For Leonard Nima, tea isn’t simply a refreshing drink. Rather, it’s a discipline that’s meant to be explored – so much so that he started his own tea company based in San Gabriel.
“At a certain point of time, an event happens that triggers you to think: I could do something better, or this is wrong and it needs to be fixed right way,” Nima said. “There was just this whole empty area of places that could have been something like this – a company that likes creative, risk-taking flavors endeavors.”
To fill this gap, Nima started Ruby Lion, an e-commerce tea company that sells directly to consumers. “We are trying to cover different emotional spectrums, which, I know, sounds crazy,” Nima said. “We have our typical mint green for that refreshing drink during a hot summer day, along with a black tea spiced with large cinnamon chunks with cut out shreds of coconut with a sprayed-on essence of rum. This has a very pirate-free feel to it.”
While Nima’s descriptions of tea are certainly unconventional, his company wants to reinvent how its patrons experience tea and tea culture by upending the traditional tea bag. “There’s just a lack of places that could undertake creative, risk-taking endeavors,” Nima said. “That fun exploration factor of tea is gone and we’re used to the convenience of tea bags.”
Though convenient, Nima asserts that tea bags don’t allow tea leaves to grow, sacrificing the integrity and taste of the tea in favor of portability.
Served in traditional tin cans, Ruby Lion’s tea includes several introductory flavors – some traditional, while others less conventional. Traditional flavors – such as mint green tea and signature black tea – will be offered alongside some more experimental items such as a floral dessert flavor which combines cardamom pods and powdered cardamom alongside whole rose buds.
To create these flavors, Nima uses tea leaves sourced from a tea network based in Las Vegas that allows him to harness tea growers from across the globe. “We believe in fair trade tea, where we benefit the farmers who actually go and harvest the tea.”
As for a storefront, Nima hopes that time will eventually come. “Traditionally, a storefront would be most ideal so that people can come in and touch the product and while the hope is that one day we’ll be able to do that, situations don’t allow for it just yet,” Nima notes. “So, at the moment, we’re offering it through e-commerce, but there would be a day that we would like to get in front of people. We’ve been toying the idea of a mobile café.”
While Nima will rely on e-commerce to get his business off the grand, those that are interested in experiencing Ruby Lion’s flavors can come to this year’s Lunar New Year Festival on February 10. “This is our first foray to get in front of people, and I’m very excited for that,” Nima said. “I’ll be putting out samples so that people can try it out.”
You can visit Ruby Lion Tea at this year’s Lunar New Year Festival on February 10 in the Mission District. The yearly festival combines tradition with modern celebrations, offering a wide variety of food, live entertainment, carnival games, arts, and crafts in the heart of the San Gabriel Mission District.