Three Things You Didn’t Know is a reoccurring series where we dig up interesting facts about your favorite chef, bartender, somm, cheese monger, cicerone, GM, or industry insider.
Linda Appel Lipsius comes by her entrepreneurial spirit naturally. Her father, Max Appel, founded Orange Glo International, the company behind Oxiclean, Kamboom, and Orange Glo Wood Cleaner and Polish. “It’s a genetic, recessive gene,” Lipsius laughs. The youngest of the four Appel children, her brothers and sister all have the inventive streak, too; for Lipsius, that trait manifested itself in co-founding Teatulia, a Denver-based organic tea company, in 2006.
When Lipsius and her friend Kazi Anis Ahmed began bringing teas grown in his family’s tea garden in Bangladesh to the United States, they embarked on a mission larger than getting people to hit pause on the coffee pot. They saw the tea garden as a means of lifting the Tetulia region of northern Bangladesh out of severe poverty. The company’s tagline—“Let the tea flow. Let the land flourish. Let the people thrive.”—perfectly encapsulates Lipsius and Ahmed’s vision.
In the 11 years since, Teatulia’s sustainably farmed gardens have grown to 3,000 acres, while employing 600 workers, and supporting more than 1,700 community members through its co-op. The co-op provides education, health, and cattle-lending programs specifically designed to help families out of poverty. Teatulia’s organic tea garden is one of the largest in the world and because of the careful, sustainable farming practices, it has completely regenerated the local ecosystem and become a force in Tetulia’s local economy. The results are so profound, that in September, Forbes and Food & Wine named Lipsius one of the “Most Innovative Women in Food and Drink.” “Our business is selling tea, but our passion is changing the world,” Lipsius says.
Lipsius recognizes that America is a coffee culture. But tea is catching on, and in fact, it’s the second fastest growing beverage (behind water) in the restaurant industry. Tea also eclipses coffee in yoga circles and is finding footing with those interested in greater health. The way Lipsius sees it, there’s a balance to be found, and it’s one she’s always seeking, be it in a sweet-and-sour scoop of Jeni’s goat cheese with red cherries ice cream (“I’m a Gemini, so I think that’s part of it,” she says”) or stretching herself physically with a (someday) climb in Patagonia’s mountains. In the meantime, read on for three things you didn’t know about Linda Appel Lipsius.
1. On adding milk to tea… I wouldn’t dream of putting milk in my tea. I feel when you put milk in your tea it just becomes beige and everything beige stands for. It would be a crime against good tea. Milk is also presumed to negate the health benefits of drinking tea by binding with the good antioxidants. Lemon is said to enhance the benefits, but I still don’t use lemon.
2. On the bucket list… I want to be a farmer. We bought some land in Golden Gate Canyon and I’m ready to start exploring, growing stuff, fixing stuff, and building stuff. It’s really about getting back to the earth. A lot of this has been inspired by working with the tea garden and the [sustainable] farming model.
3. On the role of film… My husband is a filmmaker so we watch a lot of movies and TV as research. It’s a big part of my existence, and we go to Telluride Film Fest every year. This year, we saw Battle of the Sexes—the Billie Jean King story with Emma Stone starring. It was tremendous, I sent my kids to go see it. It takes place in 1973 and things were shockingly not evolved—and that was not long ago.