Updated: Dec 19, 2022
At Fleur De Lis Tea Company, what we love about tea is that it is inclusive and universal. Although we are proud to put Louisiana on the map for tea making, we recognize that many wonderful teas are hidden in small businesses like ours. Tea is a huge industry, with a lot of room for sharing and collaborating.
Tea will taste different based on the terrain and processing. A tea from another area will offer a different tasting experience. Many have said that our 'Big Easy' black tea tastes like no other black tea they have had before. This is true, as our growing conditions and processing will not be exactly the same as others.
As tea fans ourselves, we were excited when Beverly Wainwright of the Scottish Tea Factory suggested we try a tea from Myanmar. The tea farm Mogok Tea was one that Beverly herself had worked with. Being well aware of Beverly’s standards we knew it had to be exceptional. Though, when we met the owner, Phyu Thwe, we quickly learned there is much more to this tea than just an exceptional beverage.
Mogok Tea is changing lives with a peaceful existence.
The founder of Mogok Tea, Phyu Thwe grew up in a village in Myanmar where her family owned an ancient tea farm. Phyu had the opportunity to go to the United Kingdom in her 20's and went to school for accounting. She quickly learned how different the two worlds were.
In Myanmar, jobs are extremely limited. You work for your meals. There is no such thing as stability. Locals work within the gem mining industry that is entirely based on luck. People from the village search out small clusters of dirt that were too small for the gem mining companies to bother with. They go through the dirt clusters in hopes of finding a lucky gem that they can
sell for enough money to feed their family.
Traditional ways would dictate that one person would provide for an entire family. But Phyu points out that the old ways do not work anymore. Most people need to work remotely, and it is hard to find those opportunities back home.
Phyu recognized her privileges being in the UK. She had an opportunity to provide for her family but her wisdom told her the benefit of that was not only limited to her. Instead, she wanted to give her family the ability to serve themselves no matter what happened to Phyu. She wanted to create something that would impact generations. This is where Mogok Tea emerged from. A vision from a selfless young woman in the UK.
Phyu transformed a farm full of 30 year old tea plants into a productive small business.
Over the last few years, Phyu has worked tirelessly to bring Western tea standards to Myanmar. This included the development of her tea processing facility, working with esteemed tea processor Beverly Wainwright and, of course, investing in her people.
They have had to build and educate on things many of us would take for granted here. For example, in the village, there is no garbage process. No one comes to take the garbage away. It is tossed outside. Electricity and running water are also not something commonly available.
These are all things, along with many others, that Phyu had to contend with when building her processing facility. Over the years she has done just that. Yet, there are still limitations that they have to work with. They have to work with what they have. For example, they use a generator for electricity. That is much different from the Western experience of, we need to run a line. They have made it work, showing incredible resilience.
Phyu now employs 12 people. She shares that it was actually hard to encourage people to work in her business despite the vast freedoms it could provide. People were afraid of the change. Searching for gems seemed more stable than processing tea. Over time, that outlook has changed. Phyu has educated her team on basic rights. She employs them year-round, despite only being able