Thursday May 24, 2012 | 8 comments
My Grandfather always says, “When you climb a tree, always remember that there are people below waiting for you to come down.” He said this when I was leaving home for studies abroad. It has been a while since I heard that proverb, but in my last conversation with him, he reminded me to thank everyone who had purchased his teas. Reiterating the journey of the tea from the bush to the cup, my Grandfather emphasized that everyone in the community has a role to play. “When you come home, you will see the factory we built in 2003. This is the factory that serves all our extended family, including my brother’s family and their children who grow the tea.” I smiled because I knew that this meant so much to him since he and his tea friends had often dreamed of having a factory near their farms so they would not have to walk long distances to transport the tea. “And your father built the collection center,” he said. “Nĩ ngatho” (we give thanks).
I was brought up to show gratitude to those who helped me along the way, because in Kikuyu culture an ungrateful child is frowned upon and becomes the lament of his parents. So over the years of living away from my parents and relatives, I managed to learn that being grateful and offering heartfelt thanks is a cultural connector that never loses its luster from generation to generation. Now, as we are about to embark upon another year at the World Tea Expo with all the exciting adventures that await our company, it is fitting that we say “thank you” to the many people who have been part of our growth and success.
First, to the wonderful editors and staff at T Ching, who generously invited me to be part of one of the largest tea blogs in the world, giving me the artistic freedom to write whatever I want. This is truly an honor. Thank you, Michelle and Erika, for your willingness to work around my hectic schedule.
Thank you, George and Kim Jage of World Tea Media, for honoring Royal Tea of Kenya by allowing us to represent Kenya and our 570,000 small-scale tea farmers at the “World Origin Tasting Tour.” This is Kenya’s first-time inclusion as a significant country of origin for tea production. “Nĩ ngatho.”
I would also like to thank Ardith Blumenthal and Gilda Muro, tea sisters and partners in the business, whose contributions have been life changing. I am also very grateful for Shirlene Davis, co-owner of Royal Tea of Kenya. Her mentoring and support have made it possible to build this business. As we worked side by side with Cynthia Allen of the T-Spot tea store in Nashville, bagging and naming the teas, Shirlene was instrumental in naming many of the teas and branding the company as a whole.
Our tea consultants, Jane Pettigrew and Tim Clifton, helped us establish our tea lines in 2011 and introduced us to new clients in the U.K. and Australia. I am particularly grateful to Jane, who wrote such a touching tribute to my grandfather for the World Tea News in May 2011. She also wrote a very important and pivotal article entitled “A Brighter Future for Kenyan Tea Farmers” for Tea & Coffee Asia that came out in January 2012. I called her immediately, filled with gratitude at a job well done. The article was so touching that I felt like I had been on the program “This is My Life!”
The staff at Fresh Cup Magazine embraced our story and honored us with the cover and a great article for their 2012 Tea Almanac edition. This edition was very special to us as my father’s tea farm was featured on the front cover. Chris Ryan, editor of the magazine, and his incredible staff have a special place in our hearts and our farmers have extended an open invitation to them to visit.
I must also thank our many retailers all over the world, who have added our lines of specialty teas. I am always surprised when I get a call from a potential client who is interested in adding our teas to their catalog. One retail partner who has been unwavering in her support is Cinnabar Wright of Phoenix Tea in Seattle, Washington. She provided the tasting notes for our new line of teas and has been the first to sample and critique our teas. We have been able to benefit from her experience with a wide variety of tea types and with the marks of tea quality, and this information has been invaluable to bring back to the farmers in Kenya.
Stacy Lim of Butiki Teas is an avid fan of our teas and a dear friend of our farmers. Her enthusiasm for our rare teas has been unwavering, as she has blogged about our teas and sent them out for tea reviews. We are grateful to her for her efforts.
Independent tea bloggers and reviewers, like Alex Zorach of Rate Tea, have given our Royal Tajiri tea a perfect rating, which has fueled a lot of interest and new clients.
I am sure I have left many people out, but this is our way of saying “Asante Sana” (thank you very much) to everyone who has been an encouragement and inspiration to us. Calls to see how we were doing, emails of support, and Facebook and Twitter comments have all fueled our passion to represent the small-scale farmers to the best of our abilities.
In Kenya, one of our tea traditions that I am especially fond of is to offer tea to guests when they visit. Not soft drinks, not coffee, not water, but tea. It says a lot about the Kenyan culture in general that we want to take the time to know you, sit with you, talk with you, and learn from you. When the teapot is empty after sipping the milky tea over an hour or so, there is a feeling of comfort. A wave of appreciation and a new friendship have taken root like the buds of our tea bushes, a new crop ready for harvest.