contest

    Colors of the Rainbow Contest
  • Sensors Contest

    Sensors Contest

20 Discussions


3 years ago

555 timer with dc motor would do the same job for 1$ or less. but its better to google how you can make real tasty tea.

2 replies

Sure it could, but then it would be another project. :)

If you read the beginning of the post, it was for a littleBits hack day, so it's more about "what can we do with X?", and not "what should we use to make Y?"

Anyway, enjoy the tea! We usually brew things differently here in Taiwan, for example see it here:


I came across this Instructable and I really liked and it. This Instructable seems clear and well written.

But,... I couldn't
resist thinking about making this project much cheaper and simpler by using an
8 legged Picaxe 08M2 IC in place of an Arduino. After struggling with learning
some more Picaxe programming, I more or less duplicated this project using the eight legged 08M2 Picaxe IC. See the link below if you are interested in using a Picaxe IC for this project.

Nice work. I made something very similar a couple of years ago for (now) my wife.

That bit about pulling the tea bag out slowly is no joke. The first prototype I made pulled the soaking wet bag out so fast that it threw itself across her desk. We called it the teabag catapult. She used it once. Was not amused.

It also had trouble because I used a clip for the tea bag, and depending on the height of the cup the clip would sit in the water. Yuck.

So yeah. Two years later, she still has no functioning tea robot. Maybe I'll try again. Thanks for the inspiration.


4 years ago on Introduction

I'm ordering a couple of servos and I'm going to build some of these!
This is great; just great! :D

1 reply

4 years ago on Introduction

$126 for a device to pull a teabag out of a cup of very hot water. I don't think so.

What ever happened to minimizing cost???

Just another costly mechanism.

1 reply

This was part of an event to learn about electronics with littleBits, and lots of kids came. They loved it, it makes all the difference that you can start using it right away and make something awesome. Later on they came back for a soldering class and started to learn about minimal electronics, but they wouldn't have done otherwise.

The point of all this is not to minimize cost, but to prototype, to build something very quickly (this was done from start to writeup in less than 1.5 hours, with experimentation and bug fixing). Later the parts can be easily reused for another project... So a $126 device can power as many different projects (sequentially) as you want to instead of a soldered circuit which is "done". If the prototype made with it is good, then we can re-do it with bare MCUs, servos, etc....

One size doesn't fit all. :)


4 years ago on Introduction

I really dont understand. Its simple servo with a little use of motion, and to its peek its dipping just once. It would be better if those are dipped up-down for 2 minutes and resting the tea bag in between. Something apart from a single up-down movement ,something more intriguing.

2 replies

The good thing is that you can code your own "tea-dipping-routine" in there, and do the up-down dance if you'd like to! I prefer my tea this way (once down/once up), but I don't judge either! :)

What you'd need to do is rewrite this section to your own flavour (instead of the current dip/wait/remove): and then flash that onto the arduino. Afterwards your robot will do the brewing process the way you like it, without computer, on the press of the button.


4 years ago on Introduction

The perfect brew! Great project! We would love to see you post on the littleBits project page as well (go to:

1 reply