Tea Blog

Friday evenings in Missoula? drink tea

Friday evening in Missoula with Peter
Friday evening in Missoula with Peter

Friday evenings in Missoula? drink tea

Friday evenings in Missoula? Drink tea at the tea bar.  For the times when you want to socialize, but don’t want to go to a bar or restaurant, the tea bar hits the spot.  You just want a little social in a public place.  Or, if you have a half hour before the show starts, stop in, we’re open ’til 9 pm on Friday evenings. We serve exquisite tea, fabulous scones and tantalizing conversation.

What do Colombian teas, birds, and community outreach have in common?

While Peter was working behind the tea bar, a couple came into the tea shop and noticed our Colombian teas display. In a truly “it’s a small world” moment, they recognized the teas were from where Karolina researched an array of rainforest birds.

Karoline Fierro talks about colombian-tea
Karoline Fierro talks about Colombian tea

Fortunately, Karolina Fierro followed up with us.  Our staff at Lake Missoula Tea Company had a chance to learn about her unique, community-based field work. Tucked high up in the Colombian Andes, there is an amazing village where tea farming and bird conservation work well together.

She and other bird scientists inventoried and studied rainforest birds in a remote portion of the La Cumbre region of Colombia. Carolina discovered that the tea farm owners were very supportive of their avian research and of their efforts to increase awareness for bird conservation in the community. She

Colombian tea hummingbird
Colombian tea hummingbird

explained that the Colombian tea company we source tea from funds educational activities and partners on other community events designed to create awareness around bird conservation.

We are fortunate to carry 4 Colombian teas from this farm – Colombian Black, Andean Princess, Colombian Green, and Cloud Forest Green.

Risk in farming?- a better model for Kenyan tea farmers

In Kenya, 60% of the tea comes from small-scale tea farmers (2 acres or less). David capatilizes on this by using a different industry model for purple tea. He gives tea plants to his pickers to grow at home and is also selling seedlings to other farmers in Nandi Hills. He trains others through workshops focused on purple tea’s environmental resistance, health benefits and higher quality. A recent hail storm was an eye opener for small scale purple tea farmers. The hail ravaged the green tea plants and even though the purple tea leaves were damaged, their regrowth rate was astounding. He plans to open his own tea factory whereby the smaller scale purple tea farmers will get paid when the tea is delivered, eliminating the undue stress of how to pay their pickers. David will market the purple tea directly to the buyer, bringing in a higher price than the black CTC being exported through Mombassa. In the long run, this model gives the farmer more control with a higher rate of return.

Purple tea with small scale farmers is good for two more reasons – small scale ensures higher quality of tea because it is hand picked by folks that have an investment in the return. And they can charge more for purple tea because of purple tea’s medicinal properties. Purple tea touts extaordinary amounts of antioxidants due to high amounts of anthocyanin, or purple pigment. Purple tea has anti-carcinogenic, anti-aging, and appetite suppresant properties. David says it prevents cancer and both leaf and liquor are purple.

Lake Missoula Tea Company is proud to be marketing purple tea and to help expand the small scale tea model. We know the pickers are getting a decent wage, the tea is organic, the plants are conducive to the environment, and the tea enhances your health and longevity.

The last night at the purple tea farm, David and Bernadine butchered and barbequed a goat. This is a high honor as cooking a goat is generally reserved for special ceremonies (like when boys are circumcised) or on holidays. The morning we left, David and Jake planted a rainforest tree (sorgut), and Bernadine and I planted another, both in their yard. Bernadine said the trees would grow fast and be big when we come back. We are honored to be a part of this purple tea model and working with such fine people.

Who’s your tea farmer?

We drove to the purple tea field at sunrise. In 2014, David planted his first purple tea plants on 15 acres of former grazing lands. Purple tea thrives, where green tea plants can struggle with an increasingly drier climate. Unfortunately, a recent hailstorm injured the new tea leaves and the next picking would need to go to the CTC tea factory rather than David manufacturing whole leaf purple. The good news is that the purple plants grow quickly and the pickers will be back in a week. Typical green tea plants don’t grow as well in the acidic soil where livestock previously grazed, David said, but the purple flourishes.

We drove through the many tea plantations that surround the area, and I took photos of the tea pickers. I was nervous about taking their pictures, but everywhere they welcomed us. I explained that we sell Kenyan tea and were there to learn and promote their tea. We visited a small tea factory and they showed us how the tea was manufactured.

Folks waved at David everywhere he went. He grew up here, this is his community. His parents live adjacent to his property, as do his brothers. His brother Joel (said Joelle) is in charge of the planting, picking and interns under the farm supervisor. The youngest brother just finished college. Bernadine owns the ever expanding Garden Shop, where she sells grains, fruits, vegetables, clothing, and other essentials to the locals. Her store is the closest for many in the southern Nandi Hills. Jennifer, their youngest (9 yrs) leaves the house at 5:30 am to attend school an hour away and returns 12 hours later (!!), Monday-Friday. Yvonne, their eldest, will graduate from high school in November. Eduction is fundamental to this family and demonstrates why Kenya is ahead of other African countries.

