JusTea's Paul Bain at NY NOW
Last year, JusTea won both the British Columbia Food Processors Association (BCFPA) Product of the Year award and the World Tea Awards’ Innovative Packaging honor. The Vancouver tea supplier showed why earlier this month at the summer 2019 NY NOW home/lifestyle/handmade/gift market trade show at New York’s Javits Center.
“While other companies sell boxes of 15 tea bags, we have tins of loose tea with a viewing window in the lid that lets you see which tea you’re buying—the whole leaf ingredients and their uniqueness,” said Paul Bain, JusTea’s “tea captain,” who also cited the hand-carved olive wood tea spoon attached to every tin.
Bain also noted that each tin (which makes 80 cups) bears a picture and profile of the tea farmer who grew the tea. As for the tea itself, JusTea offers 12 varieties: Its four purple teas are the best sellers, he said, with the black and Earl Grey teas also popular.
But JusTea’s philosophy is equally noteworthy, jibing with its name--shortened from Justly Made Tea.
“We’re a social enterprise that creates sustainable employment in Kenya—the largest exporter of black tea in the world,” said Bain. “People don’t know that. So we want to tell the story of the farmers and showcase the high quality of loose-leaf tea instead of ground-up tea-bag tea.”
A Fair Trade family business with a tradition of charity work, JusTea does not depend on donations, and directs profits back to the small-scale Kenyan farmers who were previously earning about $2 a day. Since its 2012 startup, JusTea has created over 200 jobs for youth and women in rural Kenya and opened the country’s first small-scale farmer-owned artisanal tea factory. It has also partnered with a women’s herbal tea co-op in eastern Kenya where over 80 percent of the employees are women who support hundreds of small-scale herbal tea farmers in their community.
Additionally, JusTea has employed over 30 woodworking families to hand-carve its teaspoons--over 30,000 so far.
“It takes two hours to hand-carve each spoon,” said Bain, who was using tea lights to heat tea samples at NY NOW and giving away JusTea matchbooks. He was also testing a gift box containing tea and animal hand-carvings.
As for his own preferences, Bain said that he was more of a coffee drinker when JusTea began, then quickly converted.
“But I still like a cappuccino!” he said.