By Anne-Harris Jones
Photography Courtesy of Kusmi Tea
Every aspect of the Kusmi brand—from its bold packaging to unique blends—demonstrates the impact the past has on tea and its remarkable possibilities for the future. “You don’t need to be a tea specialist to enjoy drinking tea,” says Sylvain Orbei, owner of Kusmi Tea. “Tea is a matter of desire at a certain moment.” Merging creative insight and a fresh perspective with Kusmi’s Old-World legacy, Sylvain has created a unique line of specialty teas.
The company’s exuberant style and century-old recipes are the creation of master blender Pavel Kousmichoff. A young Russian peasant in 1847, Pavel was working as a deliveryman for a tea boutique when he caught the owner’s attention with his ability to blend teas. For many years, Pavel studied and learned the art of tea combinations. He eventually married the daughter of a rich paper merchant and received the wedding gift of a lifetime from his boss: his own tea store. Over the next few decades, Pavel and his son expanded the business, opening more than 50 stores throughout Europe.
French businessman Sylvain Orbei purchased the brand in 2004 and shortened the name from Kousmichoff to Kusmi. He then began increasing and modernizing the lines of teas to appeal to new market trends while respecting the company’s rich heritage. “I always see myself as the next of the three generations of Kousmichoffs who created and made the brand. It’s in this state of mind that I create teas and that I manage the brand,” Sylvain says.
The tradition of artisan tea making continues in the Russian Blends line, which includes such beloved blends as Prince Vladimar, Anastasia, St. Petersburg, and Kashmir Tchai. Imperial Label, a combination of Sencha green tea, sea buckthorn berries, and various spices, is one of Kusmi’s most popular tea blends. Inspired by an ancient Russian hot drink called Sbiten, it is among Sylvain’s favorites and has attracted the attention of tea connoisseurs, health enthusiasts, and tea newcomers.
“We still try to create new flavors and surprise our customers with new tastes,” Sylvain says. Kusmi Tea’s Green, Herbal, and Wellness lines are specially blended with premium ingredients to purify and invigorate the body. Tea drinkers are able to cleanse their bodies with Detox, invigorate their senses with Sweet Love, relax with Be Cool, and stimulate their minds and bodies with Boost. The newest addition to the company’s product offerings is a collection of 12 different blends that Sylvain enjoys drinking iced at home, among them, Strawberry-Green and Ginger-Lemon.
As the Paris-based company grows and opens stores in the United States, more Americans are discovering the exciting options Kusmi has to offer. The flagship store in Manhattan opened last year, and since then, many boutiques have begun adding Kusmi tea to their inventories. The 2010 Emmy Awards gift bag and the gifting suite for the Golden Globe Awards both included a variety of the blends. Since then, many stars have become frequent drinkers of Kusmi tea. However, Sylvain does not attribute the popularity of the brand to such celebrities: “. . . our success lies in unknown people loving it.”
To learn more about Kusmi and to purchase any of its products, go to kusmitea.com.