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5 Questions with...Linda Appel Lipsius of Teatulía
<em>DAYSPA</em> checked in with Linda Appel Lipsius, who runs U.S. Teatulía operations out of Denver.
“People are stunned when I tell them that we started a tea garden in Bangladesh from scratch,” says Teatulía CEO and co-founder Linda Appel Lipsius, who was toiling in her family’s cleaning-products business in the summer of 2006, when a friend, Teatulía co-founder Anis Ahmed, asked for her help in bringing tea to the States. Even more surprising? Ahmed’s proposed garden site in Northern Bangladesh was a stretch of barren wasteland that had been used for breaking down rocks into cement. The soil was completely destroyed. “It was dire,” Appel Lipsius recalls. But today, that land is transformed into a flourishing, 2,000-acre farm that grows delicious, UDSA-certified organic teas—currently served in more than 30 spas around the country—using sustainable Japanese farming methods. And thanks to a cooperative created for workers and neighbors in the surrounding village, Teatulía has also lifted a small community out of poverty via its health and education initiatives as well as a unique cattle-lending program, wherein co-op members receive a milking cow that they pay off in cow dung for the tea garden. —Lisa Sweetingham
So, you’re selling cleaning products when you’re suddenly asked to start a tea company. Where did you start?
Mostly, by researching the tea market and looking into branding and positioning. People were really getting into their food at the time—the farm-to-table trend and craft beers were just coming in—and I realized we had something special. All of our teas come from this one single garden and are garden-direct. None of our competitors are doing that.
It’s great that Teatulía takes social responsibility and sustainable farming very seriously, but none of that would matter if the tea didn’t taste so good.
Yes, that was a happy accident. Anis and his brothers took some nice tea placements to start the garden, plus there’s the rich soil and organic farming... Who knows what the magic is that makes the tea so yummy, but it works! My favorite is our plain black tea. I will acknowledge that they’re all lovely, but this one is delicious, sweet, creamy and refreshing. That and our breakfast tea are the only ones I drink.
How did you enter the spa market?
Someone told me about the ISPA tradeshow last year and when we got there, I had this epiphany: ‘When you go to a spa, you’re always served tea.’ It was such a perfect environment for us to be in, not just because of the drink but the wellness aspect—there’s a real trend toward organic and having pure products—and it just really resonated. We’ve been met with a warm reception from the spa industry.
What do you do when you’re not selling tea?
My husband and I have two kids, ages 3 and 5, and I am very protective of my free time. So, in my evenings and weekends I don’t work, I just soak them up. I also run and do yoga and cross-fit.
What was the last good book you read?
The best book I’ve ever read is called Shantaram [by Gregory David Roberts]. It’s about a guy who has an unbelievable journey in the slums of India. It was epic and mind-blowing, and I cried when I finished it. That had never happened to me before.
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