IN CONVERSATION is a weekly feature interviewing friends, creatives, and entrepreneurs.
As someone with an undeniable obsession with tea, I am always determined to find new flavors that are going to either ease symptoms or keep me cozy during the chilly months. But after talking to Ranmu Xue of Us Two Tea, I realized how little I knew about tea, and I became interested in her story. Back in July, I met Ranmu virtually through the Girlboss community (LinkedIn for women creatives and entrepreneurs). We instantly clicked, and I learned that she grew up in Shanghai but went on to study Graphic Design in San Francisco. The 28-year old currently lives in New York, curating Tawainese Tea. So you might ask how did she go from graphic design to owning a tea company? Let’s find out!
Shyann: First, tell us how and why you switched gears to the tea industry?
Ranmue: I was previously working as a product designer at Meural (digital canvas company). My design and rebranding work there was a major factor in the company’s acquisition by Netgear for $22M. After we were acquired last summer, I thought it was the perfect time to start my own business and build my own brand.
SW: That’s amazing! So, why tea?
RX: I’ve lived in the U.S. for ten years now, and I haven’t found any good Asian tea brands in the U.S. that I can order tea from daily. I think tea is so wonderful for our body, and I want to bring the tea culture to the U.S. and share it with my friends.
SW: How did you find your niche in the tea industry? What makes U.S. Two Tea different from other tea companies?
RX: “Us Two” means the two of us. It’s about relationships. In China, people gather together to drink tea, whether it’s to have a business meeting, a gathering, or a date. Tea will always be there; it’s a medium that brings people together. Us Two is celebrating all the small moments in life that give us the greatest joy. I want to make tea culture more accessible to the people here. I want the tea to speak to them in a way that coffee speaks to the people in the U.S. Friendly, welcoming, and accessible.
SW: People can’t live without their coffee here. I’m sure being apart of the tea world has allowed you to travel for research and visit some beautiful places. What’s your favorite place you’ve visited?
RX: Taiwan! It was such an amazing trip, and meeting with tea farmers was one of the best parts of my journey. I got to know their family background, their history, and their passion for tea. I went back and forth in Taiwan three times in two months and stayed for two weeks each time. Surprisingly, I met so many tea farmers my age; most are the second or third generation. The tea farms were usually passed down from previous generations, and those tending to the farms had spent their entire lives immersed in the tea culture. Their passion and knowledge about tea deeply touched me.
SW: I read on your website that Taiwanese tea is the “Champagne of Tea.” Can you further explain that?
RX: Taiwanese tea is known as the “Champagne of Tea” because it doesn’t have any pesticides on the leaves so people can drink it without rinsing it first. Their growing method is far advanced than in other Asian countries, and they only use natural pesticides to grow the tea. Taiwan also has an ideal climate; the tea is rich in antioxidants, polyphenols, and catechins that are believed to nourish and heal. . Today, there isn’t much Taiwanese tea that is imported into the U.S., and it’s really hard for people to get the authentic Taiwanese tea here. Except for the health benefits that tea provides, Taiwanese tea also has its own unique taste that is very different than other Asian regions’ tea.
SW: Thanks for explaining, I am learning so much. I love the names of your tea! I had the chance to try Pillowtalk, and I’m excited to try Homesick. Maybe it’ll be my cure for when I’m missing home. Do you plan on adding any new teas soon?
RX: Yes! We are adding tea accessories and a gift box for Christmas. I am going back to Asia for the next round of production soon!
SW: Do you have a team, or are you alone in this? What does your day-to-day look like?
RX: I am the solo founder. I have a part-time CMO and a few interns to help me with social media. I work from home, the library, or cafes if I need to meet with people.
SW: What is it about Us Two Tea that makes you feel most fulfilled?
RX: I think it’s when I hear people tell me the tea reminds them of home, and how much they love the teas and the branding. I can see the joy and spark on their face, and that is the best feeling ever.
SW: For someone who wants to start a business, what advice would you give them?
RX: Make sure you have a good group of people who you can talk to or mentors that you can take advice from because entrepreneurship is hard and lonely, you can’t do it all by yourself.
SW: What keeps you going these days?
RX: I feel extremely grateful and lucky because I am doing something I am passionate about. The reason why I started Us Two Tea is because I think Asian brands are underrated. For my generation, it’s our mission to change that image. Despite tea being the most consumed beverage in the world, besides water, I noticed that my American friends didn’t know what to do with loose leaf tea or how to find quality Chinese teas. Again, I hope Us Two Tea can speak to people in a way that coffee connects people here.