Cindy Li is the founder of Uproot Teas, a single-origin and whole-leaf tea company that launched in December 2021.
Cindy’s connection to tea comes from a special place in her heart. Although she was the first person in her family to be born outside of China, Cindy has always had a strong connection with her relatives there. She has fond memories of visiting tea gardens in China and drinking tea with her aunts; and that's one reason why tea is so important to Cindy. Tea keeps her connected to her roots.
However, it wasn't until the end of college that Cindy truly discovered the history, value, and impact of tea. While wrapping up her final semester of college as an Economics and Mathematics major at Dartmouth, she had to pick a topic to write and research about for her senior thesis. She decided to focus on the origins of the global tea trade; particularly, the commodity tea trade and its impact on labor and migration. Throughout her research, she recognized all of the structural and cultural challenges and inequities that persist in the system, such as how farmers are being underpaid and undervalued for their work and how Asian influences of tea are ignored in Western consumption of tea.
Following graduation, Cindy joined the corporate world as a management consultant. However, after years of consulting work, she decided to pursue a more fulling path that aligned with her personal values and passions. She had already been volunteering her time at her local farmer's market, packing veggie boxes for local produce vendors and utilizing her consulting background to help other small food businesses grow. And it was through this experience, that Cindy realized she could use her professional experience to create her own business in the food and beverage space.
When she launched Uproot Teas at the end of last year, Cindy was eager to share the full multi-sensory experience of making and drinking tea that she experienced in China to our world today.
"Western culture is on-the-go and convenient, especially in the U.S. where people do not take the time to sit down and make tea and enjoy it," said Cindy in our recent Instagram Live chat. "The pandemic changed how we think about consumption, health and wellness, and brought more intentional slowness and mindfulness into [our] lives."
After making the commitment to launch her tea business, Cindy spent a month in Hawaii, where she learned about tea farming during the day and would work on her business plan at night. "It just felt right and I knew what I was doing,” said Cindy. "[I] feel so lucky and also proud of myself to give myself the permission and the space to get to be creative and build an intentional business the way that I think a business should be run."
Cindy built strong relationships with the tea farmers in Hawaii, and she continues to create partnerships with tea farmers globally. The tea prices are set by the farmers and not the commodity market to ensure they are paid fairly. She also embraces sustainability and is proud to have Uproot Teas to be a completely zero-waste business.
Through Uproot Teas, Cindy hopes to bring more cultural representation and education to the tea industry. Within a couple of months of launching, Cindy has already experienced sellouts of her makai black tea and has received overwhelmingly positive responses to her products. She's excited to see where Uproot Teas is heading, and we at Yumday are thrilled to cheer for Cindy and support her journey as an Asian-American woman founder who is changing the tea industry one cup at a time.
Watch our full IG Live with Cindy here:
Written by Kasey Woo
Kasey is a recent graduate from UC Berkeley with 3 degrees in Economics, Psychology, and Cognitive Science. He resides in California, and supports a healthy, balanced lifestyle that comes with healthy eating. His favorite snack is stroopwafel cookies.