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On Culture and Defining It

One of our YIP interns, Abby works through the various definitions of what it means to be Korean American, Asian, and Asian American in the 21st century. She explores her own life experiences, challenges social expectations, and ultimately defines for herself what is means to be Asian American.

There was this moment, some time during the early 2010s, when I remember that being Korean suddenly became “cool”.

Children would come to me, the only east-Asian looking kid in class, and ask if I could translate Gangnam Style for them, to which I would agree and make the whole thing up on the spot, unwilling to admit that I knew absolutely nothing past the occasional saranghae.

This was because growing up, the term “Asian American” always had a specific definition. It meant being a child of immigrants stuck between two worlds. It meant eating hot pot one day and In-N-Out the next. It meant attending school by day and hakwon by night. It meant somehow feeling both too Asian and too American at the same time. Two worlds.

As a third-generation Korean American, I was constantly bombarded with this idea throughout my childhood. However, bridging the “two worlds” of identity never felt like an option. To me, there weren’t even two islands to begin with. I didn’t speak the language at home with my parents, we didn’t follow Korean traditions or celebrate their holidays, and I almost never ate rice. The few Asian American characters I saw on TV were usually bilingual, and if they weren’t, it was treated as a joke. As a result, I considered myself Korean in name alone, and I found it unacceptable.

If I wanted to be a true Asian American, at least, according to the two-worlds definition, I would have to actively seek out and immerse myself in the elusive “Asianness” in order to retroactively give myself a basis for cultural heritage. This, as a prerequisite, created a club of exclusivity, and it was clear that I did not have membership.

How can you be a part of Asian America without having anything to celebrate?

Recently, I was a part of organizing an Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) cultural festival, and one of our major concerns was trying to represent as many ethnic groups as possible with booths and performances. Asians, after all, aren’t a monolith, and so we spent weeks scouring all throughout the Bay Area to find Hawaiian groups, Laotian groups, Indian groups, and more, just to make sure that we were absolutely checking all of the boxes.

Ultimately, the festival turned out to be a success, and I got to learn so much about the diverse parts of Asia, the continent. However, nothing about it seemed uniquely Asian American to me, in a way that I couldn’t quite put into words. 

I suppose that was to be expected; per the festival theme, there is meant to be “unity in diversity”, and so celebrating the different cultures of Asian ethnic groups is just the logical manifestation of that idea. Still, I found myself recalling my elementary school days once more: where in order to be a part of Asian America, one had to be perfectly in tune with their ethnic heritage and traditions. 

So what is Asian America, really?

For that, I want to shed some light on the beauty of the pan-Asian American label. There is, in our modern day, an active campaign focused on promoting and celebrating Asian American culture (as a direct challenge to the antiquated ideology that promoted total assimilation above all else). I’ve heard some even refer to it as a “golden age” of representation, and the festival I partook in is certainly one such example of the efforts. Because of this, I’ve seen some criticisms of the pan-Asian American label, how it’s too generalizing and erases the very diversity that we’re trying to promote. 

For me, I like to see it a bit differently.   

I never truly connected to its meaning until I began learning about the rich history of Asian America on my own, something I first discovered through academic journals I read for fun, and later, in an Asian American Studies community college course that I took. What I hadn’t realized was that there were so many pivotal historical events I’d never heard of before. 

These were moments like the murder of Vincent Chin, and how it sparked a wave of organized protest by Asian American groups. 

Moments like how the Asian American student rebellions at San Francisco State College emerged out of the civil rights movement. 

Moments like how the Japanese American community was one of the first to defend Arab Americans from the nationwide response that would follow 9/11. 

They were all built on two principles: solidarity and protest.

I realized that Asian America, and the celebration of it, doesn’t have to be limited to the recognition of ethnic diversity. It’s also acknowledged through its own independent culture, one that’s emerged from the cracks that years of discrimination have opened. There is unity in diversity, yes, but there is also unity in the history that brings us together––Asian American history––and in the political categorization we’ve assigned ourselves. 

