port of harlem magazine
Rwandan Tea in America Via the Fair-Trade Economic Model
May 20 – Jun 02, 2021

sarah stender delaney

Sarilla Sparkling Tea drinks and companion loose leaf teas are the brainchild of Sara Stender Delaney, a global activist and social entrepreneur. Her company reflects her passion, skills, and determination to create quality products for the beverage industry in an equitable fashion.

The company’s products are gluten free, naturally vegan, pesticide free, plant based, women owned, and BPA (bisphenol A) free. However, what may make Sarilla Sparkling Energy Teas different is that they are made with whole-leaf fair trade certified tea from Rwanda.

Delaney founded the company while working with Rwandan genocide survivors and their families. She has been working with the East Africans since 2007. Her 2008 dissertation “Mainstreaming Fair Trade Through Corporate Participation in The Fair Trade Market,” further staged the success for the bilingual (English and French) entrepreneur.

As in involved company, Sarilla is the primary sponsor of Sustain, a program designed by Africa Healing Exchange to teach entrepreneurship skills to women and genocide survivors in Rwanda. It also hosts the annual Crop to Cup Tour.  

While many associate teas with China, Africa is no stranger to tea production. Kenya is, in fact, the world's largest exporter of black tea. Port Of Harlem reader Jeremiah Muraya has been a black tea farmer for more than 30 years. “My family has been tea farmers since 1970,” the accountant and farmer told Port Of Harlem via Facebook. He added, tea is a shrub kind of tree which takes three to four years to mature to start producing tea leaves.”

According to the Kenya Tea Development Authority, smallholder tea cultivation in Kenya commenced in the 1950s. In nearby Rwanda, the National Agriculture Export Development Board reports that tea growing starting in that country in the same period.
On my shopping list is Loose Leaf Tulsi Lemongrass and the loose teas in cannisters for gifts.
However, how does Sarillla’s brand taste?  I am no fan of the taste of black tea, so the canned Sparkling Black Tea with Apple Juice, Sparking Green Tea with Hibiscus, and Sparkling Silver and Black Tea with Lemon are not on my grocery list. Sparking White Tea with Ginger was better, which was surprising since I am not a fan of ginger.

The loose teas were my favorite. The cannisters they come in are ideal for gift giving and keeping. On my shopping list is Loose Leaf Tulsi Lemongrass and the loose teas in cannisters for gifts. The Loose Leaf Silver Tea and Loose Leaf Green, I could drink again, but I found the Loose White a bit bland.

The demand for and availability of FairTrade products in the United States has increased dramatically since Fair Trade certification began in the U.S. through TransFair USA in 1998. Coupled with consumer education and awareness, Fair Trade is increasingly becoming less of a fad and more of viable economic model; a model employed by Sarilla Sparkling Tea.

Where to Buy. The products are also availabe online.

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