1. Tell us how you ended up in Kenya and how you stumbled upon the tea business
We were looking beyond simple charity work in Kenya, as traditional aid programs, while well intentioned, usually do not translate into meaningful, long-term solutions to the needs of the poor. Why the tea farmers? Was it because I found a cool idea for investment with them? No. In fact, by the end of the trip I was tired and felt overwhelmed with many projects. Then Davison (a tea farmer) asked me to spend time with him, and to quit looking at projects for investments. On his tiny one acre tea “shamba”, over many cups of tea and late into the evening we shared stories of our lives — both joys and sadness. First the seed of a good friendship was planted. After that it became obvious to me that Davison was a logical business partner. In getting to know him through his hardships and his struggles, I began to see ways in which I could help him. And isn’t that where every business starts? By seeing a need and addressing those needs through providing a service?
2. What does an average day for a Kenyan tea farmer look like?
3. Explain how JusTea works and how it helps small scale tea farmers
Kenyan neighbours work hard together to support one another but lack opportunities. We will provide training from hand-processing tea experts so that the local farmers will learn how to process their own tea. Our approach is to engage local farmers, and local churches to establish small co-op “tea kitchens” for producing locally hand-processed tea. We want to partner with these communities and directly purchase their tea. By doing this, we are able to provide them with a fair living wage — more than the big companies who purchase their raw tea leaves.
4. What does JusTea do that most fair trade tea companies don’t?
5. Are there any other parts of the world that need JusTea, will you expand?
6. Are there any health benefits to drinking tea?
7. Any stories of being lost in translation in Kenya?
The compact Mazda was hot and cramped after 6 hours on dusty Kenyan roads. My lanky 6’3” son all crumpled up in the back seat decided to shoot his white feet out the window to cool down and to stretch. But this turned into a bad idea when the police stopped us and said this was a serious offence. I explained to the officer that we were unaware of the serious crime of “feet dangerously out the window”.
The officer’s facial expression remained unchanged from the stony glare. He then spoke only two words to us: “Organize yourselves.” Confused about how to interpret this, I responded: “We are organized. We are on our way to our friend’s tea farm where we will be living and learning about tea with his family for the next few days.”
Even more confused than I now, the Kenyan officer repeated, “No, jipon jani … You must organize yourselves!” Still clueless to what the officer was inferring, I also repeated myself, “We are organized! We are not tourists. We are researching small-scale tea farms in Kenya in order to establish a direct trade partnership with them.”
Finally after an hour the exasperated officer motioned for us to go, and quit wasting his time! Our driver, Paul, began laughing at the bizarre situation we had just gotten ourselves in and said: “Why didn’t you just give him the bribe he wanted when he said ‘organize yourselves?'”
We all burst out into laughter when he explained our misinterpretation of the officer’s two simple words and then our genuine sincerity of expressing how organized we all were!
To support JusTea, visit their Indiegogo page here.