Regan Driscoll

Equinox Staff


Already sold locally at Blueberry Fields, Brewbakers, and The Market at Luca’s, the beverage students said tasted natural and refreshing could be coming to Keene State College.  Runa tea participated in the third annual Fair Trade Faire on Nov. 15 and received nothing but positive responses from attendees who sampled the hot and iced teas.

Students also enjoyed samples from Maine Root Soda which included flavors such as ginger brew, blueberry, pumpkin pie, root beer and sarsparilla.

Christina Sveda, Maine Root Soda representative mentioned one woman who stated, “It has more flavor, less fizz.”   Students treated themselves not only to the tea and soda samples, but lip balms from Badger’s and frozen, chocolate-covered bananas as well.  Even Sodexo participated, which the Fair Trade Club said they thought was great.  Bumsted exclaimed, “It’s really cool to see your school supporting your club.”

Bumsted and Bryant also commented on their own club’s involvement and explained how in the previous years just a few of them would scramble around, trying to get everything done, whereas this year the club really came together and every member was excited to help out.  Bryant said they went above and beyond and Bumsted added, “We really appreciate them.”

As a result of the Fair Trade Club’s hard work and success with the Faire, students can possibly look forward to Runa tea being made available on campus.  According to the table’s representatives, students were curious as to how the company started.

Two college students co-founded Runa in 2009 after their experiences in Ecuador made them want to help the farmers and the people they encountered.  They wanted these communities to be financially stable.

Tyler Gage tasted the guayusa tea, native to the Amazon, and began thinking about how fair trade could share this tea globally while benefitting the Kichwa people. Dan MacCombie observed various developmental projects during his time abroad and subsequently began studying non-profit management.  Together the friends took an entrepreneurship class at Brown University and wrote up their business plan.

Immediately following their graduation the pair moved to Ecuador and began building partnerships with the locals.  Runa made it possible to sell guayusa tea internationally and is not only fair trade and US Department of Agriculture Organic certified, but is a certified B Corporation, is part of the Youth Trade, and is kosher certified. B Corporations benefit the public by helping solve environmental, social, and economic problems through business and Youth Trade supports young entrepreneurs like Gage and MacCombie. The company now employs over 2,000 farming families and contributes to planting over 150,000 guayusa trees per year, working with Fundacion Runa to research the environmental effects and benefits of the plant.

This also works towards rainforest conservation, the natural setting for growing the plant.  It is always shade grown so, according to the company’s website, Runa plants guayusa with endangered hardwood trees, food crops, cacao, coffee and other local plants, in order to maintain the ecological integrity of the rainforest. Runa invests over $20,000 per year in community development and purchases over $120,000 in guayusa harvests, generating another source of income for the families. Mark Tangvik, a Runa representative, said supporting these famers and getting them out of poverty is what drives them.

Not only is it good for the farmers, but the consumer as well. Tangvik stated, “If it’s good for the farmers, but not the consumer, then it really isn’t a fair trade.”  With this in mind the tea is low in sugar, calories, sodium, and is certified organic.

According to the Runa website, “Guayusa also has other stimulating compounds- theophylline and theobromine that combined create a balanced energy effect without any jitters, crash, or jolted buzz. Theophylline is a clarifying and uplifting compound also found in green tea. Theobromine is the stimulant found in dark chocolate that offers that pleasant whole body feeling many are familiar with.”

Tangvik added, “With college students, that energy is important.”  He also mentioned, “We’re really trying to get it on campuses because we really think students would love the tea, plain and simple.” And love the tea they did.  Responses from taste testers included that it wasn’t too syrupy, and the flavors were not overbearing, they tasted fresh.

Yana Riendeau, a junior, exclaimed how “it tastes healthier, cleaner, and just not as heavy or thick” in comparision to other teas, she guessed due to fewer ingredients.  She added that, “I’m addicted to coffee and I’ve realized it makes me feel kind of sick sometimes and this is something I feel would be a good alternative.” Tangvik and McCormick spoke with dining hall management and said the managers were, “really into the iced tea and the hot tea as well, so we’re hopeful that soon that will be available.  McCormick added, “students should look forward and if they don’t see it they should start to demand it.”

The Fair Trade Club’s annual Fair Trade Faire made this development a possible reality by inviting these vendors and making the school and the students aware of all fair trade has to offer.

Bryant explained how she thought the success has to with the fact that it is an open faire rather than confined to a hidden room.  She said, “Yes it is important to advertise and to try and get people to come prior to the event, but even if you have a hard time doing that people are going to run into it and that that’s the exciting part about a fair…it almost has the surprise factor.”  She described how it draws people in and makes them curious to see what’s going on.  Bumsted added, “Everyone can see it, you don’t have to look for it.”

Bryant said, “It takes a lot of time and effort putting an event together, but since we’ve done it before this year’s Faire just kind of felt like it ran more smoothly.” “It took a lot of getting used to the system to be able to make an event like that happen,” Bumsted included.  With three fairs down the Fair Trade Club said they felt more prepared than ever to make future Fair Trade Faires just as successful.


Regan Driscoll can be contacted at

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