Origins of Rishi Tea
Rishi Tea was founded in 1997 by Joshua Kaiser, who found a way to combine his passions for travel, world cultures, global culinary traditions, and herbology into a business. Following a series of post-college travels, he landed back in the US and was stumped by the lack of sources for quality teas. A growing interest among Americans in the origin driven nuances of coffee and wine led Joshua to believe that the time was ripe to introduce true teas to the American market.
Rishi started in a windowless 400sf space in Milwaukee’s Third Ward, where loose leaf teas were formulated and hand blended in micro-batches for sale to cafés throughout the Midwest. Joshua enlisted his Rufus King High School friend Benjamin Harrison as a business partner to drive the expansion of sales into new markets. Meanwhile Joshua continued to travel abroad for nine months a year to source tea. The relationships that Joshua fostered during this time serve as the foundation of Rishi’s direct trade and organic supply chain. Rishi’s growth necessitated a move to a larger space in the Riverwest neighborhood, and soon after to an even larger facility at the old Louis Allis building in Bay View in 2003. What started there as a 10,000sf production facility grew into 32,000sf of operations and office spaces. Rishi’s organic loose leaf teas became ever more popular as the brand expanded nationwide in the café market and in natural retailers like Whole Foods Market.
In 2013, Rishi launched into the world of tea bags and picked up global distribution that promised to exponentially affect sales. With bright prospects for growth, it was time to evolve once again and boost production capacity. In late 2013, land was purchased and construction began on a state-of-the-art tea facility in the Menomonee Valley district of Milwaukee. In September 2014, the doors opened to the new 48,000sf world headquarters of Rishi Tea. Every detail was considered and designed for optimal botanical storage conditions with aroma segregation and the strictest requirements for organic food safety. Such standards allow Rishi to offer a purity and quality unattainable by any other tea company in North America. Our new HQ is also home to a Training Lab where customers and the public alike can experience hands-on tea classes and culinary experimentation.
We are often asked about the meaning of Rishi. It is from Sanskrit and means “one who is a seer, sage, or seeker of truth.” For us it means constantly striving to learn more about tea and strengthening our connection to tea and botanicals and the people who grow them. We strive to reveal the natural truth to our modern society, which has become so far removed from gardens and kitchens, and overly dependent on labs for synthetic and processed beverages. As Rishis, we want to share some natural and simple alternatives for people to live healthy and delicious lives. Discover new teas and join us on a wondrous botanical journey to leave No Leaf Unturned.