Our New Handcrafted Teas & Self-Reflection

Fresh teas have just arrived from Kenya! The Katah family shipped us some new handcrafted teas: Monsoon Black and Spiral Green! The Katah’s are very excited to be sharing these delicious teas with you as these are the only Kenyan teas in the world that are farmer-direct and handcrafted, woohoo!!

It has been a long journey to create these teas. L. McKeown writes that Great work is often built on the mundane. Great cathedrals start with bricks, great paintings begin with paint, and great novels start with words. He might have added that making world-class Kenyan chai begins with a cup of tea!

Over the past 3 years we have also learned about relational business from Jacob Katah. He’s our wise mzee with a 30 year tea history and one of the most senior Kenyans in the tea industry.

During this period to get to where we are, we have:

  • Made 5 trips from Vancouver to Kenya
  • Funded 2 trips for Buddha (our tea expert from Darjeeling) to train our farmers in handcrafting teas
  • Exhibited at the World Tea Expo in California and invited Jacob (our key farming partner) to attend with us
  • Received a Cottage-Industry Tea Processing licence from the Tea Board of Kenya (only one of 2 licenses offered nationwide!)

Boaz Handcrafted TeaSimilarly, Jacob’s son, Boaz, is persistent at developing these new handcrafted teas for JusTea. He’s driven mainly by the need for quality teas, and the kindness in him to help his neighbours. Their Nandi Hills tea processing kitchen is built on using unemployed youth as pluckers and as factory workers.

With YOUR ongoing JusTea support, we have opened the first farmer-direct tea processing facility in Kenya! Tea drinkers like you can now buy directly from small-scale farmers, so they can earn more from their crop and you can know exactly how your tea was made.

Asante Sana, Thank-you!

Wasted Rain

Rich soil washed down the headwaters of the Nile all the way to Egypt

Our friend Davison looks down from his tea bushes to the stream gorge below, and sighs,“Egypt should send us a big THANK YOU card because of how much us farmers love to send out our soil to them at no cost.” Davison explains that the soil from his steep-sloped farm is slowly washing from between the tea bushes, into the stream at the bottom of the gully. We are in the watershed of the Mighty Nile, and so this stream will eventually dump into the Nile itself, and all the sediment the stream carries will enrich the farms in Egypt along the Nile.”

Davison Tea Farm Kenya

When it rains in Kenya, it is a torrential downpour that immediately causes huge run-off.  Tea bushes are damaged as the fast moving streams course around the plants’ roots. The streams of water strip the dirt off the tea bush roots and expose the fine tendrils to the hot and dry sun. It slowly debilitates, even kills the tea bush.

But Davison is aware of this. In spite of the poverty of this region, he and his neighbours are working at solutions. Erosion is halted in part by the planting rows of tall tough grass called napier grass. This grass is chopped up with a machete and used to feed goats and cows.  Sometimes corn, used to make wonderful “ugali” is planted in terraced rows alongside of napier grass to create strong root network which stops the dirt from being carried away by the rains.

JusTea is working with Boaz Katah, a Kenyan with an undergrad commerce degree from the US. We are proud to have him as our Kenyan partner. He wants to come alongside these farmers to improve soil conditions for growing tea. He is looking to you to help in research into methods of organic tea farming, consistent with the economics of 1-acre smallholder farms. If you want to make a donation to the work in Kenya, please don’t! Boaz does not want your money as a donation. He wants investment in jobs, so please buy JusTea!

 

Goat Tea Field Kenya

Davison states “it is beautiful to see the rain, but in a week, my rain barrel will be empty again.  It is just not big enough for all our needs, and the animals.  Mama Grace will again have to walk all the way down to the stream at the bottom of the valley to collect our water.” Davison needs water for his family of 6, for the 3 cows and 8 goats, for washing and cooking.  In the dry season, Mama climbs this tiny steep path sometimes three times in a day to bring up the water.

He is trying to save money by selling goats milk, and recently weaned a goat from mother’s milk and sold it. It’s all to buy rain gutters and a second barrel so that he can collect the rain water from the other side of the homestead roof.

For us at JusTea, it is not that we want to give hand-outs to families like Davison. Instead with your purchase of tea, we can partner together with Davison to increase his tea income and allow him to invest in the barrel for rain.