In a normal year, founder of Milwaukee-based Rishi Tea Joshua Kaiser would be traveling around the world in search of the best tea ingredients on the planet. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he hasn’t been able to travel for the past year.
Kaiser says during the pandemic, more people have been purchasing tea but the way people are getting their tea has changed.
“More people are buying teas online and more people are buying consumer packaged goods delivered to their homes, we’ve been very well positioned to support tea lovers across the world and shipping direct online,” he says.
While direct to consumer online shopping has increased drastically, in-person shopping has taken an enormous loss as the pandemic has made it unsafe for many businesses to keep their indoor facilities open to customers. Kaiser says many of the cafes and coffee bars that Rishi works with have had to get creative in order to continue serving.
“They’ve also been very creative to do curbside, delivery, different types of delivery systems within their own constellation of business and customers, so we’ve been supporting really creative businesses throughout the country,” he says.
Since the pandemic started, Kaiser says that herbal wellness teas have boomed in popularity, as people focus more on their health and especially their immune system.
“People are looking for things to boost their immunity and just maintain health, and I think people gravitate to real tea which is our business,” he says.
Rishi has been a leader in organic tea since their inception in 1997. Kaiser says when they began, they had to follow European standards for organic tea because the United States had not yet developed any. And in 2002, when the USDA created their Natural Organic Program, Rishi was one of the first to earn certification.
Kaiser says going forward, his goal will be to continue to deliver tea with no additives — just plants and water.
“You look at these tea drinks out there and it’s got citric acid and sugar and all these powders, and they talk about plant-based but really it’s powders or extracts or processed foods. That’s not what we want to do, we want to take real plants and make amazing drinks,” he says.