Earlier last week we were thrilled to receive the Tea Sustainability Award at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas. “We see receiving this award as a vote of confidence for our work from the community and industry we are a part of,” said Raj Vable, founder of Young Mountain Tea. “These people are our mentors… This is an honor we need to live up to.”
Young Mountain Tea was recognized for creating the Global Tea Exchange – a 2-way cultural exchange program that connects remote Himalayan communities with the outside world. “We realized the Himalayas were being drained of their youth as our generation – the millennials – were flocking to the cities. So the question we wanted to answer was how tea could be used as a force for change, dignify life in the mountains and build the next generation of growers,” said Vable who founded Young Mountain Tea in 2013.
Vable was working on a renewable energy project when he stumbled across tea being grown in India’s western Himalayan foothills, a region called Kumaon. He created Young Mountain Tea with the hopes to bring transparency and accountability to the supply chain. As his knowledge of tea developed – Vable realized how important it was to work on a grass-roots level with communities to explore tea cultivation in a way that worked for their cultural needs.
Last fall Young Mountain Tea ran an IndieGoGo Campaign to create the Global Tea Exchange. Through introducing a new line of teas from direct suppliers, Young Mountain Tea set-up the Global Tea Fellowship. This fund would be used to create opportunities and provide resources for growers and producers of tea in India and Nepal to develop the tea industry in a relevant and sustainable way for their communities.
This spring Young Mountain Tea collaborated with International Tea Importers to create India Tea Tours – a hands-on tea education course designed for tea professionals. The group spent two weeks in India traveling around the Nilgiris, Assam and Darjeeling to learn about all aspects of tea first hand. Joining the group was Desmond Birkbeck – the first Global Tea Fellow to participate in the program.
Currently, Birkbeck runs his family tea garden in Kumaon, as well as oversees a government sponsored tea revitalization program designed to develop tea production in the region. Desmond gained invaluable knowledge as he traveled to one of the most modern boutique tea crafting facilities in India – Tea Studio. He was exposed to methods and expertise that is otherwise unavailable in his remote community. As the only producer of tea on the trip, Birkbeck also posed questions and shared personal experiences that enhanced learning for the entire group. It was a win-win situation overall.
With the success of this first experience, Young Mountain Tea is eager to develop more opportunities for south Asian producers. If you would like to learn more about the program you can visit the Global Tea Exchange page on our website under the “About Us” section.