Like a lot of new college graduates, Joshua Kaiser spent time traveling. But while others backpacked from Paris to Prague, Kaiser studied rare and unusual varieties of tea in mainland China, Taiwan and Japan. A year later, in 1997, he founded Rishi Tea. Rishi means "pioneer," roughly, in Sanskrit; Kaiser is the first to bring to America varieties such as Organic Yunnan Golden Needle, a black tea with a sweet malty finish ($5 an ounce), and Plum Blossom, an oolong tea scented by the plum trees grown alongside the bushes ($20 an ounce). He even flies home to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with bags of tea in his luggage. Unlike tea importers who depend on middlemen, Kaiser has developed close relationships with producers. "Most tea makers are not just farmers, they're calligraphers, I Ching fortune tellers, antiques collectors, even university professors," he says. Kaiser, who calls himself "a student of tea," is eager to keep learning (866-747-4483 or www.rishi-tea.com).