Tea has been consumed across the world for generations. But here in the amazon jungle of Ecuador, they've relied on a different beverage: Guayusa. Now that it's getting more international attention, we are here to take a look
What is Guayusa?
Guayusa is a beverage similar to tea that comes from boiling leaves in water. It historically was consumed by Amazonian people as part of their daily rituals.
Silverio Mamallacta, who works with guayusa as a Field Technician for a guayusa company called Runa, noted that "To us Guayusa is a portal to a harmonious relationship between the Quichua people and the jungle… [silverio] Guayusa allows us to know [our values] by giving us energy, strength, dream interpretation, and the ability to predict the future."
But it was never distributed commercially until two Americans spent time in Ecuador and saw its potential as both a healthy beverage alternative and a sustainable farming alternative. So they started a company called Runa to bring Guayusa out of the jungle and into stores globally.
Co-Founder and CEO Dan MacCombie says that, "Guayusa is not technically a tea but its a leaf that's drank like a tea, and its the only product in that category that is grown exclusively by small farmers. So we work directly with over 2,000 farmers here in the Amazon who grow and source it. It's got as much caffeine as coffee, but twice the antioxidants of green tea. The taste is remarkable. It actually has a number of things in it that make it naturally sweet, and there are no tannins. It has high antioxidants and is great for your health"
How is it Processed?
Guayusa comes from a large tree that grows naturally in the rainforest but can also be planted sustainably within the existing forest and around Ecuador's other commercial plants like yuca, cacao or coffee. Unlike many annual crops, Guayusa can also be harvested every three months. Once harvested, they are brought to a production facility for drying.
One of Runa's Agronomists, Juan Pablo Chiriboga explains. "So we take the leaves, they harvest it for us and we just bring [it] together here and we push a lot of air so the leaves can have a little process of fermentation and after that we put it in an over and we just smash it to have the tea"
Only part of the processing happens here in Ecaudor. What you see in bottles and cans happens in production facilities around the US.
Guayusa in the Market:
Today Runa distributes guayusa everywhere from grocery stores like Whole Foods to tea shops to wholesalers.
MacCombie explains, "So we've tried to bring guayusa to as many people as possible; we have loose leaf teas, we have our line of bags, guayusa tea bags, and then more recently we've launched our bottled beverages, and then most recently came out with our energy drink"
It's a drink for those who want a healthy caffeinated beverage along with oa social purpose.
Mamallacta believes expanding the reach of guayusa can only help Ecuadorians. "From a commercial perspective guayusa helps us avoid deforestation and exploitation. It also helps us create a sustainable process that generates income for our families." MacCombie continues, "they said, 'you know, this is great, cool project, lot's of opportunities to work with these communities, but you could also have a really amazing product on your hands. And that's when we knew we were on to something."