We toured the Nandi Hills Tea Estate tea factory. The manager is David’s best freind. We get a black CTC tea from here, and we wanted to compare the larger tea estates to small scale tea farms. This factory currently produces eight grades amounting to 120,000 kilos a day. Tea produced with the estate gets funneled through Mombassa, adding time and expense. With the estate model, farmers are paid less and their payments are delayed, sometimes up to 2 months. This causes financial stress when they need to pay their tea pickers.

How’d a Missoula, Montana tea company end up on the equator?

David Bor is the reason Lake Missoula came to Kenya.  About a year ago, he contacted me and asked if I would like to try his purple tea.  He knew we previously carried purple tea from Royal Tea of Kenya from our friend Joy.  Sadly, Joy passed away and we no longer carried her Kenyan tea. Last spring, I asked David if he would be open to us coming to Kenya to visit his farm, his response was “karibu” or welcome in Swahili.

Our goal was to learn about purple tea so we could better promote it, and learn about the tea industry in Kenya. We made great headway with both of these goals.

I recognized David right away when we arrived at the Eldoret airport, I’d seen him in a news clip talking about purple tea. David has a solid, kind way about him that was readily apparent. It took awhile to get to the farm as Kenyan roads are a rodeo ride – interspersed with speed bumps, sink holes and pedestrians. I would guess 75% of the Kenyan population walks along the Kenyan biway at any given time. Meaning – it takes a long time to go anywhere and is a lot of work to drive in Kenya.

We arrived at the farm at dusk and were greeted by David’s wife, Bernadine, and his brother, Joel. David and Bernadine’s home had a new addition and was in the traditional ranch, or “Kenyan” style, as David called it. Bernadine made us the strongest black tea I’d ever had in my life, and it was clear to me why they say Kenyans like their black tea with sugar and milk. We then brewed a new whole leaf black that was superb, bold yet smooth, and will be our new Beliote (Elephant) Black, followed by the Purple Tea – Nandi Gold. We were surprised by the purple tea – which now has a subtle sweet with drier overtones due to a change in manufacturing. The purple is now slightly rolled, with a distinct aroma. This tea keeps on getting better. Later that night, they showered us with traditonal Nandi gifts — blankets and jewelry.

What does Nandi have to do with tea?

David’s purple tea farm is in the Nandi Hills region of Kenya.  Nandi is one of the many tribes in Kenya, with its own unique language and culture.  Nandi speak at least two  languages – Nandi and Swahili – and younger generations speak English, a legacy of British colonization.  School is taught in English and Swahili.

The Nandi Hills region is one of three tea producing regions in Kenya.  Nandi Hills is a lush, highland landscape filled with tea and corn (the highest we’ve ever seen) with pockets of rainforest.  Black and white colobus monkeys (think skunk) are common, as are the vervet monkeys (with blue genitalia).  Roasted corn on the cob stands are everywhere, corn mush is a staple.

Monday through Saturday, tea pickers dot the fields, school age children walk to and from school (and home and back for lunch) interspersed with tea gathering trailers.  Tea from the large plantations is delivered daily to the tea factories that are scattered throughout.  We learned that the Nandi Hills tea factory produces 8 grades of black CTC (cut tear curl), and is also where our Sunrise in Kenya is produced.  Tea drives the economy in the Nandi Hills.

Arrive at Kenyan Purple tea farm

We arrived in Kenya and met David, our tea source and host, without a hitch.  The landscape is beautiful, and the red soil contrasts with the bright green (or purple) of the tea plants.  Both David and his wife Benedine are super welcoming, curious about our lifestyle, and easy to talk to.  Everywhere we go, we get waves and smiles.

Folks know we sell the tea and are here to learn more.  Unlike our previous trips, English is spoken by most, albeit with an English accent ; )

Lake Missoula Tea Co travels to Kenyan Purple tea farm

Jake and I leave for Kenya on Monday.  It will be a quick trip to visit the farm where our Hand Rolled Purple tea comes from.  We’ll learn about the farm, why they decided to produce purple tea, and about the people who produce the tea.  I’ll do my best to keep you posted on what we learn and see, and will post pictures.

Large Tea Steeper – Just right for you!

We offer a large 4 cup gravity tea steeper.

Our customers have asked us for years if we have a large tea steeper, and we found a 4 cup steeper.  This large tea steeper is just as easy to brew tea in as the 2 cup steeper.  Weigh 10g of tea, add water, set your timer.  Strain the tea when the timer goes off.

This 4 cup tea steeper is made of triton plastic, and it’s more stable than glass.  Glass changes shape with heat and loses its stability, making it more fragile over time.  For those of you wanting to brew more tea at once, to fill up your thermos, or to brew tea for your family, this is the tea steeper for you!

Tea as a stress buster

Tea taste and how you feel

“How tea tastes is important, more important is how you feel when the tea is gone,” said a customer from India at the tea bar this week…as told to him by his father.

His father was absolutely correct – L-theanine, an amino acid found in tea, has a calming effect, and can help you lower your stress level and relax.  Drink more tea to lower your stress levels.  Combined with caffeine, tea can help lower stress while at the same time heighten your mental focus.  Green tea is said to have the most L-theanine compared to other teas, but all true teas has L-theanine.  (all images borrowed)