Have you ever thought about where your tea comes from? As one of the most popular beverages in the world, tea makes up a multibillion-dollar industry that employs millions of people in developing countries. However, most of these workers barely earn enough to make a living, so choosing fair trade tea is an important step toward improving conditions for tea farmers.

Recently, one Vancouver company has taken the concept of fair trade tea even further. By partnering with Kenya’s first small-scale, farmer-owned, specialty tea factory, JusTea is providing steady employment for an entire community while producing innovative, high-quality teas. Some of their coolest products include the beautiful colour-changing Kenyan purple tea.

The Story Of JusTea

Athena Huynh

During a trip to Kenya in 2012, the Bain family connected with small-scale tea farmers and learned that many people were only earning about $2 per day - hardly enough to cover basic needs such as food, water, sanitation, and education. This experience inspired them to create a justly made tea that would provide sustainable, long-term jobs for Kenyans, and JusTea was born.

Working with the Katah family in the Nandi Hills community, JusTea helped establish the first “Artisanal Tea Factory” entirely owned and operated by Kenyan tea farmers. Through patience and hard work, they built trust and relationships with the Kenyan community to form an ethical enterprise that brings the story behind their fair trade tea to North American drinkers.

Making An Impact With Tea

tea, pasture
Photo courtesy of JusTea

Although China and India are usually the first countries that come to mind when people think of tea production, Kenya is actually the biggest tea exporter in the world. Sadly, this fact often goes unrecognized because most Kenyan tea is ground up into low-quality filler for use in tea bags. However, JusTea is aiming to change that with their artisanal whole-leaf teas.

In addition to providing fair and sustainable wages for over 40 people at the Artisanal Tea Cottage, JusTea has partnered with a Women’s Herbal Tea Co-op and over 15 woodworking families to produce their tea blends and tea spoons. As a result, each tin of JusTea supports the livelihoods of multiple Kenyan families, and these profits go directly into community improvement projects.

pasture, grass
Photo courtesy of JusTea

To date, JusTea has employed a total of 200 families and distributed schoolbooks to over 600 children. In the future, they hope to expand this capacity to employ more people and invest in more projects, all while continuing to offer unique types of tea. For example, their new line of purple tea makes for some Insta-worthy pictures with its cool colour-changing properties. 

What Is Purple Tea?

hijiki, herb, tea
Athena Huynh

Like common varieties of tea, purple tea comes from the plant Camellia Sinensis. Its purple colour is completely natural and results from extra high levels of anthocyanins, which also give other red/purple/blue foods (e.g. blueberries) their colour. Since anthocyanins act as a natural pH indicator, the tea will turn pink or purple when you add an acid such as lemon juice.

Due to its high anthocyanin content, purple tea may also be healthier than other varieties of tea. Anthocyanins have been linked to numerous health benefits such as reduced blood pressure and protection against cancer, though it's not clear whether these benefits translate into the tea. Regardless, there's no harm in drinking a beautiful tea that supports fair wages.

espresso, black tea, coffee, tea
Athena Huynh

If you would like to get your hands on some purple tea, you may be able to find the tins and bags at specialty food shops such as Whole Foods and Nester's Market; otherwise, JusTea ships all over Canada and the United States. The Purple Jasmine tea is a personal favourite of one of the founders, and I can vouch that the Purple Rain makes a wonderful tea-infused ice cream.