Q&A: Ricci Tea's Alexa Ricci Talks Tea Trends, Startup Success

Alexa Ricci – founder of Ricci Tea, based in N.Y.C. – launched her premium loose-leaf tea company after being laid off from the rippling effects of COVID-19 and travel restrictions (Ricci previously worked in the hospitality and business travel industry).

Ricci’s company offers premium, all natural, ethically sourced loose-leaf teas from around the world. Her company’s mission is to impact and enhance its customers’ health and well-being by promoting the health benefits of tea and fine herbs, for protecting heart health, boosting energy, aiding weight loss, supporting mental health, regulating blood sugar and aiding digestion into one’s daily routine.

World Tea News chats with Ricci to learn more about her new business, to get her thoughts on tea trends, and to learn how she stayed motivated when launching the online venture during a global pandemic.

Question: What attracted you to the tea industry, and why did you want to launch a tea business?

Answer: I founded the business in 2021. I had decided that I was going to start a small business when I lost my job due to COVID-19. I was a corporate business travel sales manager for a renowned hospitality company, and when travel was restricted, I lost my position. From the worldwide health crisis and deadly virus to not being able to find work in my industry, it all resulted in high levels of stress and anxiety for me. I could feel that my health was compromised, and I wanted to make a difference for myself and for others, which led me to drink more tea during the pandemic.

I found relaxation and calming qualities when drinking tea with certain herbs, and I felt the sensation of steeping into tranquility. From this, I wanted to share my self-care remedy and help others by starting my own loose-leaf tea business, to improve the psychological and physical well-being of others. Loose leaf tea also offers comprehensive flavors and soothing fragrances that all can enjoy.

Question: How did you educate yourself about tea?

Answer: I was always a tea fan, but I grew deeper into it as I learned more about the health and wellness of the benefits that tea could provide. This led me to find and source the highest quality tea ingredients from many different tea harvests from around the world.

Educating myself on teas, I learned that teas have high levels of antioxidants, polyphenols and catechins. With the worldwide health crisis and high levels of anxiety, I searched for holistic remedies to boost immunity, a better way to fight off infection and disease. I learned that herbs and flowers, such as chamomile, have an antioxidant called apigenin, which is used to calm nerves, induce relaxation and reduce anxiety. I incorporated tea into my daily routine, to enhance an overall healthier lifestyle. Certain herbs and flowers have different medicinal properties. Detox teas can help attempt to expunge toxins from the body, often by speeding up digestion. Some ingredients that are helpful are burdock and dandelion roots, juniper berry, lemongrass, turmeric, licorice root, goji berries and burdock. Many ingredients help stimulate the liver to promote detoxification. There are so many beneficial properties to teas and herbs, and so many things to educate yourself about when it comes to tea.

Question: What can you tell us about the teas or tea products your company offers?

Answer: We have a curated selection of black, flavored black, chai, green, flavored green, herbal, matcha, oolong, herbal and white teas.

In addition, we also have carefully curated gift boxes. I created an Initiation Box that has one tea from each category of tea, including one green tea, one black tea, one white tea, one herbal tea, one chai tea, and one rooibos tea, so people can explore different categories of tea types that they may have never tried before. This allows them to expand their palate on trying a variety of teas.

I also curated an “Overall Wellness Box,” which has a digestion blend, detox blend, arthritic blend, restorative blend, beauty and skin blend, and a sleep aid blend for all of your wellness needs. I wanted to include different functionality teas in this box.

Our “Work From Home Box” offers a memory tea to help you focus, Wellness Energy for when you need a boost of energy, Wellness Serenity for when you need a tranquil peaceful break, French Blend with lavender that offers a soothing aromatherapy from the smell of the tea, Jasmine with Flowers for an antioxidant boost, and Cinnamon for your mid-day sweet craving treat.

For our “Refreshing Box,” I included fruit forward flavors that are great warm or iced. Included are Blueberry, Peach Apricot, Cranberry Orange, Passion Fruit, Lemon Green and Strawberry Kiwi.

We also just launched our “Build Your Own Box,” where you can pick your 6 favorite teas and have your own customized box to your liking!

Question: How do you source your teas and ingredients?

Answer: We source the highest quality tea ingredients from many different tea harvests from around the world. We always source from tea plantations that share the same values as us in terms of sustainability and ensuring safe and fair work environments. Additionally, we source accordingly to the region of the tea plant’s region, such as rooibos, which is made from red bush plant from South Africa. Many of our black, green and white teas are native from Japan, China, India, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. All of our ingredients – and origins of those ingredients – are listed on our packaging and on our website. We strive to bring the highest quality, most flavorful teas to our customers from different regions around the world – packaged under our own private label.

Question: Where are your customers primarily based? And what creative things have you done to promote your business and build your customer base?

