Just north of Hanoi lies the little city of Thai Nguyen and just a few kilometers away, the Tan Huong Tea Cooperative. The Co-op is made up of 41 members with gardens, 80% women and is directed by a board of all women. (Isn't it wonderful?)
In 2000, the cooperative formed with the help of The Canadian Tea Alliance, a group that helped to empower areas of economic hardship through tea production, and by 2010 these women were producing a superior green tea, a green tea that met the rigid guidelines in place for Canadian import. While they are one of four cooperatives supported by Canada, they are the only ones to meet strict regulations for export to North America. Logistically, in the early 2000s it was hard to reach this tea garden because of the poor infrastructure, but today these women have put money back into their homes, their town and their roads. These once struggling cattle farmers and noodle makers, have found their success in high quality tea, and for over a year and a half now we have been proudly carrying their tea.
When we drove up to their tea factory and saw a large group of people waving outside, emotions took over. We were welcomed with such enthusiasm and ceremony. Their gratitude to sell tea in the west was overflowing. They greeted our little group with a formal tea reception, followed by a visit to a tea garden and factory, and a beautiful generous lunch with flowing rice wine and many toasts and handshakes. We drank tea and ate sweets and the women proudly displayed their new harvested buds. The Director held my hand as we explored the garden and the Finance Director showed me her little tea production shack, that must have been 9'x10' large. When we stepped outside, she told us this that the little room was her family's house, before they made tea.
This visit was so emotional, that when we said goodbye and I thanked them for producing such beautiful tea and for welcoming us so graciously, we all began to cry. I felt in this moment, the impact of our choices. More directly than I ever imagined, I realized that by buying Tan Huong green tea, I am making an immediate impact on these families and this village. That is a choice we make with all things, when could buy commercial and support an industry or we could buy artisanal and support a family.