After years of letting his passion for tea brew, one veteran is combining his thirst for success with a desire to aid countries struck by war.
The Rakksan Tea Company’s namesake came about from its co-founder and CEO, Brandon Friedman, who served as an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division’s 3rd Brigade, also known as the “Rakkasans.”
While most of the tea consumed in the US comes from China, India, and Argentina, Rakkasan Tea will feature distinct flavors most Americans have never tasted. And they are sourcing it from post-conflict countries.
Currently, the veteran-owned tea company has supply lines from Sri Lanka, Rwanda, and Nepal, with plans to add Uganda, Burma, and Vietnam soon. Together, these six countries represent less than 10 percent of the total tea consumed in the US.
Tea, like wine, is impacted greatly by conditions in the soil, altitude, and climate. “We think we can bring some unique tastes to people who have never had them,” says Friedman.
But tea is more than a business for Friedman; it’s about people. While serving in both Iraq and Afghanistan, Friedman found that sharing tea is a way to bond with the local population. “It was a social experience, says Friedman. “It is how we connected with people.”
Orders will start shipping in the fall, but currently, a Kickstarter campaign to raise the initial operating costs is just $7,000 shy of their $30,000 goal.
Not just looking to help communities recovering from the ailments associated with war, Friedman plans on hiring veterans to do the importing, packaging, and distribution in the US. Already, he has agreed to hire a former “Rakkasan” soldier of his.
Veteran interest in the business has been anything but lukewarm. “The veteran community has been tremendous,” he says.
But competition is steep as Friedman has been looking through resumes every day for weeks. Veterans looking to work at Rakkasan Tea can apply here.