Answer: Our customers are based nationwide, since we are an e-commerce business, and we do not have a specific region to which our customers are primarily based. We put a lot of effort into our website, making it as user-friendly, mobile friendly, easy to navigate, and as clean looking as possible. We also wanted to make it as informative as possible. Creatively, we spent a long time taking photos of our teas, to exhibit the beauty of the tea, as a form of art within themselves, displayed in a circular manner like a mandala. A mandala generally represents the spiritual journey, starting from outside of the inner core, through layers. Our teas are premium and they deserve a premium presentation to show off their beauty in their fullest form!

In addition to our beautiful website, we also built a beautiful Instagram profile and a beautiful Facebook page.

Ricci Tea Loose Leaf
(Photo: Courtesy of Ricci Tea)

Question: How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your business? And have you seen more customers discover tea during the pandemic?

Answer: COVID has played a huge role in our business; in fact, it is the reason I started the business. Yes, the pandemic has certainly made people like myself more in touch with self-care awareness and the desire to improve their overall health and well-being with natural remedies such as drinking more premium loose leaf tea.

Question: When you launched your business, what startup challenges did you face and how did you overcome those challenges?

Answer: Some start up challenges that I have endured include patience – as it takes time for an idea to come to life. It takes time for that idea to become a business. Understanding and accepting that it takes time for a business to become an entity and flourish and grow throughout the many steps is important. It takes time to launch. The pre-planning is just the beginning!

Being in startup mode, you wear many hats as a sole proprietor, and there are a lot of different jobs you will have to manage. Finding the balance on each responsibility takes time to learn, but with experience, it will become second nature and you can manage these tasks more efficiently.

Expenses are always higher than you originally account for. There are always add-ons and additions that you don’t think of initially, which will cost you more than you thought and planned for. Again, experience will overcome that challenge for future planning.

The challenge of simply not giving up is key. There are times when you feel like folding because of the amount of tasks you have on your plate, which could be overwhelming. Instead, you have to remind yourself of how much you have done, how far you have come, and envision where you still want to go – keep the faith that it will all happen. Keep your focus and ambition strong.

Building a business is hard, especially from scratch. It is not a walk in the park. For most, there will be a struggle getting everything started and organized, as ideas continuously flow and as you expand on new ideas. It may seem never ending, but it can be very rewarding if you keep pushing yourself. That is the most joyous part of creating your own business. The results are endless.

Question: What tea trends are you paying attention to right now?

Answer: Currently, we are paying attention to iced tea trends, as this is the season for iced teas. Many customers have found our “How to Make Cold Brew Tea” tutorial video beneficial, which is on our YouTube channel. It shows how easy it is to make and how refreshing it is to drink.

Additionally, we continue to pay attention to functional teas that are dedicated to improve a specific health need, such as arthritis. We have a blend, “Head to Toes,” that helps with inflammation to the joints. Wellness blends play such an important part of our lives now, especially coming from a pandemic. More and more people are becoming more health conscious, and they’d like to improve their daily routine by incorporating high levels of antioxidants into their diet and lifestyle. Specific herbal blends cater to functional needs, such as detox, digestion, sleep aid or even for beauty and skin. The benefits of quality loose leaf teas and their ingredients nurtures to an array of functions and are appreciated and sought after by many our customers.

Question: What’s been your biggest success with your business thus far?

Answer: I would say everything has been a success with my business. Our product is high quality, and not only is it exhibited and depicted that way, the ingredients we acquire for our brand are high quality. The educational aspect of informing customers on why they should drink loose leaf teas has been a success – sharing the great benefits they can endure has also been a great success.

Question: What’s your best advice for other entrepreneurs that want to start a tea business?

Answer: It is lot of work, as starting any business is, but the main advice would be to keep going and listen to yourself on your vision to make it happen. There are always going to be twists and turns along the way, but as you go and look back at all the steps you did, it will be one of the highest levels of achievement ever felt because you know YOU did it!

It’s a lot being a website designer, graphic designer, revenue manager, supply chain manager, inventory manager, package designer, social media manager and sales and marketing manager all in one and juggling it all. However, this gives you the ability to understand what it takes to start your own business from scratch and makes you more well-rounded as an individual, learning all aspects of starting a business that no one else can teach you. This is an opportunity of learning what works and what doesn’t work, how to problem solve, and it offers a greater perspective on the full cycle of the business.

Question: Do you plan to sell to retailers or wholesale purchasers in the future?

Answer: Yes, of course we do! We offer a contact page on our website for wholesale inquires.

Question: Thanks for your time! Last question. What do you love the most about tea?

Answer: I love that tea offers a source of a daily dose of tranquiliTEA! As our tag line is “Steep into Tranquility,” having the opportunity to experience this and incorporate it into my daily routine is what I love most about tea, in addition to the full flavor and benefits that loose leaf tea has to offer.

To learn more about Ricci Tea, visit RicciTea.com.