Producer spotlight #03: Van Chan co-operative

Producer spotlight #03: Van Chan co-operative

Situated in north-central Vietnam, the Van Chan co-operative consists of over 422 families from the local mountainous regions of the Yên Bái province . 

The project was established in 2004 by a now defunct organisation, Jaap, who spent nearly 30 years in Vietnam helping the country recover from the ravages of war. It was also designed to provide the H‘mong and Dao people of the region an alternative livelihood to poppy flower production for opium. After some early trials in tea production, the co-operative developed processing techniques and production standards that enabled them to harvest and process the leaves from the tea bushes growing wild in the rainforests. No cultivation whatsoever is involved in the growing, making the Van Chan co-operative one of our most sustainable producers. As a result, the tea leaves have an intense flavour. Wild tea is also thought to have significantly higher polyphenol content than cultivated tea – bringing with it all the associated health benefits, including for your immune system, heart, gut and bone health.

A Group of All Female Hmong Tea Pickers

Van Chan’s female-only workforce picking tea.

The co-operative is run entirely by women, and managed through a democratically-elected workers association – with each village community having a representative on the board of directors and delegates at the annual meetings and assemblies. Each village also benefits from the support of an expert consultant on technical issues. The fairtrade premium is divided between the producers and community projects, enabling villages to develop an infrastructure, optimise their drinking water system, and build schools and houses. 

The workers also benefit from fair wages and a clean work environment, with all members receiving sick leave, health insurance and paid vacation. It’s an incredibly inspiring initiative – and highlights the power of grassroots organisations and community-run farming.

What do Van Chan teas taste like? Our Moroccan Mint uses their green tea, adding a wonderful fresh grassiness to the blend. Our Wild Chai also uses their black tea – it’s soft, sweet and marries perfectly with the aromatic spices. Both teas are superb.

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