Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rishi Tea - Fair Trade

I just made and exciting new discovery. I am a very avid tea drinker (along with Zak). I usually have about two pots a day - and it has to be loose leaf tea. That is the only way to drink it. It just tastes sooo much better. It can be like having a dessert. No need of sugar or milk - just enjoy the tea. It's like drinking wine. Every batch tastes slightly different.

To my dismay, I have only been able to locate three kinds of Fair Trade tea in Edmonton - Green Tea, Earl Grey Tea and Ceylon tea. Too bad they're all caffinated. I have issues with caffine, one pot of tea can make me dizzy and a little sick. So today I searched the net and discovered a brand called "Rishi Tea". They deal with premium tea and work directly with the tea growers and the creators of the tea flavours. They have ventured into Organic flavours and now they are starting to make Fair Trade varieties. They realized that an important part of working with the tea producers is sustaining the communities that grow the tea.

There is a community in south-western China that they work with. It is a very remote community and their whole community relies on the production of tea. It is a tradition that has been passed on in their community for over a 1000 years. The tea they grow is also deeply intertwined with their religion and every aspect of their lives. Here is a picture of one of the Fairly paid workers harvesting the tea on the organic farm.

The Rishi site gives detailed "Travelogues" of where they go to find the teas they sell. In a description of this Chinese community they describe the benefits of paying this community fair trade prices:

Social premiums generated by Rishi Tea sales of Jingmai Mangjing's tea have helped the local people to establish a library, a Bulang cultural center, an agricultural training program for villagers, road improvements and water purification. Recent Fair Trade premiums generated by Rishi's Ancient Tree Teas have supported the first two students from Mangjing Village to attend university, as well as the development of an herbal tea processing initiative to diversify cash crop biodiversity. Rishi's Fair Trade Ancient Tree Tea program encourages the conservation of the old tea trees by supporting the local hill tribes who are their natural protectors.

Fair Trade has enabled this community to survive and also to preserve their culture. Now that's some tea that I can feel good about drinking. Here is a picture of the cultural centre that the fair trade premiums helped them to build.

I will definitely be making most of my tea purchases from this company. Maybe one day I'll even start my own Fair Trade tea shop with them!!

Check out their website! They give a lot of information that's really interesting.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Icons and the Eastern Church

As you probably know from my profile on my blog, I am a Religious Studies major. I always spend much time debating about what classes I am going to take each term. There is so much selection and so many interesting courses at the UofA. This term I signed up for a class called "Eastern Orthodoxy". I went to the first class and almost decided to drop it because I realized that it was going to be a lot of history.

I'm so glad that I stayed in the class. I'm actually enjoying all the history lessons. I've always been intrigued about who the Byzantines actually are and why doesn't Constantinople exist anymore or was it actually an imaginary place? Now I know and I can fit all the pieces together. The Eastern Church is left out of many Christian histories. I've learned about the reformation and about the branch off of all the Protestant churches, I've even learned more of the History of the Catholic church and the councils. While the Reformation was happening there was a separate development in the eastern world. I've been introduced to bits and pieces through reference in some books I've read, but I never really put it all together. I never learned where these people came from or what kind of environment they developed their view of God in.

I've become fascinated with their icons. They are so beautiful. This is an image of St. Searphim. He became a monk in 1793. He is one of the best known Russian monks/mystics. He lived a reclusive life and spent much time in the forest praying. This icon shows him kneeling on a rock praying and it is believed that he spent 1000 days and nights praying on this stone. He also was a very sought after spiritual director or as the Russians say a "Staretz". Many pilgrims sought after him for spiritual advice. These icons provide a visual reminder of admirable people who lived a life in devotion to God.

This is just one of the fascinating people that I get to learn about for my presentation on Wednesday. As much as I enjoy what the Professor brings up in class, I most enjoy the essay/presentation component of a course as I get to research what interests me most. I read and read and read . . . I love reading. I'm so glad that this presentation is at the beginning of the term so I have so much more time to read and learn about Russian Mysticism/Monasticism.

Here is another unique icon of the Virgin Mary with Jesus in her womb. I was looking through many icons and this provided the most interesting depiction of Mary and Jesus. It shows just how amazing it is that God came to earth through a human. He came to be one of us and yet still God. That is amazing that he loves us in that way. Icons help me to see these events that I've learned about in new and fresh ways.