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TUESDAY, Aug. 30 — Newby Teas, an international luxury tea brand, is opening its first North American office in East Lansing. The effort to bring the company to mid-Michigan is spearheaded by Raji Singh, an MSU alum and brand ambassador for Newby Teas.“I had the opportunity to open an office in New York, L.A. or Chicago, but for me it just made sense to start in an area where we have a strong and supportive community and so close to an educational institution,” Singh said.
The company, founded in 2000 by Nirmal Sethia, was created to fight what Sethia saw as a cheapening of tea culture. Mass-marketed tea bags and consumer tea drinks, in his opinion, use inferior ingredients and distort the public’s view of the drink.
“The interesting thing about Newby is that this is Mr. Sethia’s passion business,” Singh said. “It’s not his main source of business. He doesn’t need the money. He’s always loved tea, and he wants to leave a legacy behind. He’s trying to bring back that beauty and revive that tea culture and really educate people on the difference between fine tea and mediocre tea.”
Since its debut 16 years ago, Newby Teas has become an international company with offices in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. The tea company won’t have a retail store in East Lansing, but it plans on opening an online boutique in early September and will sell its teas to luxury hotels. Newby Teas plans to eventually open an education facility in East Lansing.
“We are very interested in educating North America and the world about luxury tea,” Singh said. “We’ll be able to host classes and it’ll be a resource center for the community.”
Singh, who discovered Newby Teas two years ago on a trip to Europe, never planned on getting into the tea business.
“I graduated from James Madison (College at MSU) in 2014, and I really didn’t know what I wanted to do,” Singh said. “Through family relations, I had an opportunity to go to London, and while I was there I was introduced to this company. I wasn’t expecting to fall in love with it, but I did. I’ve made it my own personal mission.”
The company invited the public to sample its products at the Broad Art Museum last week and over 130 people showed up. Singh thinks the company has an opportunity to make a significant impact in the U.S.
“I think it’s a great time to be in North America, because we’re a coffee drinking nation, but tea is really on the rise and it has been in the last 10 years,” Singh said. “People are interested in specialty tea and specialty products in general — especially the millennials, because we’re more concerned about what we’re putting into our body. People are gearing away from these big corporations that are more interested in mass markets and mass producing.”
On a personal level, Singh is excited to be back in mid-Michigan.
“I’m happy that I’m able to bring something back to East Lansing, because the city has been trying to grow and trying to be more than just a university town,” she said. “It’s very nice to be able to start one of the biggest chapters in my life with this strong support team.”