Maybe that’s what allows me to relate to it so much. Learning more about Asian American history has let me detach myself from the two-worlds definition I was so married to, and determine instead what the term means for me.

Some people take pride in being Asian American by stressing the ethnic heritage they feel strongly attached to, and I personally still want to take time learning and appreciating my Korean background. However, the way I’m able to best participate in Asian America is by cherishing the heritage that I most connect with: the one woven between migrant farmers and student protestors and an ongoing fight for social and political equality. It’s not quite specifically Asian but it’s oh so distinctly Asian American. I think that’s something worth celebrating.

Abby is a Korean American high schooler who loves black-and-white musicals, essay writing, and ethnic studies.

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Dear Mom and Dad,

I understand why I can’t go to protests, but I just wanted to express why I feel strong enough to risk my safety. I am not questioning your support of the movement, but I am questioning how you choose to show your support. Yes, my safety is important, but I believe that the effect my presence can have is worth the risk. I have been following news of other protesters and I understand how dangerous it can be especially now, but I would take all precautions because my presence and active voice is what’s more important to me. I understand that I won’t be able to go to this particular protest because of how dangerous it really is. 

I always hear you talking about how ridiculous the racism that we, and other communities, face is. I want you to understand that the movement is part of the solution for the future and I want to be able to be a part of that. I have been supporting the movement from home for a while now through petitions and spreading awareness and resources and I will continue to do so. 

I completely understand the concern of being exposed to large groups right now. However, when I talked to 哥哥 and 姐姐 about how I should start this conversation, they already knew that there was a low chance that you would let me go. We recognize that you take a more passive and safe stance on topics like this and that is where I see the problem. To support the movement, but not do anything to actually make a difference is not actually supporting it. Especially because this movement is a battle against centuries of systemic racism, any and every thing that we do as individuals is essential to the fight. We can’t just sit back and watch what happens to the people who are risking their lives for this movement and say, “Wow, that’s a shame” while getting back to our lives. Can’t you see that if we do everything that we can we will see a future where people’s livelihoods will no longer be threatened by the very system that is meant to protect them? 

A starting point is reflecting on your own prejudices against the black community. Historically, Asian communities hold anti-black sentiment and I have seen this from you first hand. This will make you uncomfortable to read, but it is true. I know that you will avoid the predominantly black neighborhoods because you’re afraid of how dangerous it could be. I know that you will quicken your pace as you walk by a black man. I know that you hold these prejudices whether you realize it or not. And I know you won’t discriminate against a black person intentionally, but this behavior has shown me that you do so unintentionally. So, within yourself is where you can start to make change. Read books, listen to podcasts, go online and learn about the experiences of people who don’t look like us. Just because we are also people of color, it will never mean that we understand what any black person faces on a daily basis. But we can do our part 

and educate ourselves on how the system fails black and brown communities at a disproportionate rate so that we can inform our everyday decisions. 

I know that you support the movement, but I’m asking you right now to reevaluate how you show that support. Recognize that it takes being uncomfortable to actually grow and change. If at any point reading this you felt offended or attacked, sit in that and ask yourself why that is. I don’t want you to focus on the various risks that using your voice can hold. I want you to see how valuable one person’s voice can be because when more people actually show up for the black community, our voices will be heard and changes will be made. 

With a hopeful heart,


Christy is a Chinese American San Francisco native who loves to read, bake, and draw.

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Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder

In early 2020, I spent 6 weeks in Asia. This was my first time there for such a long duration and I had no idea how drastically the world would change in a few months. As I wandered blissfully through Ho Chi Minh City, Bohol, Taipei, I felt something in me relax that I hadn’t realized I was holding so tightly. 

