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Official sofi Award coverage2011's Gold Award WinnersView all of the 2011 finalists

Ajiri Tea
 - Kenyan Black Tea

2011 Gold Award Winner: Outstanding Innovation in Packaging Design or Function
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When Sara Holby graduated from college in 2008, she volunteered in Kenya for a year, distributing medicine to HIV and AIDS patients. While immersed in donation- and grant-funded work, Holby found that local women wanted jobs more than handouts. Shortly after, a plan was in the works.

Kenya’s major crops—black tea and bananas—inspired the components of this product. Holby and colleagues connected with a tea factory cooperative owned by 10,000 small-scale regional farmers, and then turned to job-seeking women for the labeling. Starting with one employee designing a label using the vastly available banana-tree bark, Holby’s team has grown to 63 women. In fact, ajiri means “to employ” in Swahili.

“Women tend to put the money back into their families,” Holby notes. The employees are not only able to send their own children to good schools but have created a program to educate local orphans.

“The kids live with extended family in these villages where the women work,” Holby explains. “Now, these kids have 15 women looking after them and making sure they do well in school. It brought the whole community together.”

The sofi Award isn’t Ajiri’s only recent win: the brew took home the Buyers Pick for Best Black Tea at the annual World Tea Expo. “The award we got for the tea was great because it validated that we have a great tea,” Holby says. “The award we got for the packaging is awesome because it shows that the women are being recognized for the work that they’re doing.”—Eva Meszaros

How to Enjoy It: Like any quality black tea, sip it quietly, iced or hot, with cream, sugar, both or neither, while admiring the stunning artwork on the package.

MSRP: $8–$10/16 teabags

Website: ajiritea.com

See the related articles below to view the other finalists in this category

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