A few posts ago, I talked about a tea venture I was involved with in Kenya. Things have been moving along with the project quite well, so I thought I would give you an update on current happenings.

The tea venture about which I am speaking is JusTea, a non-profit partnership with small-scale Kenyan tea farmers to produce premium whole-leaf tea and bring social justice to their industry. More than simply emerging as another social business, JusTea aims to start a social justice movement. The project encourages tea lovers to rethink tea, and to connect with its culture and the people growing it. JusTea’s goal in the fall of 2013 is to introduce orthodox handcrafting techniques to Kenyan tea farmers so they can process their own tea.

Kenya is the world’s largest producer and exporter of black tea; production is around 300 million kilograms each year. The lion’s share of tea is grown by over 500,000 small-scale tea farms in the country, and then processed in large industrial factories. Consequently, the farmers only receive about 1% of what the consumer pays. This leaves the farmers in poverty and without a voice to change their circumstances. We are partnering with them to remove the middleman and give them the power to make beautifully handcrafted tea.

Grayson Bain, the founder of Rocky Mountain Bikes, started JusTea in 2012, after forming friendships with Kenyan tea farmers. The team is volunteer-based, and currently consists of nine members based in Vancouver, with international collaboration from key people in Kenya. Grayson explains, “My vision for starting JusTea was to practically connect the rich 5% of the world with the 95% that love, build, and hope , but have so little real connection to us in the 5%. Furthermore, it was to enrich millions of tea drinkers by bettering the lives of thousands of African tea farmers.”

On May 15, JusTea launched its Indiegogo Campaign and aims to raise $35,000 by June 15, 2013. This will enable the project to move forward with sending a tea-processing expert to Kenya in the fall and setting up the first handcrafting tea kitchen, on a small-scale farm. JusTea is all about relationships with the land, with the tea, and with the farmers.

The first shipment of tea has arrived, and we cupped it in my office last week. It is exceptional indeed. A high-quality mixed broken leaf with a full-bodied bouquet, and bread dough freshness, which transfers to the cup. It’s malty and smooth with a clean tannin finish.  We were all quite astounded at the quality of tea we were drinking. The good news is you can get some of this high-quality Kenyan black tea by selecting one of the many rewards JusTea offers in its Indiegogo campaign. Visit www.justea.com to watch the campaign video, share the stories, and contribute!

Here is an opportunity for us tea lovers to make a significant impact on the lives of small-scale African farmers, and wash our thirsty palates in amazing handcrafted tea.

Brendan Waye

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