Tea Blog

How Bitaco Tea Invests in its Community and Why

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

How to choose a tea for your kombucha

So, you’ve discovered you love kombucha and you want to start making your own home brew? A key ingredient that is often overlooked but is so important to the flavor is the tea you choose.  There’s a ton of tea out there and picking just one  for your kombucha might seem intimidating. While we won’t tell you how to brew your kombucha, we can give you some solid advice on how to choose which teas to use.

Consider these tips to make the best tea selection for your kombucha:

  • Pick a tea you like. The tea is the base for your kombucha. Whether you do a second ferment or not, starting with a tea base you like is important.
  • Choose a tea your are comfortable brewing. When you make the tea for your kombucha, you should make it so it tastes good. We don’t recommend over brewing or making it too strong.   Your tea should be good enough to drink, whether you ferment it or not. Choose a tea you know how to brew – remember temperature and steeping time are two major factors when brewing tea.  We recommend 5g of loose leaf per 16 ounces of tea (or 40g per one gallon).
  • Quality tea often gives a “cleaner” taste.  Brewing with a quality tea improves your kombucha flavor. We have even found some teas are flavorful enough on their own so there is no second ferment needed.

Here are a few suggestions from our tea selection we have enjoyed brewing with:

Black –  Colombian BlackLet er Buck, Big Sky BlackSangamon
Green – Heritage GreenDragonwell
White – Pai Mu Tan
Puerh – Shou Puerh
Oolong – TieguanyinBlack Pearl

Keep in mind there is no right or wrong tea, and some might taste better to you than others. The tea you like is always the best one for your kombucha.

Note that wholesale discounts are available to kombucha companies.  Please contact [email protected] for more information.

written by Tashina and Heather Kreilick

International Women’s Day 2019

Happy International Women’s Day! This year we took a snapshot of all the women we could find pictures of that impact Lake Missoula Tea Company. They come from all over the globe and their roles are as varied as the places from which they come. I’m sure we’ve left a few out, and we didn’t have photos of everyone.

  • Two of these women are the wives of tea farmers.  One of them sells their tea in her local shop and they both help process the tea.
  • One of these women helped bring Kenyan Purple to North America.  She has since passed away but her memory and enthusiasm stay with us.
  • Three women own tea shops, two in Taiwan and one in China.
  • Three of these women used to be tea tenders at our tea bar and still send ideas and teas back to the our shop.
  • One of these women received the Nari Shakti 2018 award from the Indian president for wildlife conservation on her tea estate.
  • Two women manage educational outreach programs for their tea farm communities.
  • One woman is our lead tea blender.
  • Two of these women recently became citizens of the United States, one we contract with and the other works directly in the tea shop.
  • One of these women is my kombucha consultant.
  • One is our online sales manager.
  • One is a physicist and our database lead.
  • Three run and or manage multi million dollar tea companies.
  • One is a tea picker.

All of these women have contributed to the success of Lake Missoula Tea Company and we hope that we’ve in turn contributed to their success. We think it’s important to celebrate International Women’s Day because when women flourish, their families and communities do, too!

Women in Tea Symbol

You might notice that we have different symbols on some of our bags of tea.  One of our symbols is our Women in Tea.  Bags with this symbol are teas that come from a farm that is woman owned and or managed.

One of our employees traveled to New Zealand where she learned the white camellia is the symbol of women’s suffrage.  In 1893, New Zealand became the first country in the world to allow all women to vote. We borrowed their white camellia symbol and added a “W” to represent our women in tea concept.  This symbol recognizes women in both leadership and ownership roles at their farms in a male dominated industry.