This Park Silly Vendor Wants You to Drink Tea for a Cause
Reds, oranges, and yellows are cropping up on the mountainsides, there's a new chill in the air in the mornings and evenings, and the days are getting noticeably shorter. Now's the time to stock up on teas to warm you through the winter months. But instead of getting a box from the shelf at the grocery store, plan a visit to Main Street for one of the last couple Park Silly Sunday Markets (through September 18) where you'll find the Nil Organic Tea booth.
Every week, Kimberly Bell-Jessop and her husband Shiloh set up their booth hoping not only to provide marketgoers with the comfort of a cup of their home-blended teas, but also to fight for social justice. While the business is only a few years old, the inspiration behind it goes back much further.
Kimberly grew up an evangelical Christian in Minnesota while Shiloh was raised in a polygamist community in Provo, Utah. The couple collided while Kimberly was serving as a missionary for her church in Provo. Their meeting and exchange of ideas led Shiloh to leave his polygamist family and join Kimberly's church. The two eventually got married and headed to the Philippines on a church mission to help victims of human trafficking. Witnessing the extreme poverty and conditions that allowed young girls to be sold for as little as $2 into slavery affected them both profoundly. So much so that when they returned to Utah to give birth to their daughter, they abandoned their faith and left the missionary group. What does all this have to do with tea you may ask?
The couple was living in Provo and out of work with a newborn daughter to provide for when, on Kimberly's birthday, Shiloh gave his wife a collection of teas. Curious about where the tea came from and what each were made of, Kimberly dug a little deeper than the ingredients label on the box. As a breast-feeding mother what she found horrified her: the teas were full of pesticides, artificial flavors, and chemicals. Her discovery, however, inspired her to try creating her own blend of organic, fair-trade tea, now known as Nil Organic Tea.
Investing in a tea business in a city like Provo, which is densely populated by Mormons who do not drink caffeinated beverages (soda, coffee, and tea included), might have seemed a fool's errand. But as you may have guessed, Nil Organic Tea beat the odds, not only surviving but thriving. They've expanded more than either of them could ever have imagined and now sell their teas at Park Silly and other markets in Utah, but also in Oregon, where they recently re-located, and online.
The Bell-Jessops have not, however, forgotten the journey that brought them where they are today. They donate twenty-five percent of their tea sales to Kiva, a non-profit that distributes micro-loans to impoverished communities around the world to create economic growth and end poverty. "Fighting poverty," Kimberly says, "is one of the best ways to prevent human trafficking."
While for most of the rest of us, going to the lengths the Bell-Jessops have to fight injustice may not be realistic, making a difference is still within our grasp. And it could all begin with simply drinking a cup of tea.