The Social Steep: Empowerment in Every Cup
Sarjesa Inc. is a Canadian socially focused tea company, supporting impactful violence prevention programming for women in crisis through the sale of high quality tea. As an Indo – Caribbean woman, Alexandra has seen the impacts of domestic violence and intergenerational trauma within her own community. However, it wasn’t until she started post-secondary that she realized just how pervasive the issue was and how it touched so many communities of women. As part of her program, Alexandra took an Indigenous Studies course where she was challenged to bring resistance into her everyday life – and the lives her own family and community. It was in this class that she first started to hear about the missing and murdered Indigenous women.
According to a 2014 Royal Canadian Mounted Police report, there were almost 1200 Indigenous women who had gone missing or been murdered in a thirty year period. This number is contested; many community members and organizations believed that it was in fact much, much, much higher. As she began to learn more about the topic, Alexandra was frustrated that so many people in her own community not only didn’t know about the issue, but also didn’t know what they could do about it upon learning more information.
One day, Alexandra was at her favorite local coffee shop, and she looked down at their teas. It was a sort of light bulb moment in that she realized she was buying a product supporting Indigenous communities and farmers globally. What could happen if there was a tea that raised awareness for missing and murdered women, worked with local community members, and funded some sort of violence prevention initiative? Thinking of her own lived experience and her own communities, she began to wonder what could happen if this tea brought different communities of marginalized women into conversation around how to stop domestic violence. This would form the basis for Sarjesa Inc.
In many ways, tea represents the perfect knowledge bridge between communities. All communities have tea, and it invites a different conversation than coffee. Alexandra has noted wryly that: “tea has always been part of my life. My mom didn’t believe in sugary juices or pop, so she would fill my Sippy cup with herbal tea.”
Over the next two years, Alexandra spent time building relationships and dreaming up her business model. It took a lot of support, and she always feels that it really was the communities she both worked with and was part of that propelled her forward in many ways. In the spring of 2017, Sarjesa piloted its first tea blends and over four months they were able to sell over 1000 units of tea, representing a $1500 donation the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society – a shelter grounded in Indigenous teachings and run by Indigenous women for women in crisis. With the help of many people, Alexandra would go on to refine her product and model, fully launching in December 2017.
Find out more at https://sarjesa.com/