This week, we had the pleasure of sitting down with the remarkable Chi Nguyen. Nguyen is the founder of one of our favorite wellness brands, Purpose Teas. Keep reading to hear about her journey to success, including her recap of immigrating to the United States, how she started Purpose Teas, and her goals and intentions for the company.
You also do not want to miss out on our exclusive Instagram Live event with Chi coming up on Thursday, April 1st.
What is Purpose Tea?
Purpose Tea is a delicious drink that was created to push forward goodness and health all over the world. Purpose Tea’s founder, Chi Nguyen, has a vision for a world where people consume products that support a more equitable society. One motive that is particularly strong for Nguyen is to empower and provide resources for the impoverished women who pick tea leaves in Kenya.
What is Purple Tea?
Purple tea is created by purple tea leaves that are exclusively grown in Kenya, at elevations of 4500-7500 feet. The high elevation that these leaves are grown at allows for the plants to be exposed to higher intensities of sunlight, and therefore, creates the unique color and composition of purple tea.
“It’s just like purple foods, like blueberry and acai; it has a lot of antioxidants that no other tea has.”
Purple tea is extraordinarily high in antioxidants – one serving of purple tea contains higher levels of antioxidants than blueberries or green tea would be able to provide for you. Purple tea can also help improve neurological cell function, and lower glucose levels in the body, which is ideal for those who struggle with diabetes. If you want to learn more about the health benefits of purple tea, take a look at Chi’s Purpose Tea website!
“Tea is Kenya’s largest economic driver,” Nguyen explains, “It’s their largest export, typically black tea. With purple tea, the leaves are actually purple. There were some green tea bushes that were turning purple, and this caused concern at first. Studies were conducted, and it was realized that the leaves were producing anthocyanins to protect themselves from UV rays. Purple tea is grown in high elevations, so this was naturally occurring.”
What does it Taste Like?
Purple tea is perfect when you need a refreshing, thirst quenching beverage. It’s also enjoyable to sip on throughout the day. If you’re looking for a smooth, floral and slightly earthy flavor profile, you will love Purpose Teas.
Interview with Chi Nguyen
Q: How were you introduced to purple tea?
A: “When I started the company, I really only had one idea in mind, which was to drive positive change to the world. I was an addicted tea drinker; I’d always drank tea all my life for the health and functional benefits. In general, I relate tea to good health. When I decided to start Purpose Tea, I wanted to empower women in the developing world. When I was doing my research, I decided to go to Kenya – it’s the 3rd largest tea grower in the world. When I went to Kenya, our host was telling us about a new product that they’d commercialized. I was excited because I’d never even heard of it. Of course, I was super excited to bring to market something that was really innovative and unique for the American public.”
Q: What are some of the common misconceptions about drinking tea?
A: “Most people don’t really understand how tea is processed, or that the bushes are actually green – they just know tea because they drink it. There is a bit of a reeducation around what teas are and where they come from. Purple tea is the only tea that comes from purple tea leaves.”
Q: I noticed on your website that you talked about working hard to find the opportunity to improve your life. Can you talk more about this experience, and also how Purpose Tea works to provide opportunities?
A: “When I think about this, I think more of earned opportunities and a level of luck and circumstance. For us, a lot of it is really a part of my story. The reasons why I started Purpose Tea includes two things. First, my story with my family, and how we came to this country. I’m one of six, my family immigrated to the states in ‘78. My mom was 9 months pregnant with my youngest sister, and we had to escape Vietnam so we could make a better life. We didn’t have anything when we got to the states. We had some help from a Lutheran church that sponsored us. That experience, coupled with hard work and strong family values opened the door for our family, and we all have had opportunities to do something that improved our lives. To think we were able to do all of this in one generation – it’s compelling. That experience, if anything was so formative, and changed my worldview forever. I think that everyone, no matter what color, gender, or circumstance that you’re in, you want the same things – safety, security, dignity, access to opportunity. When you have access to opportunity, you can improve your life and the lives of the people around you. We were afforded that opportunity with hard work and immigrating to the US; I want to pay it forward and build a world that I want to live in, and I want to do that in a way that is sustainable. That’s why I built a for profit social enterprise – it’s a self-sustaining model through the sales of our teas, which will support the impact of what we want to make with the women who are picking our teas.”
“Wanting these things translates to anyone, no matter where you are. It’s unfortunate that these women have put up with barriers that keep them from living an empowered and dignified life. We value the work they do. I think a lot of people forget. We definitely don’t want any exploitative business practices, but we want to give credit where credit is due. For us, we’re hyper focused on making sure that we can help empower these women to be financially independent. That’s the point of what we are trying to do, we’re focused on that piece of it. 5% of our gross profits goes to these women trying to get an education, learning about nutrition, as well as financial education. A large part of this includes providing access to Land – land is 95% owned by men in Kenya, because it’s passed down generationally to sons. It’s an empowering asset. We want to ensure that. I didn’t come up with this, a lot of these programs and ideas came from these women themselves, after many brainstorming sessions.”
Q: How can we create more awareness around the ethics of buying tea?
A: “With the internet, there’s so much access to information, and there’s been a rise of responsible consumers; people who do care about where the food is sourced and where it comes from. From a trends perspective, I think people expect that level of transparency. It’s really hard because you rely on information from companies, and it’s hard to know who’s trustworthy. These workers, they don’t unionize, they don’t have a lot of power, or time in order to do so. Without them doing that, it’s hard to know. That’s changing – Unilever has a ton of tea estates, and they have really changed their corporate responsibility initiatives. It got out that their practices and worker conditions, where they were living, and how they were being treated was really bad. They were getting a lot of backlash for that, so they reformed. I think it has to start at the ground level, and with companies like ours. We’re trying to shed light on the idea that this person is playing a role in what you drink in what you eat and they deserve recognition and dignity. It also starts with consumers demanding and asking questions.”
Q: What do you do to relieve stress?
A: “I love yoga, I like being active; it helps clear my head. I also enjoy spending a ton of time with my family and reading. Sometimes, I’ll read or watch a show to escape. Those are all very stress-relieving activities that I like to participate in.”
If you’ve found yourself inspired by Chi’s story and mission with Purpose Teas, join us for our Instagram Live event coming up on Thursday, April 1st. You won’t want to miss this special opportunity to hear more about the incredible work Chi has been doing, and will continue to strive towards.