Last week at dinner I had the pleasure to sit next to The Daily Tea contributor, Elyse Petersen at the 5th annual North America Tea Conference. What a fascinating person, and equally fascinating company she has created – Tealet.
Seen here with the 1st place award in the Japanese tea category for her Gyokuru green tea, Elyse has created a way for tea lovers to buy direct from small tea farmers all across the globe.
I love meeting people who have done something truly different, and pursue what they set out to do. For me, passion drives success. Starting in her native Hawaii, with her brother, just two years ago, Elyse began visiting small scale, artisan tea farmers in China, Japan, India, Nepal, etc. She offered them a way to sell their crops at a much higher price than the traditional local tea auctions, by selling directly to U.S. consumers through her Tealet.com platform, while the price to the consumer remains similar to most other sources.
She also insists on finding farmers who are passionate about growing good tea, not just making a living. It’s really a fascinating and unique enterprise: finding really great teas for us tea explorers, eliminating multiple middle men and putting more money back in the farmers’ pockets.
Most tea entrepreneurs buy from wholesalers, but now Elyse travels two months out of every year to build relationships with her farmer suppliers. As she puts it, she, “Eats, drinks, and sleeps with them and their families, sometimes on the mud floor of a hut, often for many days at a time,” to gain their trust, listen to their stories, and understand their lives.
It was a great dinner; I just wish it had been 6 courses not 3, so I could have listened to more stories……
Well done Elyse!