Quench: How did you get started in the tea business and how did you
come to start Numi?
Ahmed Rahim: Before starting Numi, I spent 10 years living in Europe,
settling into Prague for six of those years. It was during my time in Prague
that I had the opportunity to open and run teahouses, learning all about
tea, tea ceremonies, tea culture, the blending (and benefits) of teas and
herbs, and the trends in the industry. It was there that I also fell in love
with the ritual of tea drinking.
When I came back to the U.S. from Europe, my sister Reem and I
discussed wanting to introduce Dry Desert Lime, an herbal teasan from
our hometown of Baghdad, Iraq, to the U.S. market. We decided to do it
together, starting Numi Tea (Numi is the Arabic name for this Dry Desert
At that time, there was a major gap in the U.S. tea industry. The market
lacked high-quality, premium teas and herbs that are blended with real
ingredients, and we saw little along the lines of innovation. There was also
a lack of commitment to both organic and Fair Trade Certified products
across the industry. My sister and I saw a large niche that wasn’t being
filled, and were excited to start something authentic and fresh for our
customers (and eventually for our consumers). We first started Numi
Organic Tea out of Reem’s 600-square-foot apartment in Oakland, Calif.
Quench: To what do you attribute the growth in the tea business over
the past few years?
Ahmed Rahim: Watching the tea business grow over the past 15 years
has been a beautiful process! We have seen more and more emphasis
placed not only on the health benefits of tea, but also on the rituals and
ceremonies around tea time. People are moving into the tea category,
and we are finding that it is more on trend than ever before. Communities
are now awakened into the lifestyle of health, of wellness and of
slowing down to enjoy their sips of tea (rather than fast-paced “gulps”
of coffee). With all of the teahouses popping up across the U.S. (both
Tea Talk: An Interview With Ahmed Rahim (cont’d)