What started as a childhood love of a specific type of tea between a brother and sister grew over the years to become a successful, eco-friendly tea business.
“We used to drink a tea called numi in Arabic when we were children, from Iraq which is where we were born. It’s a dry desert lime.” says Numi Tea m co-founder Reem Rahim.
Fifteen years ago, Reem had been studying art in Northern California, exhibiting her work around the world in San Francisco, New York City, Melbourne, and Florence. Her brother Ahmed Rahim owned and operated a tea house in Europe.
They were reminiscing about the numi tea they’d both enjoyed as children, as well as lamenting that conventional US tea brands lacked a unique selection, as well as quality and consistency.
“We both sparked on the idea at the same time of importing this lime to the US,” says Reem. “We infused our passions together to form Numi Tea.
It was two artists getting together.” Numi was their first tea, and it’s now their signature blend. From there, Ahmed and Reem decided to introduce more unique teas to the American market.
Ahmed became the chief alchemist, responsible for the creation of Numi Tea’s products. Reem became Numi’s creative director in charge of the brand identity. Sales took off almost immediately, thanks to the unique line of flavors and to Reem’s elegant packaging designs.
“All of the tea boxes had my paintings on them, some inspired by my brother’s photography,” she says. In addition, Numi’s packaging has been a forerunner in the eco-friendly world. The company doesn’t use wasteful plastic overwrap on its boxes or plastic content in its tea bags.
Numi tea bags are made from hemp-based unbleached filter paper and are biodegradable and home compostable. From the start, the Rahim siblings knew that their company had to be more than just a seller of tea. Shortly after launching the company, “We converted all our tea to be organic and are now the largest importer of Fair Trade tea in the country,” says Reem.
“We’re very sustainable in our values. From the bag to the box everything is recyclable. We’re really on the forefront of sustainability.”
All of Numi Tea’s products are certified organic. More than half of its teas are Fair Trade Certified™, meaning that the tea plantations are independently monitored to ensure that workers labor under healthy and fair conditions, earning a living wage along with extra funds to improve their communities.
Its Puerh teas—a type of tea that comes from 500-year-old trees and undergoes special fermentation—bear a special “Fair Labor Practices” seal, which Numi commissioned for ingredients that couldn’t be certified under the Fair Trade Certified™ program.
Under Numi’s fair labor certification, the tea plantations are monitored by SCS Global Services, the same independent monitor behind Fair Trade Certification, FSC certification, and other respected certification programs.
“Numi Tea is rooted in the principle of creating a healthful product that nurtures people and honors the planet,” says Reem.
“We are committed to constantly improving not only our social sustainability, but that within our industry and beyond.”
Numi Tea is also the first and only company to have its packaging and Puerh tea bags verified by the Non-GMO Project as containing only trace amounts genetically modified ingredients, allowing for accidental contamination via wind pollination.
And the company recently launched a water initiative to raise awareness on the global water scarcity issues. “We realized tea without water is nothing. There are almost a billion people on the planet that don’t have access to clean drinking water and we take that for granted every day,” says Reem.
“So we are starting a water initiative where we would donate some of our own profits to a nonprofit [working on water issues], and we are also throwing tea parties to raise awareness on global water scarcity issues.” Reem believes the benefits of drinking Numi Tea far surpass the drink itself.
“It’s about the taste and experience. And it’s also the fact that you’re buying a brand that has a purpose rather than just selling tea,” she says.