Although I had grown up in a predominantly Asian community, I experienced a nasty culture shock when I moved to Boston for college. Boston was the first place where I was made to feel like an outsider, where “friends” made fun of the smell of my cooking and strangers on the street yelled “Konichiwa”. After graduating, I fled back to California but my new perspective on race endured. As I became a therapist, I started working in primarily black and brown communities where I was simultaneously accepted as another person of color and still held at arm’s length.

In Asia, there was a distinct sense of relief knowing that I wouldn’t be singled out for my black hair or almond-shaped eyes. Even in countries where I didn’t speak the language, I felt a sense of ease that was rare for me in the United States. How grateful I felt to be able to lay down the question that hung over so many of my interactions: “Are they treating me like this because I’m Asian?”

One day at a mall in Singapore, I came across a beautiful dark green jumpsuit that had a collar and sleeves just like a traditional qipao. I reached for it and then felt an internal stutter that stopped me in my tracks. Was it “too Asian”? Did I want to invite this kind of attention? Would I really wear this back in America?

A sequence of memories flashed through my mind: 

trying hard not to be perceived as “fobby”

a constant feeling that I was missing some script at college

a mixture of shame and relief when I ended up with mostly Asian-American friends on campus.

Hypothetical futures also popped up: fielding comments about my outfit from maybe well-meaning but ignorant others, being exoticized by men, feeling out of place at some restaurant. 

How deeply do we internalize racism? So many Asian-American clients come to me in distress at feeling not enough. They talk about getting feedback at work around needing to be more assertive. Men talk about being unwanted when they try to date. Somewhere along the way we become convinced that we are the problem, that if only we looked a certain way or acted differently, we would be accepted. 

We deny parts of ourselves and our heritage in an attempt to “get it right” but the self-blaming doesn’t work either. The mental and emotional fatigue that comes from trying to fit into the dominant culture can be further compounded by the pressure and guilt to live up to our family’s different expectations. 

A lot of my personal healing has happened at the intersection of my identities of being a woman, being a person of color, and being Asian-American. I have had to put in a lot of work around recognizing racist beliefs within me and trying to replace the narratives with something more joyful. At that time in 2020, I had just begun to let go of my fear of being pigeonholed professionally in order to accept that I found it especially meaningful to work with Asian-American clients.

It’s a work in progress. 

It is challenging to find ways to follow my heart and honor my heritage, a process that is modeled all too rarely. 

It is also deeply vulnerable to do so in public, such as by wearing this jumpsuit out and about. 

That day I didn’t even try it on, making some excuse to myself about my budget. 

As I continue to learn and grow, I hope that I can better embrace all of the parts of my identity. While the jumpsuit didn’t come home with me, the memory of it lingers, encouraging me to appreciate the inherent beauty found in all cultures, especially my own.

Naomi (she/her) is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (CA – LMFT#110092) and Registered Art Therapist (ATR) based in the San Francisco Bay Area and Portland, OR. She is a psychotherapist with Anise Health. She also has a private practice and leads groups/workshops in corporate, nonprofit, and community settings. In addition, Naomi serves on the Advisory Circle for New Seneca Village, a nonprofit network offering restorative retreats for cis, trans and non-binary Black, Indigenous and women of color leaders. 

Anise Health is the first culturally-responsive digital mental health platform offering therapy, coaching, and digital self-service tools that are tailored for the unique needs of communities of color. Our interventions move away from diagnosis-driven, Eurocentric models and towards incorporating culture and intersectionality into evidence-based treatments, which research shows to be 5x more effective.

Interested? Anise is available in California and is currently accepting Asian-identifying adults (ages 18+) and partners/family members as new clients. Get started by filling out the short intake form; you will be matched to culturally-responsive clinicians within 2 business days. If you identify with another community of color or reside in another state, sign up for the distribution list to be the first to know about upcoming launches!

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It’s All Relative

One of our YIP interns, Luna grapples with the differing degrees of “Asianness” she holds in the worlds of public, parochial, and independent schools, and what constantly navigating those worlds has taught her about her own identity and the broader Asian American community.

