By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Sep 14, 2016 at 5:02 PM

When Rishi Tea opened shop in 1997, it cornered the market on local tea. In the past two decades, though, Milwaukee has welcomed numerous independent and chain tea retailers.

Tea has risen dramatically in popularity over the years and is consumed by coffee drinkers and non-coffee drinkers alike.

"People are looking for alternatives," says Mellisa Stafford, co-owner of Fava Tea. "A person might drink coffee in the morning, but wants something different – with less caffeine or a different flavor profile – in the afternoon or evening."

Caffeinated tea generally has about half the amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee.

"This is appealing to people who want a little lift, but don’t want a huge amount of caffeine," says Stafford.

Tea, which contains antioxidants, might reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke, help with weight loss, boost the immune system, regulate digestive issues, increase tooth health and even battle cancer.

"I’m not making any huge health claims, but when drinking something so close to a plant there will be benefits if it becomes a permanent part of a person’s lifestyle," says Stafford. "That goes for anything, including tea."

Here are five tea companies in the Milwaukee area that sell online as well as in cafes, restaurants, hotels, grocery stores and more.

Fava Tea 

Fava says "cheerio" to the stodgy old way of thinking about tea and instead produces fresh, unique teas for people of all ages. Fava offers a variety of full-leaf teas, including black, chai, decaf, green, herbal, oolong, pu-erh, rooibos, white, yerba mate and more.

Bryan and Mellisa Stafford started the company in 2007 and today have locations in Appleton, Greenfield and Brookfield. Fava is also served at Watts Tea Shop and Cafe 213 in Waterford.

Letterbox Tea 

Letterbox is the exclusive collection of teas from Colectivo Coffee, offering "traditional, even ancient varieties to modern infusions and inventive blends." Those include a variety of organic teas, along with red hibiscus (called "Gala"), peppermint ("Pure") and black chai ("Ritual").

The teas, which were introduced by Colectivo in 2012, are available hot or cold and by the cup or in to-go tins. 

Rishi Tea 

Rishi – which means "one who is a seer, sage or seeker of the truth" in Sanskrit – is Milwaukee’s largest tea company and founded by native Milwaukeean Joshua Kaiser in 1997.

In 2013, Rishi started selling its tea in bags, and, in doing so, picked up global distribution that led to a new, state-of-the-art facility in the Menomonee Valley.

Locally, Rishi is available at many coffee and tea shops including Anodyne, Bella Caffe, Brewed, Hi-Fi, Roast, Rochambo and Stone Creek, as well as restaurants and retailers such as Beans and Barley, Cafe Benelux, Honeypie, Hotch Spot, Outpost and more. It is also available online.

Teavana Tea

Although based in Atlanta, Teavana tea – now owned by Starbucks – has 400 shops worldwide and three in Milwaukee-area malls: Mayfair, Southridge and Bayshore Town Center.

Urbal Tea

In 2014, Nick Nowaczyk morphed his appreciation for tea into a full-time career when he started Urbal Tea. The name is a combination of the words "urban" and "herbal."

Today, the West Allis-based company sells loose leaf teas with names like "brain booster" and "berry well" at Beans & Barley, Central Standard Distillery, Sendik’s Food Markets and more. For a full list go here.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.