Guest Contributor, Angela MacDonald, owner of Oregon Tea Traders and President of the U.S. League of Tea Growers.
“It is not business as usual for us,” reads the latest e-newsletter from Renegade Tea Estates. As with the rest of the world, they have been deeply saddened by the war in the Ukraine, but not in the way that many of us here in the West are.
Renegade Tea Estate, owned by a group of friends from Estonia and Lithuania, are rehabilitating abandoned tea farms in the Republic of Georgia. As people living and working in parts of the former Soviet Union, the feeling for them is deeply disturbing.
Talking with co-owner Kristina Mehik, she explains how the feeling is hard to describe to people who are living outside of the sphere of the former Soviet nations. Though she was born when Estonia was a free country, her parents lived through Soviet rule and remember it well. “Our countries were all forced to the Soviet Union once, and we know what it means” she says. “Geographically it’s far away but emotionally its very near”
She sees this not as an isolated incident tied to Russia and Ukraine alone, but a planned reformation of the Soviet Union by Vladmir Putin. She cited the war between Russia and the Republic of Georgia in 2008 as another piece that should not be forgotten. Mehik explains that the local Georgian people on the farm are similarly nervous, to say the least.
Renegade Tea Estates is a unique company which spans several cultures. The Estonian and Lithuanian owners spend half the year or more in the Republic of Georgia tending to the plants and processing tea. They communicate with the workers from neighboring Georgian villages in Russian and English while learning to speak Georgian. They are tied together by their love of tea, and commitment to work together despite their differences. Kristiina describes a sense of having a generational memory among people in former Soviet states. It makes it hard to watch their neighbors in Ukraine suffering. “It Doesn’t fit in your head seeing this war happening there and those innocent people. Human tragedy. Its hard to take in.”
Reporting only minor logistical inconveniences such as rising fuel costs as a direct result of the conflict, the larger impact for them is the ability to continue on with business as if nothing has happened. “Its hard to focus on anything, we are processing a lot” Kristiina comments.
It’s unclear how long the war will continue, and what its implications will be. Despite the hardships, Renegade is continuing with their work processing tea, and reclaiming more of the tea estates from the weeds that overtook them in the years since they were abandoned. Despite the unstable conditions in the world, “Nature doesn’t stop and the tea bushes will be growing soon. Spring will come this year.”
Adopt A Garden Program
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Our dream is to have 5000 families around the world who would get their tea from our farm, year after year. Not the hard-core enthusiasts or sommeliers, just regular families that drink tea casually on a daily basis, like we once did ourselves.
Tea is a way of life for Oregon Tea Traders owner Angela McDonald and her family. “Promoting tea is my way of promoting a better world” Her passion does not stop at simply drinking tea, she also explores and teaches about the world of tea through science, cultural traditions, health, and history. Her love of local agriculture has led to growing tea in her home of Oregon as well as working to encourage the domestically grown tea industry. She has proudly developed Oregon Tea Traders into a business that shares her love of community, health, and sustainability.
We believe in tea as a way of life. They should enhance your day, and provide whatever is needed. From a swift caffeine jolt to rustle you out of bed, to a calming herbal tea to wrap your hands around in the evening. Whatever your need, we want to be able to provide you with the best quality tea available.