Choice Organic Teas was founded 30 years ago as the first exclusively organic tea line. The company employed 30 people at the 18,000 square foot Seattle office where it produced 50 different varieties of tea. East West Tea Company LLC is a privately held venture headquartered in Springfield, Ore. with offices and manufacturing facilities in Eugene, Ore., Hamburg, Germany, and Imola, Italy.
East West Tea did not respond to a request for comment.
Yogi Tea was established by Yogi Bhajan, a Kundalini yoga instructor who served tea after yoga workouts beginning in the 1960s. Students named the brew “Yogi Tea.” It was served in restaurants founded by the Sikh Dharma community beginning in 1984. East West, founded in 1972 in Los Angeles, is owned by the Sikh Dharma religious community. The company relocated to Eugene in 1992 and added production facilities in 2008.
Yogi Tea is the No. 1 selling tea in U.S. natural food channels. The company produces 60 different teas.
In recent years East West Tea expanded its operations, constructing a 180,000-square-foot factory that opened in 2018, the largest new industrial building in Eugene in nearly a decade. The 13-acre site can accommodate more growth, including a 70,000-square-foot addition. The company named Giancarlo Marcaccini CEO in January of that year. Yogi Tea employs 135 people in the U.S.
Choice was founded 35 years ago by Blake Rankin, an importer of Japanese natural and macrobiotic foods. The company specialized in fine tea in 1989 and by 2005 was the first tea company to be certified under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Organic Program (NOP).
Granum Inc., founded by Rankin, established organic tea plantations in Sri Lanka and India to supply the company. Fifteen years later Rankin told The Puget Sound Business Journal the company was growing at 20% per year and grossing $10 million in sales.
Choice Organic Teas has been at the forefront of fine, eco-friendly tea ever since. It was first to offer Fair Trade Certified™ teas, and the first tea company to be Non-GMO Project Verified. The Seattle facility had a small environmental footprint, with recycled board, and energy-conserving wind power.
The company’s reputation for high quality ingredients and well-balanced blends was based on “discerning sourcing and close relationships with gardens around the world makes it possible for us to offer a wide range of both unique and traditional blends in tea bags and loose leaf.”
The company’s Choice Tea’s Shiitake Oolong was awarded a sofi Award by the Specialty Food Association in 2019. The company also produced a tea blended with the medicinal mushroom Reishi used by Shaolin monks to improve concentration.
East West was absolutely respectful and understanding what the employees were going though and very professional through the transition, according to workers.
“Our mission is to bring you the most flavorful teas available while making a positive social and environmental impact,” writes the company. It did so until the end and promises to continue under East West.
Source: Choice Organic Teas, The Puget Sound Business Journal