Brothers Kai and David Oredugba built upon their experiences as professional football players when forming their tea company, NYA TEA. NYA TEA stands for “Not Your Average Tea.” Nya also means “new” in Swedish. Here is why the name fits.
After playing college football for the University of California, Los Angeles, Kai—whose full name is Olukayode Oredugba—played professional arena football in New Orleans, Utah and San Jose and then played professional Canadian football for the Hamilton Tiger Cats in Ontario, Canada. David played college football for Northwestern University, and then played professionally for the Helsinki Roosters in Finland and Badalona Dracs in Catalonia, Spain.
Kai said playing football stretched their bodies and minds and gave them a great foundation, attention to detail and a work ethic, as well as the ability to inspire people, “This is what we’re all about.”
Kai’s introduction to tea happened during his junior and senior years of high school through an exchange program that took him to Fujinomiya and Naha, Japan. His host father trained him in karate and gave tea to Kai before and after each session. This experience formed the connection between tea and athletics and wellness. Then Kai introduced David to tea after returning to the U.S.
Kai explained how tea aided with the demands put on them as professional athletes. “Our bodies were taking a pounding and we wanted to keep up that level of competitiveness, so we utilized tea to keep us upbeat, focused and energized,” Kai said, “but on the flip side, it helped us with the recovery process, which is most important as an athlete.” While in Utah, he began making yerba mate blends for his teammates as an antidote to the challenging effects of competing at a high altitude; and over the years he continued to introduce other athletes he trained and mentored to the benefits of herbal tisanes and tea.
Additionally, David always had an interest in global commerce, bringing people together and creating communities. While playing football in Finland and Spain, he did a lot of community outreach by volunteering and coaching. He later began making herbal tea blends for individuals.
About four years ago Kai had a pivotal experience that motivated him to enter the tea business with his brother full-time. One evening, five of Kai’s male friends gathered at his house with the plan for a night on the town. One of Kai’s friends, who was accustomed to drinking sugary beverages and liquor, had a cold with some congestion. Kai gave an herbal blend to his friend, who drank it and said, “This is not your average tea. I don’t know what you put in it, but whatever it is—I want more.” Then, Kai’s other friends wanted some, too. “All the alcohol was pushed aside and teacups were placed,” Kai said, “and we went until about 3 in the morning, laughing, having the time of our lives bringing up old stories, new ideas and just connecting.” He said this evening was key in deciding to form NYA TEA. “If I can get five guys who are in their prime, looking to be out meeting people, to sit around a table drinking tea all night, I could probably get just about any person [to drink tea].”
Kai and David founded NYA TEA in 2016 in Glendale, California. The herbal blend Kai gave to his friend that night is now NYA TEA’s O.G. (Original Goodness) blend. They brought in their Malmo, Sweden-based friend and graphic designer Chuva Featherstone as creative director, who created NYA TEA’s label.
David added, “Seeing that level of enjoyment… that experience of how people’s perceptions can change. There’s a burgeoning market of people who want to love tea and just don’t know how to love it yet.” He said this is a common reaction to their teas. People taste the teas and say, “It’s different; I didn’t know tea could be like this. I didn’t know it could be something so enjoyable.”
The Oredugbas began testing out flavor profiles and herbs through pop up events and grassroots initiatives, and also did a lot of white label blending for other companies. Kai and David have made more than 300 different blends. The most popular blends are the 8 blends that became NYA TEA’s repertoire, currently sold on the company’s website: Nowness, Mercedes Gonzales, O.G., Nightshift, Bara Vara, Juni & Juli, Elysian Park and Kallis.
People are enjoying the look, aroma and taste of NYA TEAS.
One new blend that received strong positive public response at the recent World Tea Expo was the new lavender vanilla ashwagandha chai. This blend will be added to NYA TEA’s collection this year.
Another new blend with layers of flavors called Christmas in Jamaica was originally designed for an ultramarathon runner who wanted something balancing, energizing and refreshing without caffeine. It is a hibiscus turmeric blood orange pineapple blend, inspired by a crimson Jamaican beverage called sorrel.
They source teas and herbs from around the world, buying organic as often as possible. Their black tea is grown in Yunnan, China, they import rooibos from South Africa, purple tea from Kenya and green tea from the Shizuoka prefecture in Japan. They are constantly trying new herbs while paying attention to people’s reactions.
NYA TEA is an instrument that brings people together. Kai and David host Tea Talks at different locations in the United States and Europe at which people have conversations over tea, tea cocktails and tea-infused snacks about modern topics, such as the future of Bitcoin and the blockchain. The next Tea Talk will be held July 26 at Community, a handcrafter of premium shoes in downtown Los Angeles that gives back to the local community and has an event space. Another Tea Talk will be in Malmo, Sweden in October. They also serve tea at soup kitchens.
“NYA TEA is more than a drink, it’s more of a statement,” David said. “It represents those who are creative, those who strive to do better in the community, it’s a way of living.”
NYA TEA is currently distributed to cafes and restaurants and can be purchased online at ShopNYATEA.com.