Hand-Carved Kenyan Spoon Partnership

Makueni Carvers: Here’s the scoop on our hand-carved Kenyan spoon partnership

According to your reviews, the crafty little wooden tea spoons that come attached to the side of our loose leaf tins are as loved by our customers as they are us! To keep up with demand we are expanding our carving partnership, and the Makueni Carvers have designed a new spoon shape that showcases the beautiful grain of the olive wood they’re made from. This upgrade also features the removal of the plastic beads from around the neck of each spoon. They are subsequently now both more functional (they can now be used for other foods like jam, honey, spices, and sugar) and more eco-friendly as we try to reduce our use of plastic (see our recently released compostable refill pouches).

3x olive wood wooden spoons

You may already know that our mission is to help develop sustainable and ethical tea farming practices in Kenya, and increase trade in tea-growing communities by importing only the highest quality of tea for steepers all over the globe. What you may not know is that this mission applies to more than just tea leaves. In this blog post we turn our attention towards the people behind our wooden spoons: a group of carvers from Makueni County in southern Kenya.

Note: The profile images in this article were sent from a cell phone in Kenya and their quality is subsequently not excellent. The images at the bottom are our own from a past trip to Makueni.

Samuel carving a spoon

Samuel is 36 and has 2 children. He is from Makueni County and was formerly a subsistence farmer. He turned to wood carving after several seasons of crop failures and now comfortably supports his family and both of his daughters, who are in school.


William organizes the spoons

William is 58 and also comes from Makueni County. He has been carving wood for 17 years and encourages unemployed youth in the community to learn the skill. He is also a key figure in creating work for and training new carvers.


Joyce, Jannifer and Roda beading spoons

Joyce (44), Jannifer (52) and Roda (50) work at sanding, oiling, and beading. They taught themselves beadwork 5 years ago because farm work was becoming too physically demanding, and they now earn a much higher wage that allows them to contribute to school fees for their grandchildren.

Joyce says she loves this work because she can “sit and chat with good friends while we do our work. I also love that we are making things that will be used in homes far away. Everyone can have a small piece of Kenya with them”.


Justus poses for the camera

Justus is 42 with 4 children.  He comes from Taita-Taveta County, south of Makueni and just over the border from Tanzania. He was also a subsistence farmer but now earns enough from wood carving to employ people to work on his small farm.

Economic and Environmental Sustainability

Carving of this type is mostly a seasonal job because the demand is driven by tourism, so in the off-season there is a reduced need for workers. Our spoons are made year-round and by partnering with the group we’re helping to create sustainable employment for over 80 carving families. 90% of the price JusTea pays for the spoons goes directly to the carvers, with the remaining 10% going to supplies and transport. They earn about 2-3 times the minimum wage in Kenya.

Coming from the beautiful Kenyan highlands, the group share our west coast love for nature and they make every effort to produce sustainably. All of the spoons are made from off-cuts of olive wood from larger items like bowls and tourist gifts (think carved giraffes). By turning these off-cuts into spoons the carvers reduce their waste and create for themselves additional income. Climate change looks a lot different in Kenya than it does in North America, the effects of which underscore the importance of increasing forest cover around the country. Together, we have committed to planting 3 trees for every one that is cut down, ensuring an exponential environmental return.



This week we announced a Willy Wonka Golden Ticket-inspired spoon lottery: 20 special painted spoons are waiting to be found through orders on our website, Amazon (CA & US), and even in stores across the continent that carry our products. If you find one of these painted spoons you’ll win a free loose leaf tea tin of your choice (including a spoon!), plus one of our new compostable refill pouches.


JusTea Spoon Lottery



We’ll leave you with these pictures of the carvers at work, taken on a recent trip to Makueni County.

Thanksgiving Dinner Ideas With A Twist: JusTea x Matt Gostelow

2018 Thanksgiving recipes made with tea

Thanksgiving is upon us! The grocery store shelves are brimming with autumn’s bounty and it’s time to make a decision on what to serve your guests this weekend.

JusTea has teamed up with Vancouver-based chef Matt Gostelow (Ask For Luigi, The Acorn, Au Comptoir), who has created a few seasonal recipes with a twist. We provided Matt with our brand new Purple Chocolate tea, as well as some Purple Jasmine and Kenyan Earl Grey, which he incorporated into a reimagined Thanksgiving spread.

If you’re looking for an alternative to roast turkey or need some suggestions for what to do with your leftovers, look no further.

