Our Story

Rakkasan is the old Japanese word for parachutist. It's also the nickname of a unit in the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division. In Iraq and Afghanistan, co-founders Brandon Friedman and Terrence Kamauf led Rakkasans in combat, often taking time to drink tea provided by locals.

The experience led to a business idea that would help the economies of war-torn areas. That idea was Rakkasan Tea Company. Now they find the hidden gems. Unlike most premium loose-leaf tea bought and sold in the U.S., RTC imports solely from carefully selected estates in post-conflict countries as a way to promote peace and economic growth.

Staff

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Brandon Friedman

 

Founder and CEO

Brandon launched Rakkasan Tea Company in 2017 after more than a decade in PR, politics and public service. He has completed the Specialty Tea Institute's Level I and Level II courses on his way to becoming a Certified Tea Specialist recognized by the Tea Association of the USA. Brandon began his career as an infantry officer in the 101st Airborne Division, serving in both Afghanistan and Iraq. His memoir, The War I Always Wanted, was recognized in 2010 by The Military Times as one of “The Best Military Books of the Decade.” He writes regularly on politics for The New York Daily News.

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Terrence Kamauf

Chief Operations Officer

“TK,” as his friends call him, has completed the Specialty Tea Institute’s Level I and Level II courses on his way to becoming a Certified Tea Specialist recognized by the Tea Association of the USA. A former Green Beret with more than a decade of service, TK became a tea drinker during his four combat tours with the Army's 101st Airborne Division and 5th Special Forces Group in Afghanistan and Iraq. He is a graduate of the U.S. Army’s Ranger School and Special Forces Qualification Course. He joined RTC in 2017 after working in the oil and energy sector.

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Crystal Kamauf

Director of Planning and Strategy 

After eight years in the retail industry and more than 10 years in the energy sector, Crystal left it all to join Rakkasan Tea in 2017. She leads RTC’s administrative efforts—everything from shipping to graphic design and video editing. A tea drinker since college, Crystal is an Army spouse and the daughter of a veteran. 

Advisory Board

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Kyle Stewart

Kyle Stewart is a Certified Tea Specialist, a Specialty Tea Institute Mentor and an STI Advisory Board Member. He was the first CTS in Texas and is currently one of 175 in the world. As co-owner of The Cultured Cup in Dallas, Kyle often collaborates with local culinary professionals and sommeliers. He has made presentations at SMU, the Dallas Museum of Art, Crow Museum of Asian Art and the World Tea Expo.
 

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Tom Browning

Tom is the co-founder and former COO of Foot Cardigan, a Dallas-based startup that gained notoriety after a successful appearance on ABC’s Shark Tank. In managing Foot Cardigan’s operations, Tom spent six years bringing Foot Cardigan from concept to funding to profitability. Tom has a Ph.D. in Public Affairs and spent seven years with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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Jeni Dodd

Jeni Dodd is a Certified Tea Specialist, an American Tea Master and an expert on Nepalese teas. As the founder and CEO of Jeni’s Teas in Manhattan, Jeni maintains an apartment in Kathmandu and works closely with Nepalese farmers to bring their tea to the U.S.




 

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Nick Kesler

Nick is a senior management consultant at Deloitte and the founder and president of VetImpact, a nonprofit that aims to empower veteran entrepreneurs in international business development, specifically in areas of post-conflict and instability. Nick is a member of the Virginia Board of Veterans Services and he has an MBA from the College of William and Mary.