Ever since I took my first sip of Kusmi tea, I was hooked. I usually resorted to ordering on Amazon, but can now walk right on over to their 800-square-foot space at Westfield, which they recently opened on the cusp of their 150-year anniversary. With 53 boutiques in France and 23 additional international boutiques, this latest opening marks a significant moment for the brand’s presence in the United States.
Located within the Oculus, the store’s design was conceived by Christopher Jenner, whose firm has also collaborated on designs for luxury brands including Liberty London, diptyque Paris, L’Artisan Parfumeur Paris. The aesthetic references the brand’s Franco-Russian heritage through a baroque and modern lens, including a central tasting station that brings a sense of ritual to the Kusmi experience.
Raphael Camp, the company’s COO, spoke with Downtown about the decision to open up shop downtown and what sets Kusmi apart from the David’s Teas and Teavanas of the city.
What made you decide to open your flagship store at Westfield?
Raphael Camp: The revival of Lower Manhattan represents both a memorial site and a business district. Westfield World Trade Center is the perfect expression of this dynamism, and Kusmi Tea naturally found its place in this visionary upscale new mall that attracts visitors from all around the world.
Does the location hold any significant meaning for you, personally?
RC: To me, the Twin Towers symbolized the grandeur of New York. On September 11, 2001, my mom was on a business trip to New York and personally witnessed their destruction. This memory is very emotional. Today, I don’t live far from the new World Trade Center myself and am proud to participate in the revival of the area.
What sets Kusmi’s tea apart from other teas?
RC: Kusmi Tea is one of a kind. It is a brand with a heritage of 150 years. The teahouse was founded in St. Petersburg in 1867, and since then, Kusmi Tea has carried the same exclusive tea recipes — like Prince Vladimir and Anastasia — that were created at the end of the 19th century. Classic teas like Karavan recall times when tea was originally imported from China to Russia via camel caravan. However, Kusmi Tea is also a modern teahouse that has adapted to contemporary tastes by creating wellness blends like the Detox line.
Some foreign tea shops have had to shut down their New York City flagship stores, stating that the “tea-culture” in New York City is different than in Europe…
RC: The Anglo-Saxons have always been great drinkers of tea. It is true that Americans belatedly appreciated high-end loose-leaf tea, but things are changing, especially in New York City.