The Origin of Rishi Tea
Rishi Tea was founded on the commitment to set the standard for quality and expand the awareness of tea and its rich, inspirational tradition. They offer superb loose-leaf tea imported directly from tea gardens across Asia, made according to ancient artisanal practices using organic cultivation techniques and Fair Trade standards. From their modest beginnings over ten years ago to becoming an established leader in the specialty tea market, their mission has never wavered.
Rishi Tea began in 1997 when Joshua Kaiser, founder, and tea buyer, recognized that the traditional handcrafted teas he grew so fond of during his travels in Asia were rarely available elsewhere. Joshua felt that North American consumers would embrace artisan tea as they did single-origin coffee and fine varietal wine if they were given access to it at reasonable prices. He believed the same gourmet consumer who was willing to learn the difference between a Costa Rican coffee and an Indonesian coffee, as well as develop a refined palate for wine, was also ready to appreciate the natural complexity and flavors of premium tea.
Joshua enlisted a well-traveled and longtime friend Benjamin Harrison as partner. The two, along with help from friends, worked in a 400 square foot windowless space in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward district, hand-blending original botanicals blends and individually packaging premium teas imported from origins that Joshua frequented. The space was soon outgrown and Rishi Tea moved into the burgeoning Bay View neighborhood. While the production facilities expanded, Rishi Tea preserved its founding principles including unique hand-blending techniques, meticulous hand-packaging and strict quality control. Today, the Rishi team has grown into a passionate group of tea lovers who serve as guides for their customers into the world of premium tea.
They travel thousands of miles each year to the diverse points of origin where their teas are harvested, maintaining the personal relationships they have developed over the years with farmers and artisans whose families have been making traditional teas for generations. Rishi Tea’s efforts to integrate the wisdom of ancient tea production with sanitary, efficient manufacturing practices have offered many artisan families a new means to keep their traditions alive as well as a chance to benefit from the growing market for premium teas. Their uniquely strong network in China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, India and many other tea origins allow them to provide exceptional loose-leaf teas with an unrivaled level of freshness, quality and connection to origin.
Rishi aspires to link the leaf at origin to its end result: a revitalizing cup of tea. Every tea has a unique flavor and style that reflects its origin, varietal, vintage and artisanal method of manufacture. Rishi’s connections to the origins of tea are integral to the sustainability of their quality.
Rishi Tea’s commitment to sustainability is a core company philosophy that stems from the organic tea gardens where their teas are harvested. Their firsthand experience in many tea-growing regions led to their heightened awareness of the dire need for social responsibility. Rishi Tea was among the first to earn organic certification under the USDA’s Natural Organic Program in November of 2002 and at the forefront in the advancement of Fair Trade Certified tea, becoming one of the highest payers of social premiums from the sale of Fair Trade tea. The TransFair USA Fair Trade Certified projects with which Rishi partners directly support a better life for the tea-farming families and their communities through fair prices, fair wages, safe working conditions, environmental sustainability, education and community development.
For more than 1,000 years, tea has been the most consumed beverage next to water. Rishi Tea’s travels, trade and study are devoted to sustaining the quality and extraordinary benefits of tea so that future generations may also benefit from it. They urge their customers to appreciate loose-leaf tea as though it were a fine wine; to brew it properly, use the proper teaware, and enjoy the experience that each cup brings. As a winner of four First Place Awards for Best Tea at the 2011 North American Tea Championship, they are proud to share their exceptional teas, fresh each season and direct from origin.
The Rishi Tea Green Team formed to better represent their core values of Organic and Fair Trade practices at origin into their daily business practices. Comprised of members from various departments within Rishi, the Green Team combines passion and knowledge with a commitment to sustainable actions within the US. Having members from different departments allows them to execute their green projects with a holistic view.
Rishi’s Green Team promotes waste reduction, energy conservation and offsetting energy usage with the ultimate goal of reducing their ecological footprint. They aspire to build a deeper level of consciousness regarding their everyday choices and the power that each of us holds. The choices we make today can help protect and preserve our beautiful planet tomorrow.
A few of their current green initiatives include:
- Printing all marketing materials on 100% post-consumer waste paper processed chlorine free and printed with soy ink.
- Packaging their Organic Iced Tea line using paper manufactured with 100% renewable wind energy and 80% post-consumer waste that is elemental chlorine free (ECF), acid free, 100% recyclable and printed with soy ink.
- Their increased demand for environmentally responsible paper encouraged their local printer to become Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified. FSC Certification ensures that products manufactured with wood have been harvested from sustainably-managed forests under strict environmental and social standards set by the FSC.
