Travels in Guayusa heartland: Part 1 of 3
On the 23 July we arrived with excitement in Quito, Ecuador.
We'd spent a little time in Lima and Amazonian Peru before that, so we were already adjusted to the new timezone.
We had great meetings lined up both in Quito and in the region of the Ecuadorian Amazon where our Guayusa is grown, in and around Archidona and Tena.
These meetings were with our amazing suppliers, producers in the Amazon and with of course, the Guayusa tree itself.
Day 1: Quito
On the first day we settled into the local area and made for the nearest supermarket to see all the different Guayusa products on offer.
We knew there'd be some, but were amazed at the number of different brands and products.
There wasn't just a large range of bottled/canned 'ready to drink' energy drinks, but also Guayusa pale ale, chocolate and lots of tea bag brands with different blends.
As we’re naturally avid followers of the whole Guayusa movement on social, we knew most of these brands, so it was really cool to have the opportunity to see and try their products. Check out this little video we snapped of 'the haul':
We bought three or four of everything and had to get a cab back to the hotel with about six large bags bursting with it all - we got a little over excited, but who can blame us!
You might have noticed the Pacari Guayusa Chocolate bar in the video, which we have in stock on our site right now.
That night we drank a couple of bottles and cans (and energy shots) between the family, munched on some organic Guayusa chocolate and also cracked a Guayusa beer or two.
The beer was great - dry, with a distinct undercurrent of toasty Guayusa leaves that made for a unique flavour experience that totally worked.
Tea in beer is of course a thing, and our local craft beer shop, Three Hounds Beer Co, often carry speciality beers that have some kind of tea involved.
While we were in Ecuador we drank the pure 'Guayusa Tea Code' and 'Aroma Melis’ brands when we needed a hot tea. Both of which were different in taste but equally delicious.
We also cold brewed some in water bottles with a couple of brown sugar sachets for stamina while walking in the rainforest.
What struck us is there’s a lot of variation in flavour, smell and functional feel across the brands and the different places we tried Guayusa in various restaurants along our travels.
We predict in time Guayusa will start to have its own variations like 'regular' Camellia teas (e.g. Oolong tea, black tea, green tea, etc.), which all come from the same plant (Camellia sinensis).
There's already an emerging split which you could broadly differentiate as 'Black' and 'Green' Guayusa.
Black Guayusa is left to ferment for a longer period of time, which makes the leaves darker and take on a more tangy flavour. We've got some on the way from Ecuador as we type which will be up on the site for sale soon.
Green Guayusa is more zingy and leafy fresh. It's such an interesting taste. This is left to ferment for a much shorter time than black. Both names also reflect the colour of the end product, green being very green, and black much darker.
Over the course of the week in Ecuador we'd had a taste of all the ready to drink beverages and we brought one of each bottle back to the UK so we could sample it with wider team.
Day 2: Pomasqui
About 40 mins north of where we were staying in Quito central, is an area called Pomasqui.
We headed there to meet with our main Guayusa supplier, who have just moved to a brand new factory, replete with an amazing new processing machine.
This was a chance to finally meet the amazing Guayusa people we'd been communicating with by email only, until that point, as we co-ordinated shipments of tea from Ecuador to the UK.
We spent a few hours in the factory and we'll never forget it.
The smell of the tea. The sight of it all laying out to dry. The amazing, huge, machine that, after ambient pre-drying, deals with the entire process from further temperature controlled drying, to milling and deploying into sacks in various cut sizes from loose leaf, to tea bag, to powder.
We then spent some time with the team and catching up and sharing all our ideas and developments we have in the works.
It was so good to talk about our shared passion for Guayusa with people who (obviously) get it.
In the UK it’s more a case of bringing people into Guayusa's story, as most people have never heard about the superleaf (which we do love doing!).
Asking ‘...have you heard of Yerba Mate...’, is usually a good way to bring people to a loose understanding, as people are often aware of Ilex paraguariensis (Yerba Mate). Or, '...think of it as a really nice green tea, without the bitterness...', is another good way to make people imagine what it might taste like and bring them on board.
We got a lovely gift of some limited edition ‘Yasuni’ Guayusa tea bags from our supplier. These taste so good and the colour of the brew is just incredible. We’ll post more about that on social or perhaps a whole blog, as it’s a really interesting story, area and a beautiful end product.
After this we paid a visit to the 'Middle of the World' visitor centre, where you can stand on the Equator line and do some fun stuff there like trying to walk on it with your eyes closed (which feels really weird) and balancing an egg on the head of a nail (which is really easy).
The best thing was the famous water demonstration where it swirls in opposite directions down a plug hole depending on which side of the line it's on. When it's exactly on the line, the water goes straight down with no swirling. Neat!
In the photo above, Linda is pictured with some traditionally strung bundles of Guayusa which were also on show at the centre.
Part 2 is now live - read on about the following days where we cover our time in Archidona, Tena and Cotundo.