The day after high school acceptance letters came out, my middle school friend, also Asian American, turned around in class and told me, half-joking, half-serious, “Don’t turn too white.”

What was that supposed to mean? Did the existence of “too white” imply there was such a thing as “just enough white?” My middle school was a predominantly-white private school and my high school would be, too. If I were to “turn white,” wouldn’t it have happened already?

Well, it turns out things were more complicated than I’d imagined. When I transferred to my parochial middle school, a mere five blocks from my public elementary school, I’d had to adjust to a world that was mostly Catholic and Irish, although most people grew up in the Sunset District like me. In high school, located just 2.5 miles away, I discovered yet another world, full of people who were atheist and Jewish and lived in Pacific Heights and Palo Alto and Piedmont, in the kinds of houses I’d only ever seen in magazines. There’s a sort of cognitive dissonance around high schools like mine—selective, expensive institutions with application processes mirroring college admissions that market accessibility and diversity. 

This dissonance spilled out into me as I tried to find my place in this new environment. 

Here I was, learning to take pride in my culture at affinity clubs and reading school books written by Asians, still embarrassed when my parents came to school and I realized how unpolished their English sounded next to other parents with their medical and doctoral degrees. 

Here I was, befriending white people for the first time in years, still overthinking every fashion choice, song selection, and pop culture reference to prove, maybe to them, maybe to myself, that I fit in. 

Here I was, placing into Chinese 3, still knowing that if I were truly fluent in my first language, I wouldn’t have to take a class on it at all. For all my outward embracing of Asian-ness, a million insecurities lurked in the corners of my mind.

The summer after my freshman year, I spent a month at an intense STEM program run by the University of California. I was in the math cluster: the nerdiest of the nerds. Given the STEM focus and Bay Area campus, most kids were East and South Asian. I felt like I’d entered a parallel universe; an alternate reality where I spent my weekends at Chinese school and math competitions instead of soccer games (actually, I was my middle school’s one-woman math team for two years, but that’s beside the point). I was a fish out of water. Not just because geometry was the hardest math class I’d ever taken and I was one of eight girls in a group of twenty-seven. At school, I was the overachieving East Asian kid with perfect grades. These were the real tiger babies,* taking Calc BC as fifteen-year-olds and whizzing through computer science olympiad questions like they were nothing. They went to the same competitive public schools as the children of my parents’ friends’. All I had to do was move a few cities south, and I could’ve easily been one of them. 

They thought I was cool. I had music taste that stretched beyond the Billboard Top 40 that all our parents played on a constant loop. I wore loud, colorful earrings and embroidered mom jeans. I could take public transportation downtown and eat out with friends (almost) any time I wanted.

In the context of that summer camp, all those traits made me feel really, embarrassingly, whitewashed. 

But wasn’t that what I’d wanted my whole life? 

Even in elementary school, surrounded by other children of immigrants, I was careful to distance myself from any “fresh off the boat” signs in my outfits, my books, my word choice. By the time I finished a year of high school, those tendencies increased tenfold. 

It had been a long time since I was surrounded by so many people whose backgrounds almost perfectly matched my own, yet we came from vastly different worlds, if only separated by a forty-minute drive. Sometimes I still feel like an impostor no matter who I surround myself with, and not just white and Asian people. Because I’ve grown up conforming to mainstream American culture—one steeped in classism, colorism, and anti-Blackness—there are endless experiences under the broad category of “people of color” that I can’t claim, more than not knowing a single RnB throwback. 

Here’s one thing I remember from that summer math program: every theory exists within a specific axiomatic structure, or set of rules. That means the “correctness” of a theory is relative. If you change the axiomatic structure, a theory that used to be true might become false. 

Similarly, what my middle school friend told me about “turning white” was relative. For some, I’m “too Asian”; for others, I’m too “white” or “American.” Even within Asian America, with so many ethnicities, immigration stories, educational, geographical, and socioeconomic backgrounds, I’ve realized there’s no universal or “correct” Asian American experience. 

