Tea grown in war-torn countries such as Rwanda and Sri Lanka, Burma and Vietnam offers hope for smallholders rebuilding their countries and personal lives.
Brandon Friedman is a soldier and founder of Rakkasan Tea, a startup that will import tea from “carefully selected small estates in post-conflict countries to promote peace and economic growth.”
“Our superior tea is delivered the way it was meant to be consumed: pure and organic, with no added flavors,” says Friedman, a former U.S. Army officer and veteran of campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq.
While stationed overseas Friedman said that “we didn’t conduct any business without discussing it over tea. That is the way we connected with people in Iraq,” he said. “Tea is a social experience,” he said.
“I want to bring some of that experience back to the U.S. and share,” he said.
Rakkasan Tea, based in Dallas, Texas, launched a 15-day Kickstarter campaign this week (Aug. 21) with a goal of raising $30,000. If all goes well, the company intends to begin shipping tea in October.
The company will hire veterans to import, process and sell the teas from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Rwanda, (Uganda, Burma and Vietnam. RTC will also donate a portion of its profits to veteran organizations such as The Pat Tillman Foundation, Fisher House and Student Veterans of America.
“We’re offering a selection of teas that most drinkers in the U.S. haven’t experienced. At the same time, we’re determined to use this as a vehicle to help communities recover from war—both at home and abroad,” he said.
“Buying their tea helps to promote peace and economic recovery after war,” he said.
Friedman sought the assistance of veteran-owned business incubator Bunker Labs and VetImpact, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that guides veteran-owned businesses through international commerce in a partnership with Deloitte Consulting and Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.
VetImpact founder Nick Kesler said, “Rakkasan Tea Company was exactly the type of startup we had in mind. “RTC has a great story and they’re entering a consumer space that’s really exploding. We expect them to catch the wave.”
Conflicts in the Tea Lands
The Nepalese Civil War was an armed conflict between the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (CPN-M) and the government of Nepal, fought from 1996 to 2006
The Rwandan Civil War was a conflict in the African republic of Rwanda, between the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front. Between half a million and a million people out of Rwanda’s total population of 8 million, died in a few weeks between April and June 1994.
Ugandan Bush War refers to the guerrilla war waged between 1981 and 1986. Starting in 1996, the Ugandan government, unable to stop the LRA, required the people of northern Uganda to leave their villages and enter government-run refugee camps.
Myanmar. In October 2015, after two years of negotiations, the government of Myanmar announced that it will finalize and sign a ceasefire agreement with eight insurgent groups, including the Karen National Union. However, only 8 out of the 15 original signatories signed the ceasefire agreement on 15 October 2015, after seven of members of the NCCT backed out of negotiations in September 2015.
The Sri Lankan Civil War was fought beginning in 1983 as an intermittent insurgency against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), which fought to create an independent Tamil state called Tamil Eelam in the north and the east of the island. After a 26-year military campaign, the Sri Lankan military defeated the Tamil Tigers in May 2009, bringing the civil war to an end.