- They teamed up with Clean Water Fund, a grassroots organization working to protect and restore America’s waters to promote cleaner water in the United States. By donating 25% of the profits of their limited winter blend, Organic Cinnamon Plum, they raised over $4,200 for Clean Water Fund and their wonderful efforts!
- Rishi Tea was one of the first companies to use completely biodegradable packaging cushions made from 100% recyclable material. The eco-friendly “Cell-O” air cushions by FP International are 99% air by volume; when deflated, less than 1% of the original volume remains. The cushions require less energy to produce and create fewer air and water pollutants and greenhouse gas emissions than conventional paper products.
- Composting their used tea leaves with Growing Power – a self-sustaining urban farm in Milwaukee (learn how to start your own compost).
- Using fully compostable sample cups when serving tea at festivals, demonstrations and trade shows. Regular hot disposable cups contain petroleum-based coating that does not degrade in landfills. They use cups made by Eco Products, Inc. which are lined with Ingeo plant-based plastic and decompose in as little as 45 days when in a commercial composting facility.
- Using 100% biodegradable and compostable garbage bags from Eco Safe Plastics, Inc.
- Offering 100% Organic Certified cotton tote bags and organic cotton beanies.
Risi’s commitment to sustainability stems from the organic tea gardens where their teas are harvested. Their numerous travels to origin allow them to witness firsthand the positive impacts that organic farming has on the environment, the lives of the tea farmers, and ultimately, the quality of the tea.
Rishi Tea has imported premium organic tea under strict European Union Organic standards since 1999. They were among the first to earn organic certification under the USDA’s Natural Organic Program in 2002 and at the forefront in the advancement of Fair Trade Certified tea, becoming one of the highest payers of social premiums from the sale of fair trade tea. The fair trade projects they have established, as well as those we partner with, directly support a better life for the tea-farming families and their communities through fair prices, fair wages, safe working conditions, environmental sustainability, education and community development.
Rishi Tea is diligently working to expand their eco-friendly packaging, available with their Organic Iced Tea products, onto their entire retail line. The new packaging will use a paper manufactured with 100% renewable wind energy and 80% post-consumer waste that is elemental chlorine-free (ECF), acid-free, 100% recyclable and printed with soy ink.
While their green initiatives continue to expand both at home and at origin, by no means have they reached their environmental ideal. They are still on the search for biodegradable bulk tea bags. Despite the advancements in biodegradable plastics, they have yet to find a material with a barrier strong enough to protect the quality of their tea. However, they will not give up!
Rishi Tea is proactively looking for fun, creative and effective ways to lessen their environmental footprint.
Did you know: Conventional farming…
- Pollutes our freshwater supply with chemicals that soak into the soil and runoff into our groundwater.
- Uses chemical and synthetic pesticides/fertilizers to kill weeds and pests, which leave harmful residues on food and disrupt ecological harmony by killing natural predators along with targeted pests.
- Uses genetic-engineering and modification to make crops grow faster and larger.
- Degrades the balance of the soil by leaching nutrients out of it.
Did you know: Plastic bottles…
- Take 700 years to begin composting.
- 80% of plastic bottles are not recycled.
- 24 million gallons of oil are needed to produce a billion plastic bottles.
Did you know: Paper cups…
- Conventional hot disposable cups contain a plastic lining made from a non-renewable petrochemical.
- Cups that use petrol-based plastic linings end up in landfills where they do not fully decompose.
Did you know: Petroleum-based inks…
- Contain higher levels of VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), hazardous fumes emitted into the air during the ink’s drying process.
- Are not sustainable and further our dependence on foreign oil.
- Paper printed with petroleum-based ink is more difficult to recycle than paper printed with soy ink.
About Rishi Tea
Rishi Tea offers the highest quality organic and Fair Trade Certified loose leaf teas, fresh each season and direct from tea gardens around the world. They travel thousands of miles each year to work hands-on with skilled artisans whose families have been making traditional teas and herbs for generations. Their direct relationships allow them to produce rare and exclusive teas that offer an unmatched level of freshness. Being at origin to maintain these relationships is their way of ensuring the quality and authenticity of their teas and herbs.
Rishi’s trade, travel, and study are devoted to expanding the understanding of loose leaf tea and setting the standard for quality. They are proud to offer over 200 loose leaf teas and herbs. They welcome you to try their teas and to consider Rishi Tea as your direct link to the tea growers, landscapes, and cultures that they’ve created lasting partnerships with.