As a child growing up in Mexico, says Pablo Orozco, “teas have always been a part of my every day.” He recalls his parents boiling cinnamon tea with a little sugar, and “that was my drink during the cold months,” says Pablo. But not all were sweet. “When we were sick, they would give us these nasty concoctions that were super bitter. But it was good for you,” he says with a laugh.
As far as tea goes, home remedies are part of Pablo’s family and cultural history. So after the birth of his daughter, when his wife Sol (also from Mexico) was having trouble sleeping, it was only natural the couple thought of tea.
“She remembered Valerian Root was good for insomnia,” says Pablo, but the root is notoriously stinky. But when Sol blended the root with lavender, orange essence and chamomile, the tea became not only bearable, but delicious. They shared the blend with neighbors and family, “and that’s how it all got started,” says Pablo.
Raizana Tea officially launched in 2009 as an online supplier of loose-leaf teas, but is rooted in Fresno. The business began as a part-time venture, a way for the Orozcos to stay active during the infancy of their daughter Victoria, but has since expanded to a brick and mortar near Warner Theater.
Sure, you’ve heard of coffee shops and juice bars, but what about the teahouse? Raizana’s growth (it opened its store in 2013 and expanded in 2015) is proving that tea has more than just remedial worth – it tastes good, too.
Like its teas, Raizana itself is a blend in different ways. The word itself is a portmanteau of the Spanish words raiz, which means root, and sana, which means to cure or to heal. “Like a healing root,” says Pablo. But Raizana’s other blend is cultural and culinary.
Pablo says he and Sol “grew up on the remedies that our families used to give us – definitely the traditional remedies for anything from tummy aches to sore throats.” But tea doesn’t belong just to the Mexican tradition. “Every single culture has a different brew,” says Pablo, from oolong teas in Asia to chai in India and matcha tea in Argentina and South America. But the Orozcos blended their cultural heritage with Sol’s culinary background.
Pablo says Sol’s experience as a chef (she worked at the largest convention center in Mexico City) has helped her to bring the right “food chemistry” to their tea blends. “That’s the tradition that she brought in,” says Pablo, “the culinary side of it.”
It began with the Sleepy Tea – the Valerian Lavender blend – but other blends now are popular: like TranquilyTea, a passionflower and linden chamomile blend that reduces stress, and DiabeTea, a gymnema bitter melon and cinnamon chamomile blend that helps reduce food cravings.
Better than energy drinks, Raizana also offers matcha shots, concentrated ground green tea, which is loaded with antioxidants but contains caffeine – with more sustained focus. They also have a coco-chili chai, a blend of cayenne pepper and spicy masala. And if customers have their own ideas, with a two- or five-pound minimum, Raizana will do custom blends, as well.
Plus, Raizana’s prices are hard to beat. Any tea, hot or cold, runs about three or four bucks. So next time you’re in their neighborhood, why not try a cup of tea, perhaps with a pastry or slice of toast with butter. “We slice it thick, toast it and add cream cheese with spices and herbs,” or Nutella and sea salt, Pablo says.
Beyond the flavor and remedial benefits, Raizana teas have the one-up on their coffee counterparts when it comes to shelf life. “Properly packaged tea can last a long time,” says Pablo, “and herbal teas can last up to five years.” Raizana does recommend a year shelf life on their teas because they want to offer the freshest product. And when you enjoy teas with remedial benefits, you might be extending your shelf life, as well. •
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If you are interested in how to brew tea, loose leaf tea, the most basic setup for a beginner would be a cup and strainer or infuser. You'll also need a way to heat water. Electric kettles are nice, but something as simple as a pot on the stove will work just fine. Finally you'll need tea. Samples are your friend. Until you have a good idea of what tea you like, it's best to seek out merchants who offer sample packs. Try to avoid buying anything in larger quantities until you know for sure that you will enjoy it.