Joshua KaiserFounder and CEO, Joshua Kaiser (center), explores the birthplace of tea. Yunnan, China.

Yunnan HarvestOrganic, Fair Trade Certified™ ancient tea tree harvest. Yunnan, China.

White tea HarvestEarly spring organic white tea harvest. Fujian, China.

White tea HarvestTwo-year-old organic tea garden in Kagoshima, Japan.

White tea HarvestQuality control during a tea cupping. Rishi Tea, Milwaukee, WI.

Rishi Tea was founded on the commitment to set the standard for quality and expand the awareness of tea and its rich, inspirational tradition. We 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 our modest beginnings over ten years ago to becoming an established leader in the specialty tea market, our 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 our customers into the world of premium tea.

We travel thousands of miles each year to the diverse points of origin where our teas are harvested, maintaining the personal relationships we have developed over the years with farmers and artisans whose families have been making traditional teas for generations. Our 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. Our uniquely strong network in China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, India and many other tea origins allow us 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 our quality.

Rishi Tea’s commitment to sustainability is a core company philosophy that stems from the organic tea gardens where our teas are harvested. Our firsthand experience in many tea-growing regions led to our 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. Our travels, trade and study are devoted to sustaining the quality and extraordinary benefits of tea so that future generations may also benefit from it. We urge our 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, we are proud to share our exceptional teas, fresh each season and direct from origin.