Born in Baghdad, Iraq, Ahmed Rahim, his older sister Reem Hassani and their family fled to Cleveland when they were ages three and five, respectively, to escape the social injustice of Saddam Hussein. At home, the two youngest siblings in a family of six spoke Arabic, ate Iraqi food and often talked about introducing ‘Numi,’ Iraqi’s drink of hospitality, to Americans. In 1999, that faraway dream became a reality when Numi Organic Tea was born.
“We loved the idea of blending our Arabic heritage with Western culture. We also love tea and the community culture it fosters,” Hassani explains. “Growing up, we would often talk about introducing Iraq’s drink of hospitality, Dry Desert Lime, to Americans. The word for this lime in Arabic is numi, so we named our company after this symbol of hospitality and community.
“Dry Desert Lime was one of our first SKUs,” she continues. “We were also the first to introduce organic herbs such as rooibos, honeybush and lemon myrtle in tea bags to the U.S. market. Right away, people gravitated to our teas for their health properties, and the fact that we used real, natural ingredients without the addition of fragrances or flavorings.”
Based in Oakland, Calif., Numi Organic Tea’s co-founders use their diverse talent to guide the 35-person company. Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Rahim is a trained alchemist, an ancient practice that served as the precursor to chemistry. Thus, he is responsible for sourcing the 130-plus ingredients used in the company’s teas, and working with his “essential partners,” the 14,000-plus farmers in 34 countries around the world who farm the tea fields and source the ingredients.
A professional filmmaker and photographer, Rahim also speaks five languages: English, Arabic, Czech, French and German. He notes that a lifetime of global travel to China, India, South America, Africa and more has taught him the importance of building deep relationships within the Numi supply chain.
“When I travel to other herb- and tea-growing countries around the world, I focus on building partnerships with farmers and learning about their cultures and communities,” he says. “Part of the strength of our business is based on these meaningful partnerships we have developed based on mutual gratitude.
“As a lover of herbs and plants, as well as cooking, it became an intimate process to taste the nuances and imagine what people would enjoy, given the trends and unique herbs in the world. I love to travel and am lucky to have the opportunity to visit ancient tribes and cultures where teas, herbs, spices and other plants are integral to society,” Rahim continues.
An artist by trade, Hassani is the company’s chief brand officer and artist, who oversees Numi’s brand identity, including packaging design, campaign development and the look and feel of all marketing elements. The packaging of Numi Organic Tea has evolved during the past 21 years, she says.
“All of our early tea boxes had my paintings on them, some inspired by my brother’s photography,” Hassani explains. “I love the process of creating something from nothing — envisioning a product and then seeing it come to life. With my background in design and branding, I enjoy being able to give voice to a product.
“At the beginning of 2020, after 20 years in business, Numi launched a brand refresh featuring a bright, bold, ingredients-focused look. We saw an opportunity to solidify our brand personality and points of difference in a crowded category and stand out on shelf, all while maintaining our values,” she continues.
An oasis of health
The company’s initial launch of it caffeine-free Dry Desert Lime in 18-count boxes of tea bags featured the refreshing, tart, citrusy numi, a Middle Eastern dried lime that Rahim and Hassani drank growing up. The complex, hydrating fruit has been eaten for centuries to prevent heart disease, promote a healthy digestion and contains minerals and vitamins C and D.
Numi Organic Tea is available in six types — Black, Green, White, Herbal, Puerh, and Turmeric. Among its offerings are Herbal Teasans, available in 12-, 16- and 18-count boxes of bagged USDA-certified organic, non-GMO teas in 11 flavors: Bamboo, Hibiscus, Mate, Moringa, Tulsi, Chamomile Lemon, Dry Desert Lime, Honeybush, Moroccan Mint, Rooibos and Rooibos Chai. In addition to tea bags, Chamomile Lemon, Rooibos Chai and Moroccan Mint are offered in loose-leaf varieties.
The company offers a plethora of Fair Trade-certified products, including 32 SKUs of bagged and loose-leaf teas; five flavors of Daily Super Shots; eight bottled iced teas; six powders and concentrates; and four Drinking Chocolates, which are set to debut this summer.
“We have a new line of Drinking Chocolates coming out this summer, and we’re excited to jump into this new category with four delicious, functional SKUs,” the CEO explains. “Our Drinking Chocolates are crafted from pure organic dark chocolate and blended with functional ingredients. They are available in four SKUs: Touch of Chili, Dash of Salt, Kick of Mocha and Shroom Power, and are all vegan, paleo-friendly and gluten free. Drinking Chocolates are a decadent treat rich in cacao, a true superfood containing more antioxidants than blueberries.
“We’re also known for our line of healing turmeric and puerh teas,” Rahim continues. “Turmeric is used as a balancing ingredient in Ayurvedic diets and is associated with many health benefits. We were one of the first to introduce turmeric teas to the United States.”
Numi is distributed nationally and internationally in more than 50 countries and has seen healthy double-digit growth the past 10 years. “You can find Numi in smaller natural and specialty grocers, as well as large chains like Whole Foods, Safeway, Albertsons, Sprouts, Kroger, Target and Costco,” Hassani says.
The company’s vision — “to inspire well-being of mind, body and spirit through the simple art of tea” — continues to increase demand for the company’s “purest, best-tasting organic teas.”
As an extension of Numi Organic Tea’s ethos, the company’s latest campaign coincided with a brand refresh: Activating Purpose.
“It speaks to our deep sense of responsibility, intention and optimism,” Hassani explains. “Through interactive engagement, Numi can encourage, support and empower our consumers and community to activate their purpose and make positive change in their lives, on the planet and in the world.”
The company’s “give back” mantra is amplified through its 2009-created Numi Foundation and the Together for H2OPE project, which, to date, has installed 23 wells and provided clean drinking water for more than 10,000 people in four countries, including Madagascar, from which its turmeric teas are sourced.
“Together for H2OPE is a unique program because it’s led by the farmers and their communities, with long-term plans to maintain water access for future generations,” Rahim says. “We worked with the local villagers to help install 23 wells right outside their homes, connecting them to clean, safe drinking water for the first time.
“Sharing these delicious, healthy indigenous ingredients with the world while supporting farmers and their families with fair wages and community development projects is one of the best parts of my job and one of the foundations of our company,”