Spreading Wellness Through Tea

notebook.thumbThe words 'wellness' and 'tea' are often used in the same sentence and usually are followed by terms like antioxidants and flavanoids etc. As a tea-drinker, the feelings of well-being that tea bring me are immediately obvious but another understanding of wellness is surfacing in my awareness. This awareness is the wider effect of trading in tea...the promotion of wellness in the tea producing community.

I've had the privilege of meeting a number of tea growers in Assam who have chosen a different path in growing tea. They have rejected the chemical fertilizers and schedules of pesticide spraying most commonly followed on major tea estates. In many cases, their story stems from a shocking realization that the chemicals that are killing the pests are then spilling into their waterway and ultimately harming far more beings than they originally thought. The choice to go organic is an obvious step towards wellness for all who live, work and play near the gardens (never mind those of us who drink the tea leaves later on).
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Letter from Philip Schluter

Every so often an article appears in the papers that criticizes the Fair Trade movement. In the wake of one of these discouraging articles, Philip Schluter who ships coffees out of Ethiopia, Tanzania and D.R. Congo for Level Ground offered these words of encouragement to us. We thought we'd share them with you as it explains the heart of our work. (Thanks Phil!)

Dear Hugo,

Recent articles flying around on the rights and wrongs of Fair Trade have had me thinking, and I thought that I would put pen to paper (or at least fingers to keyboard) and write a few words of encouragement to you and the team at Level Ground.

As I have stated several times, I think that Level Ground has the best model for sourcing coffee in a sustainable way that makes an impact that I have seen in the market. We deal with over 70 roaster around the world, and I have been in the business for 20 years now and seen many different buying systems - and I believe that your model is the best. Why?
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15 Years of Famicafé

bibiana.hugo.thumbEvery year, Level Ground invests a Direct Fair Trade Community Premium when we purchase coffee from Colombia. Since 1998, we have been investing this community premium in Famicafe. Famicafe has granted 1,184 academic scholarships to rural youth in Colombia plus investments in infrastructure development in rural mountain schools.

The 15th Anniversary report is available

Cacao Nibs of Colombia

cacao-facecacaoLevel Ground recently introduced Cacao Nibs to our family of products. Cacao Nibs are produced by Fruandes, a Fair Trade company in Colombia. We were excited to hear from Giovanni of Fruandes who just returned from visiting the Cacao producers in Urabá, Colombia. This group has an inspiring story since they operate in a tough conflict zone and they are managing to live in peace in a middle of the conflict.

Here is a
visual report of their findings.

Stacey on his way to the Philippines

cayatano-2014.thumbIt's been a couple of years since Stacey trekked over to the Philippines to visit coffee farmers.  In the mean time, we've begun working with the Southern Partners Fair Trade Producers Cooperative to purchase their Coconut Oil.  We've kept pretty quiet about the coconut oil because we can barely keep it in stock.  Cebu was seriously affected by Earthquake and flooding last year so these coconut farmers and processors have been working very hard to rebuild.

The coconut oil is first cold pressed, meaning the whole coconut meat is pressed without being heated (this can destroy some of the nutritional value).  It smells and tastes delicious and has made its way into our kitchens for baking, frying and into our soap making and skincare!  Stacey is excited to meet up with the team in Cebu and will see the press in action.


Colombia Trip Recap

hugo-patricia-jeep.thumbdonna-ttv.thumbPatricia Pearson, sales representative for our Ten Thousand Villages and Non-Profit / Fundraising accounts, just returned from Colombia, where she experienced many things for the first time—like riding on top of a jeep with Hugo, and picking coffee with Donna, a regional sales manager for Ten Thousand Villages USA.Read More »

Vanilla beans available!

vanilla-package.thumbWe are delighted to let you know that we now have Vanilla beans available on our webstore!

Each package has 10 grade A beans inside. The beans are grown by small-scale farmers in Uganda and cured in Uganda as well.

Purchase Vanilla Beans

If you've never used vanilla beans before, it's easy! Here are two methods:

A. Score a bean lengthwise with a knife and scoop out the tiny seeds (seeds = flavour) and add them to your recipes. Note: Seeds from one bean will provide flavour equal or greater than 1 teaspoon of high quality, double strength (two fold) extract.

B. Make your own extract - it's very easy!

1. Chop up 6-8 beans into a 250 ml glass jar
2. Fill the jar with vodka
3. Wait (at least) a few weeks, it's best to wait a few months
4. Strain off the bean fibers and you've got your very own vanilla extract

How it's made - Cane Sugar!

how.to.cane.sugar.thumbThis delicious cane sugar is processed in El Jabon, Huila, Colombia. One of the farms in the community runs the press and our friend, Luis demonstrated the process. On Hugo & Reg's last trip, they took some footage so you can see how it's done.

Click on the image to the right to watch the video.

Letter from Assam

dheren-phukan.thumbassam-tribune.thumbDear Carol/Laurei,

Greeting at the onset. Last year I wrote you after reading an article in The Assam Tribune and got a reply from your side. And today i found the garden you visited is actually located just 30KMs away from my father’s residence here in Assam, India. And yes today I met this great guy called Dheren Phukan from Assam, India and his organic tea garden. He spoke a lot about you guys too.

What Dheran has achieved here amidst many odds is just not easy. His entire garden is so so so healthy and complete pesticide free. Even the others big players like McLeod Russel India Ltd who owns thousands of hectares of gardens are heavily dependent on chemical pesticides and other chemical fertilizers like Urea and what not.

I so much appreciate the efforts of level ground to promote healthy product in your country and a great encouragement for organic tea produces of Assam.

Do stay in touch.

Dibyajyoti Kaushik

Can Fair Trade work with the Big Companies?

hugo-adam-flex.thumbIn 2006, we embarked on a trade arrangement in Tanzania with a small company called Lima, specifically in support of their H.O.P.E project in Ileje, a small community tucked in the southwest corner of the Mbeya province near the Zambian border. At the time, we were purchasing 2 containers/year which was about all they could produce. The Fair Trade premium went to healthcare benefits for the women who sorted the coffee at the mill. Nice and tidy.

Fast forward 6 years. Corporate mergers resulted in Lima being sold to Dormans, a large coffee trader/roaster/retailer based in Nairobi. Dormans was then sold to Armajaro, a large commodities trading company based in the UK. So, a small fish was eaten by a large fish who in turn got swallowed by a much larger fish. Aha!, the joys of free-market capitalism!
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