Bitaco Tea, a Model in Community Investment
My mother Heather and I recently boarded the “bare bone of flying” Spirit Airlines to Cali, Colombia. Our mission was to learn about the only tea farm in Colombia – Bitaco Tea – and incorporate that knowledge back to our tea company in Missoula, Montana. While in Cali, we took two free walking tours around the city and ate the best plantain tortillas and fresh fruit ever. We stayed in San Antonio, the historic neighborhood, which is slightly perched above the city, giving us excellent views and plenty of walking opportunities. The fun didn’t stop there – we stayed at the tea farm guesthouse and explored the tea gardens. We saw all of the great things the farm does and learned what they hope to do in the future.
Bitaco Tea takes many steps to lessen its impact on the land and support their employees. The company, owned by Carlotta Llano and her family, wishes to give more to the people than it takes. While a work in progress, as it will take many generations to perfect, they understand this needs to happen. They are leaders in sustainability. Their investment in community schools, safe learning centers for children, an active nursery for native plants, and water preservation for the tea farm and region prove this.
Bitaco Tea is invests in its people and community. They donated buildings and support a daycare and primary school for children whose parents work not only at the tea farm but also other jobs around the mountain. They teach the children to recycle and have a vegetable garden which they all work on together and then use the food for their meals at school. Their recycling building foundation is made with plastic jugs and bottles filled with micro trash to help clean up their community. While it’s up to the parents and their children to preserve the school and playground equipment, it’s important that they see it as their responsibility and are proud to own it. Every Saturday children of all ages are brought to the tea farm to participate in either a choir group, taekwondo, or painting and other art forms. While we were there, the choir performed an impressive and funny skit/song and sang their national anthem.
One of the first places that we visited was their native plants nursery. The native plants are hand-picked from the rainforest while they are still young and transferred to the nursery where workers take care of them until they are ready to be replanted – this time to a permanent home at one of the many village residences. The plants take the place of empty land and help reforest the region.
The tea company takes steps to preserve the spring fresh water that the town of Bitaco uses and the same sweet water that the tea farm uses. In recent years Bitaco noticed the spring water yielding less and less so their solution has been to dig out two large watering holes that will capture and fill so that they have a much larger on- hand supply. Their hope is that with these pools they will lessen their impact on the town of Bitaco and have their own supply built up for when water is less abundant.
Bitaco Tea does all this and more with the hopes that the town and the community will benefit from the tea farm. They want to be a positive impact and a leader in sustainable business for generations to come. Lake Missoula Tea Company is proud to work with such a model tea company.
By Uriah Kreilick