A Conversation with Lisa Li

The act of preparing tea; waiting for the water to boil, steeping the leaves, and sipping on it while not burning one’s tongue reminds us to slow down. When I discovered The Qi, I admired how the leaves suspended beautifully in the class cups and wanted to learn more about the founders behind the beautiful company. In this interview, Lisa Li talks about the inspiration behind The Qi and believes that wellness should be made simple.

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Lisa Li and I grew up in a small city called Yingkuo, on the coastal edge of North East of China. I moved to Vermont at the age of 14 to be with my mom and experienced the biggest cultural shock. I stuck out like a sore thumb. It wasn’t until I moved to a larger city (Boston first and then NYC) that I felt like I was home.

One of the things I’m most grateful for from my teenage years of misfit is that I became a very fast learner, developed a keen imagination of a better tomorrow, and a mentality of working endlessly towards making that a reality. I don’t take anything for granted. I figure life’s a gift and I don’t intend on wasting it. You learn to take life as it comes at you… to make each day count. This bit I quote from Jack in Titanic (one of my favorites).

We just launched and it’s just myself and Xun (my COO). Xun helps with mostly operations and logistics. Now more content and strategies. So I pretty much do everything else within our small business from being a door to door sales girl, to marketing, to PR, to customer service, to social media, to learn who to find to help us with the things we can’t figure out ourselves.

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When did you come up with the idea for The Qi?
The idea for The Qi has evolved quite a bit since I started thinking about it last fall.

What were you doing before you started the company?
I had a different small business. A sustainable fashion brand called The Rare Creature where we offered the ultimate modern DIY knitting kits with the finest natural fibers.

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What were some of the challenges when it came sourcing and what were some surprises you came across?
When it comes to sourcing the most difficult part was figuring out where/how to get organic standard flower tisanes. The biggest surprise was learning about what it meant to get organic certification, about pesticides, and farming. Basically the “Flower Tisane” category doesn’t EXIST in the USDA directory, which meant that each flower had to have zero traces of pesticides for us to call it organic. Compare this to general caffeinated teas, where the pesticide residue threshold is below 0.5% (or something along those lines). In addition, the small farms we want to work with don’t have the resources to obtain official organic certification. Our pursuit of the highest quality flowers had us searching throughout Asia for small farms that met our standards, ordering batches of flower samples from a range of them and sending these samples for testing in the US to check for pesticide residues in accordance with USDA NOP standards. This is where we almost went broke and closed our doors before we even opened because let’s face it, lab testings are pricey and so is express DHL shipping, but the end result is worth all the effort and then some.

What is your favorite tea in the collection?
I used to be a rose tea fan, now I love the lotus.

Will you be expanding the collection of teas?
We definitely want to expand with what makes the most sense for our customers. We are taking suggestions if there are things that you’re super excited about!

How did you come up with the packaging for the tea?
The packaging of our teas I have to credit my brilliant designer Flora who came up with it. I had a general idea of the look and feel, but she’s the one who make it all happen.

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What are you hoping people learn from your company?
I hope people will learn how simple, accessible and delight self-care can be and wellness does not have to be complicated.

Do you have a tea ritual?
Yes, I have a 10–15 mins flower tea ritual every evening before bed that helps me to destress and quite down (sometimes I’ll even put on a facial mask the same time). I’ll add honey or goji berries, or even lemon sometimes with my flower teas depending on my mood.

What are some of your favorite ways to wind down after a day of work or travel?
If I have more time, I’ll do QiGong or yoga or read or listen to music and dance.

You can learn more about The Qi and find delicious tea recipes here.

Written by

Writer. mia@mia-nguyen

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