I’m learning to live with that ambiguity, creating my own set of axioms for being Asian American while recognizing that everyone else is searching for their own, too.

* “Tiger babies” are the children of “tiger parents,” or strict parents who pressure their children into high academic and extracurricular success. Commonly associated with East, South, and Southeast Asian parenting, the term “tiger mother” was made popular by Amy Chua in her 2011 memoir Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.

Luna is a high school senior, native San Franciscan, daughter of immigrants, nonstop knitter, and avid earring collector.

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The Blemishes of Internalized Colorism

One of our YIP interns, Wendy, looks back at the internalized colorism she was forced to swallow and how it contaminated the way she perceived her own sense of beauty throughout her entire childhood.

At my core lies impulsivity and a satisfaction with riding the flow of the universe. Living under a Filipino roof has conditioned me to appreciate the full capacity of the present moment and cherish my loved ones with the utmost respect and joy. From endearing jokes about who’s most likely to finish the banana chips first after shopping at Serramonte to peaceful moments at the dinner table as we thank the universe or God for always providing us with enough food at the table. I was a free spirit for most of my childhood, and all I really wanted out of life was to smile and laugh with the people I cared for.

C’mon, don’t take things too seriously. 

I was also raised to be tough, to have resilience as an excuse to cover up the blemishes of my own internalized colorism. Staying strong and choosing to ignore the hurtful garbage certain people tossed at me seemed like the only viable option. As early as elementary school, I was bombarded with statements from my inner circle that gaslighted my painful experiences. 

Why can’t you just take a joke? That’s just who they are, so why do you care so much? People are always going to say crap about other people, just forget about it. 

My friends and my family all taught me how to not let anyone get to me, which, in retrospect, is only healthy if the way you filter those negative energies come from a place of self-love. I honestly didn’t really know what that was. For me, the filter was rooted in fear and denial. 

In second grade, I was part of a vibrant group of friends, all of whom were Filipino except for this one girl (there were quite a lot of Filipinos at that school). We would all eat Popeyes together on the colorful benches of the upper yard playground and play hide and seek tag with “the boys” because apparently, that’s how you flirted as a seven-year-old. 

One day, the girl who was not Filipino initiated a verbal attack on me. Up until this point, I’d considered her a close friend. It was an incredibly clear, beautiful day and we were all happily eating our chicken when she suddenly asked me, “Why are you so dark?”

What’s wrong with that huh? 

Your skin looks like Obama’s! 

Why is that so bad?!

You’re too dark from playing in the sun too much!

Well, I guess I have the same skin color as the president, then.

I didn’t handle that too well. I called them “dumb and stupid,” (truly the cruelest of all curse words) and then they snarked at my reputation as a “smarty pants.” I ran away to the lower yard. I felt like my hands were tied. I needed help, but I also didn’t want to rat my closest friends out, especially my bestie. 

What actually hurt me was when my other close friends started laughing with her and proceeded to make fun of how dark I was in comparison to all of them. Seeing my best friend side with her hurt more than the words themselves.

I told myself that I shouldn’t let such obscene statements lower my self-esteem, but truthfully, I just buried the pain because I didn’t know how to handle it properly. From that day forward, I was nothing but my darker skin to those so-called “friends” of mine.

My best friend came to my house everyday after school, so after seeing her tease me at the playground, I didn’t know what to feel. 

I was sensing some lingering animosity, but we didn’t address it. It was like it never really happened. Then one day, she admitted she didn’t believe any of those painful remarks she had said to me. I believed her. She cut herself off from the girl who started it all. I understood that those hurtful comments she’d made didn’t come from a place of truth; they came from the fear that she’d also be made fun of if she didn’t take a side.

