Moving oolong: Loose-leaf tea company expanding in Pinellas

Teami Blends is the local tea biz with international reach you may not have heard of.

"It's my next experiment," Adi Halevy says of the leafy mixture inside her pink tumbler.

The Teami Blends CEO's mysterious concoction isn't something her locally based loose-leaf tea company carries yet, but it is one of the ways she comes up with new blends.

"That's the fun of it," she says. "I can make little experiments at home, and then actually make them. Make them in thousands."

Halevy, who lives and grew up in Clearwater, has been developing Teami with fellow co-founders Yogev Malul (head of creative) and Yair Piso (head of programming), who've worked together for years in the coffee industry, since October 2013. Because they each have a different skill set, she says she thinks of Malul as the painter, herself as the mind and Piso as the architect.

Before that, though, when Halevy met Malul on a whim during a girl's trip to Miami, she was a personal trainer and exercise class instructor. They talked, he asked what she did for a living, they exchanged numbers and left it at that.

A couple weeks later, Halevy got a call from Malul. He wanted to start a business together.

"I was a little bit tripped out. I was like, 'Who are you? Start a business with you? I don't know anything about having my own business yet other than doing my personal training stuff. And why do you need me? You're in Miami,'" she recalls.

While she says she thought the situation was a little weird, it ended up working out. The Florida-owned Teami made sale No. 1 in March 2014 and has spent its first two years of operation on a main focus: growing its online customer base.

click to enlarge Teami Blends CEO and co-founder Adi Halevy with her pink Teami tumbler. - Meaghan Habuda
Meaghan Habuda
Teami Blends CEO and co-founder Adi Halevy with her pink Teami tumbler.

Locals can't purchase their tea through any gym or studio around these parts (the only in-state location that stocks Teami is in Miami). But Halevy says more than 200,000 people use their website to shop for loose-leaf and bagged health teas, plus accessories such as tea infusers and double-layer tumblers. Though the company mainly targets the U.S. by offering free shipping, customers come from all over, including Australia, Canada, Mexico and the U.K., now home to a Teami office that also waives the cost of shipping.

No stranger to working with tea, Malul's background in coffee helped Halevy get behind launching a company that specializes in loose-leaf teas. To develop their blends, the Teami trio researched ingredients, visited their factory in Hong Kong for trial-and-error tastings, sampled other tea brands whose products worked (and didn't) to make their's better.

The teas are sourced from various locales  Chile (oolong), Argentina, Venezuela, China and Japan (matcha) among them, which is important because, as Halevy puts it, "Where you source your tea from, and the quality of it, it's night and day."

Teami is also different from specialty retailers like, say, Teavana, in that its teas aren't based off flavor or even tea type. They're based off results, according to Halevy. Take a look at the name of any Teami tea, or the company's tagline ("It's Not Just Tea, It's a Lifestyle), and you realize this is more of a lifestyle brand than a tea business.

"Every tea has the name of the result it's going to give you," the co-founder says before listing off a few products. "Teami Alive helps you get rid of exhaustion. Teami Focus helps you improve mental clarity and focus instead of drinking Red Bull... it's really meant for students and the working class. Our Teami Relax helps you relax."

Their best-seller is a 30-day detox pack that features two teas, Teami Skinny and Teami Colon. Colon is meant to be drunk right before bed every two days throughout the detox to cleanse the colon, reduce bloating and help with weight loss, while Skinny, which helps boost metabolism, raise energy and depress cravings, should be sipped daily in the morning.

Though Teami will likely never have a tea shop since their products and can-do message are geared more toward folks looking to make a change in how they live, the company has outgrown the Clearwater building it was subleasing and will expand headquarters to Pinellas Park. 

The 10,000-square-foot office and warehouse at Bryan Dairy Road and U.S. 19 will allow Teami to improve how its office visually looks, the employee experience and creative projects. Photoshoots for platforms such as YouTube and Instagram, for example, will get their own designated room, with each corner set up for a certain scene (think a kitchen or an exercise area). The company moves in Aug. 31.

In addition to the three or four new tea blends set to debut, Teami plans to open a retail shop in Miami "more toward the end of the year," and Halevy says they'd also like to bring one to Las Vegas or another big city to take advantage of international traffic. More attention will be put on getting small amounts of product into local shops around the bay, too.

"We wanted to give something that was doable for everyone — so that everyone could drink a cup of tea and feel better. Not everyone is up to start CrossFit or start doing exercise classes seven days a week," she says. "We want to help people get to the point where they’re like, 'Yeah, I would like to work out. Or yeah, I would like to go take some exercise classes.'"

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