RUNA – Fully living Human Beings. This is what the indigenous Kichwa farmers of the Ecuadorian Amazon call themselves. These farmers live by the ancient morals, traditions and legends that have been passed down by their ancestors. They gather around a communal fire at dawn every morning and drink Guayusa from handmade gourds to share their dreams, music and myths.
Guayusa – a holly tree that produces vibrant large green leaves that are caffeinated and have numerous other health benefits. Guayusa is only found in Ecuador and northern Peru and Colombia, and has been a large part of Kichwa culture for centuries.
I recently came back from a week long trip to the jungles of Ecuador. I was there as a guest of Fundacion Runa, the non-profit arm of RUNA, a beverage company that is introducing Guayusa to the world. I immediately fell in love with the organization and began to think of ways that I could help them. It was an invaluable experience and feeling to realize that as consumers in the US and CANADA we are directly helping the Kichwa people build better lives for themselves.
Fundacion Runa is in Ecuador full time working next to the Guayusa farmers and involved in every step of the process. From encouraging farmers to grow Guayusa on their land and use it as a cash crop, to educating farmers and their families on sustainability, to employing local Kichwa people in RUNA’s farm and factory. I saw with my own eyes how Fundacion Runa has invested their time, love and energy into helping the Kichwa people any way that they can.
I also have to mention that Guayusa, as a cold or hot tea, is one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted. It is caffeinated, but they call it FOCUSED ENERGY. The Kichwa people believe that it helps them interpret dreams, be protected from snake and insect bites (it acts as a natural repellent), and it even acts as a metabolism booster.
The whole week was filled with trips to local farms, guayusa ceremonies at 5am, visits to Kichwa peoples homes and incredible talks with the Kichwa people. It was definitely an experience I will never forget….and I cannot forget to mention that it was a trip I took with 9 of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. All of whom happen to work for DAVIDsTEA ;)
Who knew that a little green leaf could bring all these amazing things into my life?
To learn more about RUNA please check out their websites. To find some delicious Guayusa tea blends in Canada or the US go to the DAVIDsTEA website….they have a delicious blend with papaya and peach called Jungle Ju Ju. Yum!