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Army Vet Brandon Friedman Supports Conflict Zone Farmers With Rakkasan Tea Co.

The CEO of the East Dallas company specializes in loose leaf teas and recently launched a line of tea bags that can be found in Central Market.
| |Photography by Martí Sans
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Tea Belief: Rakkasan Tea offers tea enthusiasts a chance to enjoy leaves from unique regions and producers.

Brandon Friedman’s take on entrepreneurism wouldn’t inspire any self-help books, but for him, it’s truth: “Either go get the MBA and learn all the lessons that way or throw a bunch of money in a fireplace learning lessons through trial and error. You’ll learn the same lessons either way.” The CEO of East Dallas-based Rakkasan Tea Co. took the latter option, forming a tea company in 2017 alongside COO Terrence Kamauf, with whom Friedman served in the Army. The company exclusively sources its tea leaves from areas that are economically depressed due to wars and other conflicts. Selections of its 56 blends of loose-leaf tea and tea bags can be found in Central Markets nationwide. 

Friedman did two tours of duty with the 101st Airborne Division, made famous through scenes of parachuting World War II soldiers in the 2001 miniseries “Band of Brothers.” The regiment earned the name Rakkasans, which means parachute in Japanese. While in Iraq and Afghanistan, Friedman often shared tea with the locals doing counterinsurgency work. When he came back to the States, he longed for a tea experience that was a departure from the typical high English tea.

“My experience with being offered a cup of tea is from a gangster with bandoliers and an AK-47 getting ready to go to combat,” he says. “That was my tea party experience. Those were the guys who were teaching me tea culture.”

Rakkasan doesn’t want to be “bro tea,” Friedman says, but its marketing and packaging are relatively gender-neutral, and the company’s customer base is more evenly split between men and women than the overall American tea market. The company sources teas from 15 suppliers worldwide, from countries as diverse as Colombia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and Rwanda. Rakkasan’s 30 employees keep Central Market, its East Dallas retail shop, and online sales moving. 

After his service, Friedman worked in digital strategy and PR for the Veterans Association and later produced big-budget TV commercials—an experience that helped him appreciate the power of a story. He now says every tea has a story, like the tea grown in a 100,000-year-old meteor crash site with celestial seasonings. “When you consume it, you are drinking the universe,” he says. 

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Will Maddox

Will Maddox

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Will is the senior writer for D CEO magazine and the editor of D CEO Healthcare. He's written about healthcare…
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