People ask me, “What is a Global Tea Ambassador?” It’s an interesting title that had me wondering as well when I first assumed it last year after I began working with the International Tea Farms Alliance. The title was actually a joke at first, as the organization’s leader, Kyoto Obubu, Tea Plantation’s Matsumoto-san, prepared my business cards for my four-month internship with the organization. Over time, I have come to realize the responsibility of a Global Tea Ambassador and look forward to sharing this opportunity with others that have a similar love for tea.
While an intern with the International Tea Farms Alliance, I helped coordinate a global network of independent tea growers that were passionate about connecting with tea lovers. This included organizing the inaugural World Tea Farms Festival in Wazuka, Kyoto, Japan in early March 2012. The organization invited tea growers from India, Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia, and Japan and represented tea growers from Hawaii. I developed many connections with these growers and realized that they are all facing very similar challenges. All growers are struggling to make their businesses profitable and are wishing to connect directly with their customers so they can optimize their profits. As a Global Tea Ambassador, I felt a personal responsibility to try to create a solution for this struggle.
Since returning to Hawaii after this internship, I am still a passionate Global Tea Ambassador, and probably will be for the rest of my life. As a social entrepreneur, I also knew that I had to act quickly to build a business that could advocate for tea growers. My business partner, Jane Gonsowski of Shanghai, China, and I thought that the best way we could help these growers would be to build a technology platform that could directly connect tea drinkers and tea growers. These connections are made by distributing tea direct from the farm, but most importantly, they are made by telling the stories of tea growers and their communities. Our business idea has evolved into what is now Tealet, a bimonthly curated tea subscription and direct-to-grower marketplace. I now spend my days networking with tea growers and tea drinkers online and posting blogs, videos, and photos about these growers. We look forward to exposing the market at large to the unique art and culture that is tea cultivation, processing, and service.
I am a collaborator and believe that everyone should have an opportunity to contribute to better the world. For this reason, I am also passionate about sharing the opportunities and responsibilities of being a Global Tea Ambassador. At Tealet, we look forward to developing a Global Tea Ambassador internship program that will allow tea lovers to live and interact with tea growers in their tea-growing communities. This is a win-win situation for Tealet because the interns can help us tell the stories of the growers with which they interact and for tea lovers around the world who would like to grow a more intimate connection with tea.