About this project
Taking Tea To Uncharted Soils
As avid tea drinkers, we are honored to play a small part in this miraculous plant's history. By joining us you will:
- Drink the first cups of a white tea that lays the foundation for a sustainable Indian tea region.
- Create dignified rural livelihoods in the Kumaon region of the Indian Himalayas.
- Strengthen mountain ecosystems by drinking a tea intercropped with other mountainous plants to rejuvenate local soils
Introducing the Kumaon White Peony
- Tea: The first batch of Kumaon White Peony, direct from the mountains to your cup. Organic, single origin, hand made, and grown using permaculture practices. This is it!
- Limited Edition Travel Tumblers: Take your tea on the go with these popular double walled BPA-free plastic travelers. We laser etched our logo into the wall, and at the higher reward levels, we can work with you to customize the design. The tumbler's design is effective, durable, and beautiful. It can easily fit into a backpack or purse without heating its surrounding environment.
- Gift Sets: Ideal for weddings, birthdays, or holidays, these gift sets have three ultra rare organic Indian teas. One tin of our Kumaon White Peony and two tins Nilgiri teas from the prized collection of Indi Khanna, our teacher -- a delicious green and his signature whole leaf black.
Growing A New Tea Region
Creating Dignified Rural Livelihoods
Without local job opportunities, the Kumaoni communities are quickly being hollowed out by urban migration. We'll be growing tea on local farmers' land so they don't have to migrate for work. Rashmi Bharti, co-founder of our non-profit partner Avani, explains how intercropping tea with dye-yielding plants that Avani uses will give farmers stable incomes.
In addition to creating new jobs, we'll also be improving the wages within the tea industry. Right now, farmers are paid, on average, less than a dime per pound of tea they harvest. That same tea is sold for over $80 per pound in the US. That's an 80,000% markup and a huge opportunity for improvement. If we simply connect the farmers directly to the drinkers, both sides of the tea cup benefit; better wages for the growers and fresher teas for the drinkers.
Better Soils Lead to Better Teas
We're using organic permaculture techniques to intercrop tea alongside other crops that Avani uses for their natural dyes. And we're growing these plants on abandoned farmland that has lain fallow to reclaim wasteland. This approach restores biodiversity to the area, strengthens root structures in the soil, and prevents landslides. This schematic illustrates the intercropping approach we're implementing:
We're learning from experts in the field who are pioneering practices. One such teacher is Indi Khanna, an innovative tea producer with a prized collection of bouTEAque teas in the south Indian Nilgiri mountains. Here he talks about how to certify an estate as organic.
Project Timeline & Budget
Phase 1: Trip to India
- April: Visit partner estates in Darjeeling and Assam in Eastern India to further develop relationships with leading producers
- May & June: Travel to the Kumaon region to harvest and process our first batches of tea, plan for project expansion, and coordinate logistics of shipping tea to the US
Phase 2: Distribution in the US
- July & August: Return to US, receive shipment of teas and clear customs
- September: Purchase packaging materials and repackage teas for the distribution
- October: Ship teas to all you wonderful folks!
- Harvesting and Processing Teas: $7,500
- Importing Teas: $2,500
- Packaging Materials: $3,500
- Travel & Accommodations: $5,500
- Kickstarter Fees: $2,500
- Unexpected: $2,500
If we are able to exceed our goal, we'll be able to start building Kumaon as the pride of Indian teas regions. To do that, we're trying to reach $32,000, which will allows us to:
- Expand to three communities in this year ($3,000)
- Begin to map the Kumaon tea region based on elevation, rain fall, aspects, soil nutrients, and other key variable ($3,000)
- Setup our first village-level decentralized processing unit ($2,000)
Long Term Plans
We are optimistic about the future. That sentiment is captured best in these words from Kailash, who has led our efforts to cultivate this new tea.
Risks and challenges
"An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all." - Oscar Wilde
We've been working with these communities for over five years, which has given us a good amount of experience in putting together a realistic project -- a rock solid partnership with a local non-profit, firsthand knowledge of conducting work in the area, and deep relationships with the families we are serving. Still, as Mr. Wilde put it, there are dangers we'll face and here are a few:
1. The crop fails and we can't harvest our teas: We are making backup arrangements with a government-run tea nursery in the area to purchase unprocessed green leaves. This way, if our crop fails, we'll still have a tea grown in the region's soils that we process. We'll still be able to deliver on-time.
2. Technical expertise: Processing tea is an art. We begun learning that art when we processed our first batch of wild harvested tea in 2013. For the last 18 months, we've been learning how to make it better and better. One of the reasons we chose to make a white tea is because it's the least processed -- after harvesting, the leaf gets a long wither, then is heated to halt oxidization. That's it! Still, there is finesse to the process, and fortunately we're learning from the best Indian producers.
3. Our teas get hung up in shipping: International shipping of agricultural products is no joke. The good news is that tea is fairly straightforward to import -- we are dealing with a finished good, not a raw material, and tea is not produced in the US on a commercial scale, so there is not the same level of protectionism. We are working with the FDA to make sure the process is seamless, including file necessary paperwork months in advance. Just the same, obstacles come up, and to account for that we're budgeting three months for shipping.
4. Production Delays: To process tea, everything has to happen within 24 hours of being harvested. That means that once the tea reaches the US, the only thing we will have to do is repackage it. We already have a licensed production facility and have been in the business for over a year.
4. Budget overages: We've put together a budget that's based on experience working in the region, and had it reviewed by people in the industry. We also included 10% of our overall budget for "Unexpected" costs. We're confident these numbers will hold.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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