Purple Chocolate Tea Turkey Mole


  • Dried ancho chilies 2 each
  • Jalapeños 1 each
  • Canola oil 1 tbsp
  • Onion 1 whole
  • Garlic 2 cloves
  • Ground cinnamon 1/4 tsp
  • Ground cumin 1/4 tsp
  • Ground coriander 1/4 tsp
  • Dried oregano 1/2 tsp
  • Unsalted peanuts 50g
  • Runny honey 1 tbsp
  • Purple Chocolate tea 4 tsp
  • Orange juice 1/2 cup
  • Tomato 2 each
  • Leftover Turkey 500g

Thanksgiving 2018 Purple Chocolate Tea Turkey Mole


  1. Soak ancho chilies in boiling water and allow to cool. Brew 250ml of Purple Chocolate tea.
  2. Finely chop onion and garlic. De-seed and finely chop fresh chilies. Toast peanuts until golden
  3. Over medium-low heat, sauté onion, garlic, and chili in canola oil until softened, around 8 minutes
  4. Add spices and cook for a further 2 minutes
  5. Remove ancho chilies from water and remove their stems and place in blender with onion mixture, peanuts, honey and brewed Purple Chocolate tea, leaves and all, and blend until smooth
  6. Dice tomato and add to blender with orange juice, season with salt and pepper and blend again until smooth
  7. Return mixture to a pan and gently warm. Shred leftover turkey and add to mole sauce
  8. Serve with rice and beans or with warm corn tortillas and shredded cabbage


Jasmine Tea Smoked Salmon with Soba Noodle Salad


  • Sesame oil 5ml
  • Soy sauce 90ml
  • Canola oil 30g
  • Mirin 40ml
  • Garlic 15g
  • Ginger 30g
  • Black peppercorns 1 tsp
  • Sriracha hot sauce (optional ) 5g
Salmon Filets
  • Salmon Filets 175g x 4
  • Wood Chips 200g
  • Jasmine Tea 4 tsp
Soba Noodle Salad
  • Soba Noodles 200g
  • Cabbage 100g
  • Carrots 1 each
  • Brussel sprouts 75g
  • Roasted squash 100g
  • Green onion 2 each
  • Sesame seeds 4 Tbsp
  • Lime 1 whole juiced

Jasmine Tea Smoked Salmon with Soba Noodle Salad


  1. Combine marinade ingredients together and blend until smooth. Reserve 1/4 of the marinade to dress the salad. Soak smoking ingredients in 1/4 cup of water
  2. Place salmon in the marinade for 10-20 minutes, take out and pat dry
  3. Combine smoking ingredients together and wrap in aluminum foil. Poke holes in the foil to allow smoke to escape. Using either stovetop smoker or roasting tray with a rack, place the smoking pouch at the bottom of the tray and the salmon on top of the rack. Place smoker over an open flame with a medium-low heat. Cover with lid or more aluminum foil and smoke for 7 minutes. Finish salmon in oven for 5-8 minutes until cooked through and salmon flakes apart
  4. While salmon is smoking, cook soba noodles for 6 minutes, drain and rinse cold water and let drain.
  5. Dice roasted squash, finely shred cabbage, carrot, sprouts, green onion and toss with soba noodles, remaining marinade, and the lime juice
  6. Once fish has cooked, divide noodle salad between bowls, top with salmon and sesame seeds


Purple Chocolate Tea Thanksgiving Creme Brûlée


  • Cream 500ml
  • Egg Yolks 6 each
  • Sugar 20g
  • Honey 40g
  • Tea leaves 4 tsp
  • Vanilla 1/4 bean
  • Sugar (for brûléeing) 6 tbsp

Thanksgiving 2018 Purple Chocolate Tea Creme Brûlée


  1. Bring cream, sugar, honey to the boil, add tea and set aside
  2. While cream is heating, separate eggs
  3. Temper egg yolks in mixing bowl slowly with the hot cream mixture
  4. Strain mixture into a jug and pour into 6 ramekins
  5. Bake in hot water bath in the oven at 300F for 30-35 minutes. Brûlée mixture should jiggle slightly once cooked (Mixture can be made ahead of time and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Cooking time will take longer if the mixture is refrigerated)
  6. Once cooked, remove from water bath and allow to cool to room temperature before placing in the fridge
  7. When cooled put 1 tablespoon of sugar on top and use a blowtorch to caramelize sugar until thin crust appears. Serve immediately


Earl Grey Tea Scones

Thanksgiving 2018 Earl Grey Tea Scones


  • Orange Zest 1 each
  • Earl Grey Tea leaves 4 tsp
  • Poppy seeds 2 tbsp
  • Unsalted butter (cold) 150g
  • Self-raising flour 500g, plus extra for dusting
  • Baking powder 2 tsp
  • Sugar 2 tbsp
  • Salt 1 tsp
  • Eggs 2 each
  • Milk 4 tbsp, plus extra for brushing


  1. Preheat the oven to 400F
  2. Grate orange zest and grind tea leaves
  3. Roughly chop butter and add to a food processor along with zest and tea leaves
  4. Add flour, baking powder, sugar and a pinch of salt and pulse until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
  5. Add eggs and pulse again. Add milk a little at a time and pulse until it comes together as a dough. Tip out onto the floured work surface
  6. Gently knead the dough, handling as little as possible to ensure crumbly scones. Add a touch more flour if necessary
  7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll out dough until roughly 2cm thick. Stamp out scones with a round 5cm cutter. Combine and roll out the excess dough to use it up
  8. Place onto baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes or until risen and golden. Leave to cool slightly before serving
  9. Serve with clotted cream and a nice hot cup of tea