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The Passion Behind the Product
Quick: what is the second-most-widely- consumed beverage in the world (after water)? No, it’s not Coke. Hint: the Chinese started it, the Brits can hardly get through a day without it, and in America, it famously triggered a Revolution.
Yep. It’s tea, a simple aromatic liquid that has been around for millennia. From China to Mali, from Burma to Bali, in India and Russia and Pakistan, tea drinking is an essential element of the culture, from everyday interactions to elaborate entertaining. The delights of High Tea at the Ritz in London could not exist without it; and here in the U.S., what gathering in the Deep South would be complete without a vat of “sweet tea” to smooth the social whirl?
In keeping with the current explosion of fascination with all things “food,” there are endless offerings in the world of tea, and other contemporary considerations are also coming into play, including sustainability, social ethics, and environmental responsibility. Enter Paul Bain and JusTea.
In 2011, Bain was working part-time with a clean-water charity project in Uganda while managing tree-planting crews in Northern British Columbia. His dad, Grayson, the founder of Rocky Mountain Bicycles, was juggling various charitable and entrepreneurial projects.
They both felt that they wanted to move in the direction of socially conscious business models, combining both sides of the equation to effect positive change through sustainable economic impact. As Paul explains it, “It’s trade vs. aid. By creating a product that has direct market value, individuals can directly impact their own community without relying on charitable donations.”
It was a trip to Kenya and an intimate visit with tea farmers there that pointed the Bains to their passion. Grayson and Paul learned that large corporations were profiting from the labors of nearly half a million small-scale farmers, while the farmers themselves were earning about $2 a day—not remotely enough to supply their families’ most basic needs.
Thus was born JusTea. First, the Bains set out to establish connections in the community. In a land where the most common admonition in Swahili is “pole, pole” (“slowly, slowly”), it took time and sensitivity to establish themselves. But eventually the project blossomed. Paul notes, “Business in Kenya is built on relationships and trust; we found success with our farmers by first developing a strong, family-like bond with them and then exploring unique market opportunities together.”
Today, the company is certified by the Rainforest Alliance and the Non-GMO Project, and is a member of the Fair Trade Federation. They have established Kenya’s first-ever artisanal specialty tea factory, fully staffed, managed, and owned by small-scale Kenyan tea farmers. And they have created more than 200 jobs for youths and women in rural Kenya.
And in the process, they have brought to market some of the most delicious tea this side of Nepal, including their latest offering, a wildly healthy purple tea filled with antioxidants and anthocyanins.
But the key for the Bains is the people. “The premium quality of the product wouldn’t be there if it wasn’t for the story of the families we partner with. Their commitment to this mission is what results in such a beautiful cup of tea, and each of their wonderful stories should be told,” says Paul. And through JusTea, they are doing just that.
Visit betternutrition.com for a Purple Tea-Brined Chicken Salad, made with JusTea’s purple tea leaves.