Oregon Tea Company Launches Social Enterprise on Indiegogo

Photo credit: YoungMountainTea.com

Young Mountain Tea, based in Springfield, Oregon, is launching the Global Tea Exchange to end the isolation of the communities that grow tea, the world’s most popular drink after water. The company is turning to Indiegogo, the popular online crowdfunding platform, to raise the funds to launch this program.

The 43-day, $35,000 fundraising campaign starts Sept. 26.

After four years immersed in the Indian tea industry, founder Raj Vable realized that the extreme isolation of tea farmers spells disaster for the industry. Tea grows high up in the mountains, far from the action of India’s exploding megacities such as Delhi and Mumbai. As a result, today’s Himalayan youth are leaving the tea gardens in search of more modern ways of living, ripping apart the tight-knit fabric of mountain families and rapidly draining the tea industry of its labor.

The company realized that that it could solve the problem by connecting its Indian and Nepali partners directly to the U.S.

Vable notes, “People our age that are born in the Himalayas are facing a hard choice between being ‘mountain and stuck in the past’ or ‘urban and modern.’ We are launching this program to create a ‘mountain and modern’ option by connecting their communities to international people, resources and ideas. We want to create a vibrant future for the tea gardens and heal the fragmentation of mountain families.”

The Global Tea Exchange will create two-way cultural exchange between the Himalayas and the U.S.:

Homestays in the Himalayas: The company is working with its Indian and Nepali partners to create a program for international guests to stay in mountain villages. This will give tea communities ways to interact with the outside world without leaving their homes, and also diversify earning opportunities for communities so they aren’t solely reliant on tea. The first trip across the mountains of India and Nepal will run April 2018 and spots will be available through the Indiegogo campaign.

Fellowships to the U.S.: The company is also giving remote tea producers the opportunity to travel to the U.S., where Young Mountain Tea is organizing professional development trainings, networking events with American industry leaders and public talks that bring together tea producers and tea drinkers.

The Indiegogo campaign will raise the funds to retrofit homes for the homestays and bring the first Global Tea Fellow to the U.S. Supporters can choose from a range of rewards from a $15 box of tea to a $5,000 trip across India and Nepal.

Vable and Sales Director Ingrid Remak will lead the guided trips. On her first trip to India, Remak found that true cultural exchange has to go both ways—Americans like her should be able to visit the enchanting tea gardens of the Himalayas, and rural Indians should know the people who drink their teas.

“The bridge we’re building between the cultures will create the transparency and resources necessary for a sustainable future for the world’s favorite drink,” Remak said.

Young Mountain Tea was inspired by Vable’s experience as a Fulbright Fellow in 2013. While working in rural development in the Kumaon region of North India, he made a promise—if local communities would grow tea, he would buy it. Later that year he returned to Oregon, where he had previously completed his graduate studies, and set up Young Mountain Tea.

Learn more by visiting youngmountaintea.com.

Press release: Young Mountain Tea