Every tea lover to some degree has taken it upon themselves to introduce the tranquility and community of tea to others around them. It is an opportunity to inspire others to take the time to slow down and appreciate something as small as a sip of tea. There is no direct benefit of introducing the experience of tea to others, but this act is what will help society develop a value for tea. There is a mission for tea lovers to share the art of tea with the people around them. As a tea lover I am also on this mission, but as an insider to the food industry and friend of tea growers I have stepped up my mission in tea. But it is only recently that I have found a way to properly communicate my mission, goal, and value to tea.
My Mission: To build a bridge between tea farmers and tea consumers
In 2006, after graduating from college with a BS in Food Science and Technology and working in the food industry for several years, I began a journey to reconnect with my original passion for food. As a food scientist, I wasn’t providing sustenance but forging documents for organic certifications and finding loopholes in food regulations to include taste-improving ingredients and shelf-life-extending chemicals. I reacted by joining the Peace Corps where I learned about real food systems where communities only consumed what they grew. I went to Africa thinking my food science knowledge would save them, but quickly realized that the food science that I learned was responsible for the problems with our food system. Essentially, the developed world has commodified food and pulled the consumer farther and farther away from the producer. Since I have returned to the US I dedicated every bit of my energy and work towards building a bridge between producer and consumer in the food industry. All of this energy has been applied to my work with tea that started in 2008.
My Goal: To build a transparent platform for the tea industry
My work in tea started for a large producer of ready-to-drink tea as a food scientist in the quality assurance department. For the first time I felt I was working with a product that was healthy and enriching to people instead of a product filled with unhealthy ingredients. Things turned south when I began to ask for transparency regarding the sources of raw ingredients so I could build a comprehensive traceability protocol for FDA compliance. I was discouraged to ask questions and management didn’t have answers for me. I left to further my education with a Japanese MBA where I continued my work with tea, but this time with tea growers, first in Hawaii and then Japan. I was inspired to combine my mission to bridge producer and consumer and the need for transparency in the tea industry. I started to build a technology platform that has since won me a 2015 World Tea Award for Best Tea Industry Innovator.
My Value: A network for Direct Trade
Tealet started out as a retail subscription service that tea lovers could order online to receive farm-direct teas at their door. Our growth stopped at a point when we realized that high quality tea is best sold offline in an environment where the merchant can educate the consumer. In order to build a stronger bridge, we decided to open our network of tea growers to wholesale tea buyers that were interested in direct trade but didn’t have the resources or capability to travel around the world to develop relationships with tea growers. The purchasing power of Tealet’s network of wholesale buyers has already made a difference in the livelihoods of tea growers. One tea grower in Assam, India has made a 9 times increase in profit from the tea they have sold on the Tealet platform which equated to an additional $1,200 that has been reinvested in heightening the skills of their workers and improving the quality of their tea.
I have been working on my mission to tea for almost a decade and know that this is only the start. I ask you as tea lovers and stewards of tea to find your mission, goals, and value to tea. Together, we can work to build a strong future for tea, our environment, and communities. Read more about my team’s mission and see how you can get involved.