by Tom Sims
Tom Sims searches the Valley for tips on eating healthy, buying healthy food, growing healthy food, and eating out healthy in the Valley, for this Healthy Eating in the Valley column. Feel free to share your suggestions of places and things to check out!
I walked into Raizana Teas and was engulfed in the subtle tranquility of a sensory invitation to partake of real tea in a real tea house, made by someone who really knows tea. Sol Orozco greeted me immediately and soon I was enjoying the best cup of tea I had ever experienced. And I was relaxing.
It had been a challenging day for Sol and her staff when I stopped by this week to visit. Sol and her store manager had been relabeling boxes and Pablo Orozco would soon arrive. A clerical error that might not have mattered to some businesses had resulted in some mislabeling of product and had necessitated extensive repackaging in what Pablo called a “self-recall.”
Quality control is crucial to this business and its year and a half operation that has increased its borders across oceans and is rapidly building a reputation as a leader in the industry.
It had been a tough and challenging day, but it had been a good and positive day and nothing had quenched the spirit of Sol and her staff who had borne the brunt of the work. It was all about providing a healthy and appealing product to the customers and educating them on how to find healthy balance in their lives – especially through a relaxing moment with a sip of tea.
She can talk for hours about tea and nutrition, about the aesthetics and about the science. She can talk and it was so interesting that I could listen even longer.
Mothers and grandmothers passed on the tradition to Sol and Pablo and they are passing them on to us. Sol asked me what kind of tea I wanted to sip and I shared that I had eaten a bit too much for lunch. She knew exactly what I needed and, within a few minutes, I was settling into one of those moments.
Whether it is a tummy ache, a sore throat, or the onslaught of relentless stress, there is a blend of tea that is right for the occasion.
“Raizana” is a hybrid word formed from the noun for “root” (raiz) and the verb for “to cure, heal” (sanar). While making no therapeutic claims beyond what is suggested in hard science and decades of rigorous, third party research, the Orozcos use their teas as their family’s first line of defense to promote good health and natural healing.
As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”
“Our selection of herbal teas taste good and are good for you,” they write on their website, “Raizana formulates their natural loose-herb teas to combine good taste and the herbal properties that help promote good health.”
Sol is the chemist, culinary scientist, artist, chef, and creative force behind the formulation of teas. She is always reading, always mixing, always experimenting, always observing, and always tasting and watching for the reactions and responses of her customers.
“My interests are nutrition, food, chemistry, and the culinary arts,” she observes.
It is about healthy habits, not quick fixes or radical changes that happen all at once. Sipping good, nurturing tea is a healthy lifestyle and healthy lifestyles are not born overnight. Nor do bad habits change in a moment. Sustainable behavior changes slowly.
It is also about balance, balance of flavors, balance of nurturing ingredients, and balance of healthy eating and exercise. Pablo would hasten to add that it is also about work-life balance. He works another demanding job and comes by with their daughter after work and school for the last of the day. The store closes and most production ends at 3 p.m. They are closed on Sunday.
Young Victoria Orozco, age eight, also has jobs to do in the store. But when it is time to go home, they go home and have a life.
“I believe in working smart, not hard,” says Sol.
I think she does both, but smarter than harder.
Pablo’s education is in international business with a Masters in the field from San Diego State. His formative years were split between the United States and Mexico. Sol was born and raised in Mexico and educated at the Culinary Institute of Mexico. She has a strong background in all forms of culinary arts and business educationally and by professional experience. She has been in the United States for 11 years and in Fresno for eight years.
Pablo works for the U.S.D.A. during the day and brings his marketing skills to the family business.
“I do this for fun,” insists Sol. It is clear that she is having fun and is engaged in the process.
While Pablo seems to drive much of the marketing strategy, both are involved. They are totally immersed in social media. It is their principle if not only form of advertising, integrating Facebook, Instagram, a stationary website, a fluid blog, and a regular newsletter with an active store on Amazon.
They keep these avenues of communication open, active, and vibrant with new conversation, give and take, fresh information, interesting pictures, and fun events. Whenever possible, they involve the other businesses in the neighborhood when they have planted themselves and that they have come to love.
Sixty-five percent of their business is online. In the beginning, they were selling out of Café Corazon and later, in places like Peeves and Mia Culpa. These outlets account for about 25 percent of their volume. Another 10 percent walks in the tea shop/factory/warehouse/store and buys bags of tea.
The product is shipped worldwide and ingredients are purchased from around the world. Japan was an early and large market. In their first year of sales, they had a 250 pound order from one company there.