That girl was a bully. She was two-faced and manipulative. A lot of the internalized colorism that I juggle with today is rooted in the light-skin superiority that she was perpetuating. I was always an easy target for her, but of course I never let her truly see the way she exacerbated my insecurities. 

Now, reconnecting with what I felt during the heat of that moment has led me to examine the colorist lens that has tainted my perception of what is considered beautiful. From using the notorious Likas papaya soap to harmful, whitening exfoliating scrubs, I subconsciously accepted a truth that I was forced to swallow at such a young age. 

Whiter is better. To become more beautiful and radiant, I had to lighten my skin.

I had to scrub the darkness off. 

I was told that the more they stung, the more effective these products were at getting rid of “the dirt.” I washed my face every night with the “magical” papaya soap. It felt like erasure. A fruitless attempt to become more white. Then I pondered: Why did I need to tailor my desires to fit standards I never really wanted to reach in the first place?

I no longer use those heinous whitening products, but there is definitely a wonderful lesson I learned that now aligns with the person I’m actively trying to become. The foundation of colorism is white supremacy and racism. It trickles down from the institutional level and infects our interpersonal relationships with extremely distorted views of who or what is better. It glorifies Euro-centric beauty standards and generates products that capitalize on its power. I found that actively practicing unconditional self-love is a direct protest to this system that aims to stifle our self-confidence. 

Holistically accepting every dimension, every broken piece of your identity initiates the process of healing. It has brought me a sense of peace and stability within myself. This internal harmony has changed the type of energy I put out into the universe. The capacity of love I have for my friends, family, and community has expanded tremendously, knowing that I no longer chain myself or others to such detestable expectations of what we need to be.

Wendy is a high school senior, first-gen Filipino immigrant, joyful dancer, and music lover.

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Decolonizing the Tea Trade: The Story of Uproot Teas

I’ve always loved tea. From a young age, I started drinking tea way more than anyone else in my family.

Having grown up in a cozy, predominantly Asian-immigrant suburb of Los Angeles, I was lucky to never have to experience the “lunchbox” moment at school. While at an academically rigorous high school, I filled my time with a lot of extracurriculars. I figure skated, played four instruments, was the editor-in-chief of the Yearbook, participated in beauty pageant scholarships, had a Youtube channel, led volunteer trips to Peru in the summer, and ran a non-profit online clothing store. 

It wasn’t until I went to college at Dartmouth did I become uncomfortably aware of my identity: a petite, Chinese-American woman from a middle-class immigrant family. I had never thought of myself in those explicit terms before arriving to rural New Hampshire.

I had many identity crises in college. I thought constantly about gender, race, class, culture, family background, etc. Realizing that Southern California is not representative of the larger US was a shock to me. 

Over the years, I would find my own diverse and loving group of friends, but the adjustment to New England was more difficult than just surviving the never-ending winters.

After graduating, I worked in management consulting at Bain & Co in San Francisco. Just to get out of the house during the pandemic, I started volunteering on the weekend at my local farmers markets, packing veggie boxes for curbside pickup. Then I started selling kimchi on Sundays for a local vegan kimchi maker, Volcano Kimchi, and began doing freelance business consulting for them and for a few other small food companies in SF. I realized that I was good at that and it gave me a lot of energy. I wanted to help small business owners transform their big dreams into actionable plans. I loved getting to work with founders I adored and connected with. Coincidentally, they all happened to be Asian women – After years of working with predominately white men, this was a refreshing change.

Then, last summer, right before I was going to move across the country with my partner at the time, we broke up! I was devastated, so I impulsively decided to visit my sister in Boulder, Colorado instead. I fell in love with the energy! I met tons of cool, creative, entrepreneurial people there who encouraged me to also do what I wanted to do, and I decided that it was building Uproot Teas. With the mission of empowering farmers by paying them what they needed to grow sustainable, delicious crops and showing the US consumer what a delicious, multi-sensorial experience tea could be, I decided to then go to Hawai’i to work with a tea farm and learn more about the tea growing, harvesting, and production. It was a dream. It totally affirmed how passionate I feel about the farmer pay equity and agricultural sustainability piece of Uproot.

