Lisa Li

The Qi
Flatiron, NYC
The connotation of tea in the United States is one of Celestial Seasonings dried up and flavorless in the back of your cabinet (no shade, we loved that Sleepy Time Tea.) Over the last few years, we've seen a shift in how tea brands are positioned, with makers who truly care about the origin, taste, and ceremony behind the beverage. Lisa Li, founder of The Qi is leading the charge. She started her company, offering herbal, whole flower teas, sourced from farmers in China to the west to educate and showcase all that the east has to offer. We sat down with Li last week and got a sampling of our own. It’s safe to say we are hooked. Interested? Read the interview and find a little surprise at the end.
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Full name, age where are you from?

Lisa Li, 37, LiaoNing (about 8 hours drive northeast of Beijing).

What was growing up like for you and did you have family meals growing up?

Growing up overseas was both humbling and nurturing. My dad ran away not long after I was born so that was rough for my mom and I, it was not common then and there for couples to get a divorce nor to be raised by a single mom. But I got a lot of extra love from my mom and grandma as a result.  Then moving to Vermont at the age 14 and not speaking any English was a huge culture shock, but no matter where I was I always had family dinners everyday whether it's just my mom and I or with my extended families.

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What meal, or beverage, most reminds you of your childhood? 

Tea for sure. Then dumplings, dumplings, dumplings, 锅贴, Baozi, thick noodles, and all kinds of seafood as the coastal city I grew up in was surrounded by both fresh water and salt water.

Tell us a bit about your venture. What is your role and how did you get into this industry?

The Qi is my love letter to the world. Spending most of my childhood with my grandma who had tea with me often while my single mom was working F/T, tea time is really close to my heart. Then after working in fashion for 10+ years, feeling burnt out and wanting to go back to a time and place where I felt nourished The Qi was born out of that desire.  I discovered the Rose tea in Shangri-la, Yunnan by accident during a sourcing trip for PuEr tea and well… the rest is history.  So I totally got into the beverage industry by chance. My mission is helping people feel more joy, beauty, and love again through flower teas of course.

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How has the pandemic affected you?

It was definitely a weird and challenging time in the beginning with so much fear, unknown and everyone was hoarding a lot of toilet paper, but I've been through much more challenging times. I definitely learned a lot. It also forced me to be braver, to stand up and offer a sense of hope to our community trough our flower teas. It hyper accelerated my personal and the company's growth. 

What do you think working in this industry during this time has taught you?

To be incredibly flexible like water but also strong enough to penetrate rocks. This I quote Bruce Lee.

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Once it is completely safe to eat out again and socialize, where is the first place you're going out to eat at and what are you ordering? (Does not have to be in just NYC!)

HOT POT! I don't care the month of the year when this finally happens. I really miss eating out at AAPI restaurants that offer family style dishes and sharing from the same plates and bowls with friends. That communal and homey feeling.

Anything exciting coming up for you? 

We have some pretty exciting launches coming up. One being a collaboration with my friend and glassware designer Sophie Lau Jacobsen that we've been working on for over a year… Stay tuned!

Now that you've made it to the end, take 10% off your next order at The Qi through this special link and code MyFirstQiFlower!

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