It’s Russian, It’s French, It’s Kusmi Tea

Kusmi Tea is one of the long-timers (by Western standards) in the world of tea, having been founded in 1867 by Pavel Michailovitch Kousmichoff (where the name “Kusmi” comes from). Fifty years later, the company moved to France because of the Russian Revolution. Today, their headquarters is still in Paris and they have stores throughout France, as well as many in other European countries. They opened their first US store in (of course) Manhattan on June 30, 2010. You don’t have to travel to the Big Apple, though, to enjoy their products. You can go to a variety of stores in several states or to their online store.

The current (since 2003) President of Kusmi Tea is Sylvain Oberi, who was born in Cairo, Egypt, and received his college diploma in Paris. He has been injecting new life into the company and increasing its international presence, mainly by playing up to the idea that drinking tea is healthy and by expanding the offerings of flavored teas.

Branding is something that sets Kusmi apart from the crowd. Their tins, boxes, and tea-related products (such as a specially-designed shopping tote) have a very distinctive look.

The company has fans among the glitterati of Hollywood. Personally, I find this inconsequential when deciding if I want to try their teas or not, especially considering the ignorant fashion in which tea drinking is portrayed 99% of the time in films. Also, when it comes to tea, celebrities are the last people to look to for recommendations. They live a lifestyle very different from most of us. How could they possibly know what you or I would find soothing or the perfect complement for a blueberry scone?

Kusmi is a big promoter of flavored teas, something that hubby and I are finding less and less appealing as we experience the various subtleties and nuances of the flavors of quality straight teas. I had suggested some teas to send, purposely avoiding these flavored teas, especially those blended with other plant matter such as maté. What arrived were three of the “straight” teas off my list (two of them were bagged, not loose) and two flavored teas (Spicy Chocolate Tea and Detox Tea). The company Website doesn’t list what spices are in the Spicy Chocolate, so I had to ask, being allergic to some things typically put in such flavored teas. They wouldn’t say, which is quite odd considering that most tea vendors I have seen list what’s in their blends, so I see no reason to chance it.

The Detox Tea is something they’ve come up with to purportedly improve your health. I’m also waffling on whether to try this one or not. Like many tea vendors, Kusmi has lots of health claims but no links to studies to support these nor do the PR people think there is any issue there. They said that such beneficial properties were “well established.” My online research popped up only two studies, showing limited benefits mainly in the area of throat cancer. [I heard that the US FDA has ruled that tea companies cannot make such claims nor post links to medical studies on their sites.]

Sadly, the company is one of many that lumps such beverages as Rooibos in with teas. Tea is made from the Camellia Sinensis bush or one of its varietals. Rooibos (red bush) is a separate species altogether. Fortunately, none of the samples I received contain rooibos. Hubby and I have totally given up on it.

We look forward to trying the straight teas that were sent but wish they carried more premium teas and fewer teas that have everything but the kitchen sink added to them. Come to think of it, since Kusmi doesn’t list ingredients, there could very well be pieces of kitchen sink in some of these. (Kidding!)

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