While tea originated in China, the narrative of tea in the west has been dominated and told by white men. The global tea trade has roots in colonialism and imperialism, which are still apparent today. The ancient crop was capitalized and exoticized, transformed for the western market without acknowledging the deep culture behind it. Tea became commoditized, resulting in widening power & capital disparities between the farmers and the western traders. I truly believe that everyone, regardless of racial or ethnic background, is 200% entitled to enjoy, appreciate and nerd out about anything. Especially in food and drink, culture should evolve and change with time and new circumstances. That’s the beauty of it! However, I don’t believe in misrepresentation – the taking without acknowledging nor attributing, capitalizing while appropriating, and excluding.

As a business owner, I’m in a lucky position to be able to make strategic decisions that align with my values: Uproot Teas is proudly a zero-waste company, as 100% of our packaging is compostable. That matters a lot to me because I care deeply about the environment and I think it’s the right thing to do, even though it is really, really expensive. As a Chinese American tea company founder, I’m excited to use my voice to bring more representation and cultural education. As a petite Asian woman with turquoise hair, I hope to break the expectation of what an entrepreneur “is” or “should be.” 

It’s hard sometimes to feel like a “serious business person” because I know that I’m not what people picture in their heads when they think of one. I had this type of imposter syndrome in my previous jobs even when I did my best to conform to look and act as “professional” as possible. Now, I accept that I may struggle with imposter syndrome for a while, and I find other ways to pep myself up. So, I might as well keep my colorful hair and ditch the heels.  

To be honest, I think my parents are still dubious about Uproot Teas, but they’re supportive. I think similar to a lot of other immigrant children, my parents just never really “got” what we were doing. They didn’t understand when I did consulting, but were impressed by my salary. They didn’t understand mental health, but accepted that I worked at a digital therapy company. They know tea and know I like it, but they don’t get why I’ve made it my career. I believe my mom’s words after my first month of sales were, “Wow, I didn’t know Americans would spend money on tea!”

I have grown so much in the last few months of working on Uproot Teas – I think my biggest takeaway is that I will probably be on a lifelong journey of learning the art of self-validation. I grew up (like many immigrant children) wanting to appease my parents and my community, so I leaned a lot on external validation to feel like I was doing a good job. With building a small business, there are SO many obstacles and haters that if I let them all get to me, I wouldn’t make it very far. At the same time, there are so many highlights and sparkly moments that the highs are higher than I’ve ever experienced at any job. But it’s the moments in between all the milestones, achievements, and low points that make up 95% of the journey, and during those times, I am learning to empower and validate myself!

My vision for the next few years: 

  • Celebrate & cultivate the loose leaf tea experience in the US and create consumer demand for artisan teas & botanicals  
  • Expand into specialized teaware with beautiful designed functional products to help elevate anyone’s at-home tea experience
  • Open brick & mortar Uproot Teas locations as community gathering hubs for tasty and inventive craft tea drinks & desserts (think: tea lattes, tea cocktails, tea cakes… the possibilities are endless!!) I want to host open mic nights, feature ceramics and artwork made by local artists, and provide a slower, softer space for people to connect.  

I’m truly so grateful for this journey and I feel like Uproot has provided me with a canvas to paint the small part of the world that I want to spend most of my time in! 

Cindy is a SoCal native, Bay Area lover, and Colorado resident who founded Uproot Teas to celebrate loose leaf tea culture and empower family farms. When not drinking or selling tea, you can find Cindy roller skating, climbing, dancing, or being the only dog-less human at the dog park.

Want to support Uproot Teas? Order now tea on You can go to your favorite local cafes and retailers and request they carry Cindy’s teas. Seriously, this latter one helps so much because everyone know customers are #1.