They have a goal to see extensively outside the country.
Sometimes companies grow too quickly and become too commercial. They want to grow, but they want to grow the right way. Sol enjoys going to the expositions, loves product development, and keeps her hand in everything for now.
Sol insists on promoting the benefits of tea and making sure the benefits are present in every batch of tea that leaves her store. She is not just “organic.” Organic is great, especially where food is clean. Clean is even better. She is not “holistic” with its connotations and fad associations. Rather, she is about selling benefits and benefits come from chemical reactions in our bodies to the foods we consume – especially in our brains. Brain science fascinates her.
They know the details like how many Facebook and Instagram subscribers they have and how many newsletter subscribers are acquired through a good posting. They also know how that translates into sales.
Pablo and Sol live in the world of technology that they love and the world of appreciation for what is natural as well. They love that world too and relish the opportunity to be creative in both realms. They teach the principles of balance to their daughter – not radical fanaticism about food. Nor do they exclude modern medicine from its role as part of the healing continuum. They just practice and teach moderation and nature’s gifts as the first choice in staying well.
The shop is valuable because it is immediate and allows for face-to-face interaction with consumers while they are enjoying the tea. It is located in a building with big windows. Sol loves to look out on a world of people passing by the light of the sun as she works. She also loves to have people walk by and look in.
I was introduced to daughter, Victoria and also to store manager Isabel Lopez. A student at Fresno State, the elder Isabel is one of several staff members who are more team members than employees. They are featured with short biographical sketches on the website.
Last week, I mentioned their business in conjunction with a community sidewalk trading fare that has taken on a monthly life of its own. They initiated it and it is growing. They minimalized my desire to elevate their high level of social responsibility and altruism with a simple dismissal that when you lift one business in a neighborhood, you lift them all.
That being said, I find them generous and responsible and that is reflected in the attitude they have toward their business neighbors, toward the city, toward quality and sustainability, and toward their team.
Sol says, “Everyone learns every job … I do not want employees to just work here, but to learn every aspect of the business so that, if they want to, they can start their own businesses. Everyone learns how to do everything.”
“The first thing new employees learn is cleaning the bathroom.”
No one is too good for any job and no job is beneath anyone. Nor is any knowledge of the business held back from anyone. All are treated with dignity, respect, and high expectations of personal and corporate success.
Raizana Teas is not only manufacturing tea, it is producing entrepreneurs. “Entrepreneurship is fun and stressful, Sol says, “You must have the stomach for it.”
But it can be learned and she and Pablo can teach it.
They live by these VALUES
EXCELLENT SERVICE – We want our customers, our co-workers, our vendors, and our partners to receive attention that is above and beyond what is expected. We want them to be not just satisfied but delighted!
HIGH QUALITY PRODUCTS – We have high standards and our goal is to sell the highest quality products. We achieve this by evaluating the ingredients, freshness, safety, taste, nutritive value and appearance of all of the products we carry.
CARING ABOUT OUR COMMUNITIES – We have a responsibility to be active participants in our local communities. We believe in giving back and contributing to the improvement of society by supporting a wide variety of community and non-profit organizations.
INTEGRITY AND HONESTY IN OUR RELATIONSHIPS – It’s important to always act with integrity in our relationships, to be compassionate, friendly, loyal, and to make sure that we do the right thing. We treat our customers, our co-workers, our vendors, and our partners with respect, fairness and integrity.
EMBRACING PASSION AND INNOVATION – We value passion, determination, perseverance, and a sense of urgency. As a growing company we embrace and drive change, and encourage our employees to be adventurous, creative, and open-minded.
When I asked about their dreams for the future, they have set no limits on their growth potential. By working smart, duplicating leadership, sharing knowledge, creating systems, and maintaining cutting edge innovation with a respect for tradition and for the past, they can grow beyond their setting and expand without any arbitrary limits.
They have a mission to pass on their family heritage of healthy habits and living and the benefits of delicious, healthy teas to a new generation. “Our selection of herbal teas taste good and are good for you.”
Why would they ever want to limit the reach and scope of that message?
Their herbal teas are time honored and delicious.
Through writing, social meeting, demonstration meetings, and networking, Sol and Pablo Orozco are endeavoring to get the message out and, as they do it, the aroma of their teas entices the senses and draws the partaker into an experience that is rich, satisfying, and delightful.
Website – raizana.com
Facebook Page – www.facebook.com/RaizanaTea
2011 Tuolumne St
Fresno, California 93721
Phone (559) 492-7373