You Are Complex: Meet Sunita Karmacharya of Nepali Tea Traders
Here at Vibrant Health, we believe health is an inside job, unique to you. After all, you’re one-of-a-kind and your needs are complex – that’s why your supplements should be too.
To celebrate all of the beautiful complexities of our lives, each month we’ve been highlighting individuals in our community – taking a peek into the behind-the-scenes of their work life, wellness routines and all the wonderful things that make them who they are.
In honor of National Giving Month, this December on the Vibrant Health blog we got to chat with Sunita Karmacharya, Co-Owner of Nepali Tea Traders. Specializing in premium loose-leaf tea from Nepal, this woman-owned company is on a big mission to build a sustainable tea economy while giving back to the children in Nepal. In fact $1 from every order goes directly to the Nepal Youth Foundation (focusing on education, health, shelter and freedom)!
In this feel-good interview, we got to chat with Sunita about growing up in Nepal (including her favorite cup of tea from childhood), how building a sustainable tea economy starts with the farmers, and some other go-to brands you can support this season that are making an impact. We hope you enjoy our series…and remember, keep being you!
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Nurturer / Visionary / Dedicated
Can you share your story of how you first got involved with Nepali Tea Traders?
Love this question! So, back in 2014, I had decided to take a break for two years as I just had a baby (my first born). On the other hand, as he turned six months old there was an earthquake in Nepal. My husband and I decided that we had to focus on “Trade not Aid.” While trying to figure out what to do and how to help, we started brainstorming about what it is that we missed the most!
One of the things that we missed the most when we came to the United States was tea. Growing up in Nepal, tea was an essential part of our daily lives. It is ingrained in our culture, so much so that when neighbors, friends, or relatives see you, the first question they ask is "Namaste, have you had your tea?” So we were on a mission to find how to import tea. As we went on this path we got introduced to Nepali Tea Traders, which was a company founded by Maggie Le Beau, and she was looking to get out of the business to take care of her elderly parents. The universe had a better plan for us as we didn't have to start from the ground up and would still be able to help Nepal in a meaningful way.
We currently partner with approximately 45 local farmers, and our producer in Nepal is Sandakphu Co-op, which is co-owned by Twistina Subba and Chandra Bhusan Subba who have more than 26 years of experience in the tea industry. And our tea master who curates our amazing teas is a woman, so it’s been awesome!
December is National Giving Month. Can you tell us a bit more about Nepali Tea Traders' mission to give back to the community and children in Nepal?
Professionally, we donatel $1 per every single order to Nepal Youth Foundation who is invested in the education of childrens of Nepal.
Personally, we have been working with our farmers by providing fair trade. We realized that some of our farmers still decided to keep the girls working in the field, so my husband and I decided that we will fund the two girls' education costs and it feels so good to send them to school. (This is a story for another day, but I was a product of my mom and dad's dream of sending girls to school and it feels really good to do the same for others!)
What does striving for a sustainable tea economy mean to your business? How do you support farmer education and teaching sustainable practices?
We are in a business that involves real people all around. Our farmers are the first touch point, who treat their farms as their babies (this is really their bread and butter) so they take care of it very well. They get proper farming education which leads to healthier plants, higher quality tea and higher yields. We also focus on providing Nepal’s tea farmers fair prices and their fair share of the profits. Then the farmers can reinvest in their farms, family and community — continuing a cycle of improving quality of life. We’re changing the dynamic to help the farmers and their families benefit from their hard work.
We have our team of Nepali partners teach farmers about the proper techniques and processes that improve the quality of tea, including which leaves to pluck, when to pluck and how to create the best teas. And by picking our teas by hand, we avoid damaging plants like machinery often can. The farmers can then continue to pass their business knowledge on to others. Our tea partner in Nepal, Chandra Bhusan Subba, leads this effort and we have an Internal Control System which outlines and documents all the training that the farmers had.
Overall, we are dedicated to following Nepal's Code of Conduct for producing quality tea while also respecting the environment and remaining socially responsible. Among the code’s guiding principles is respect for nature, which for us means using natural farming techniques and organic fertilizers and forgoing the use of pesticides.
With the holidays upon us, what Nepali Tea Traders products do you recommend for gifting this year?
If you have a tea lover on your list, we have tea — from yummy whites to green to oolong to black teas, you name it! If you are looking for a sampler, The Top of the World is a good one which has a black, green and white tea. We also have a Tea Lovers Gift Set that has everything you need to prepare a beautiful pot of tea.
Do you have any other favorite brands you like to support that also have a give back component?
What is your ideal cup of tea — and why?
My ideal cup of tea, to this day, is the one that my mom makes for me! I still remember my mom opening the faucet to start boiling the water, crushing cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, and cloves in the little hand grinder and adding fresh milk, then sugar and black tea to make a perfect cuppa to start every day!
When she is not here, I like sharing the same sentiment with my family and we make a pot of Sagarmatha Gold/Himalayan Golden tea. While the tea is steeped for four minutes, we share our appreciation and drink tea as a family. I really believe that tea brings people together and it is the intention that matters.
What does wellness mean to you?
Wellness to me is "when I do everything with love.” I have finally realized that it is important to love myself (all of me!), my family, my community, my friends, my business, and this planet! Wellness is whole; it is a holistic approach to life. Life is beautiful. We are all beautiful beings.
Can you imagine the outcome if we did all the things from a place of love? From the things that we put in our body to things that we put in our mind, if it's done with love, that is total wellness.