Guayusa Tea Bags
Linda's picture
Posted by Linda

Did you know that there is a new tea in town? It’s called ‘guayusa’ (pronounced ‘gwhy-you-sa’).

What may surprise you is that it is a species of holly - it tastes really good and has a whole heap of naturally occuring caffeine to keep you energised.

What’s more it contains more antioxidants than green tea, and is rich in polyphenols and theobromine. Theobromine is also abundant in chocolate.

Guayusa is becoming popular in the USA and hailed as a new ‘clean caffeine energy’ that comes ‘from a leaf, not a lab’.

There is something about guayusa that makes the caffeine very slow release - it does not give you the jitters like a cup of coffee can - which is helping give it a real unique selling point.

Why talk about a new beverage on a charity donations blog?

Well, the fact of the matter is that there is nothing ‘new’ about guayusa at all.

The innovative company who created the first guayusa factory, supply chain and brand to popularise the product is called Runa LLC.

They have recently launched a new selection of their ‘powered by guayusa’ bottled and canned drink range and have had significant investment from famous celebrities such as as Leonardo DiCaprio and Channing Tatum.

What’s interesting is how they are part of the ‘Runa Group’ and while Runa LLC is their ‘for profit’ arm, there is also the Runa Foundation, which is their ‘non profit’ arm. It is a hybrid social enterprise.

We wanted to use this blog to highlight the work of the Runa Foundation, who were formed in 2010, to tell you more about the impact of their work in their mission to create ‘new value for tropical rainforests that benefit local people and the forest ecosystem’.

Runa Foundation

Guayusa has been used by indigenous peoples of the Amazon for so long, it only survives by propagation (cuttings). Some think it may be an ancient hybrid of two other holly species - one reason it may now be effectively sterile in that it cannot reproduce by itself in the wild.

If you find an ancient mature guayusa tree in the Amazon, chances are it was planted their by loving human hands hundreds of years ago.

Wikipedia tells us that ‘Runa Foundation is primarily funded from government grants, private foundations, and individual contributions.’

In 2016 they partnered with 235 indigenous communities where they implemented projects, generated income and improved the livelihoods of farmers.

Their site tells us that they generated $242,733 of revenue from organic, fair trade guayusa tea for indigenous farming families.

In addition, they paid an additional $36,409 to Fair Trade certified farming cooperatives as a social premium, going on to work with those farmers to invest the funds in their local communities.

Also in 2016, they contributed $389,717 to indigenous enterprises, producer groups and community based organisations.

When we look at how that all stacks up over time the numbers are really impressive with the planting of 1.2 million guayusa trees along with 123,600 native trees being supplied to farmers for reforestation and improved agroforestry systems.

Notably the number of women in leadership positions has increased from 11% to 38% and 6,614 hectares of forest have been placed under agroforestry & sustainable management systems.

The future

The Runa Foundation will keep pushing forward with their programmes that span three areas - Livelihoods, Landscapes and Plant Research.


There are three programmes in this category which includes 'Communitiy Enterprises', where the Foundation works with communities to create business plans and provides general capital to kick start sustainable businesses.

The other two programmes are 'Farmer Association Development' and 'Stakeholder Engagement'.


The three programmes in the 'Landscapes' category includes 'Reforestation' where, in partnership with local communities, trees are donated for planting as part of reforestation initiatives.

The other two programmes in this category are 'Agroforestry Research' and 'Land Management Planning'.

Plant Research:

'Naku' and 'Rios Nete' are two intriguing programme titles from the 'Plant Research' category.

In the Naku programme, the Foundation works with the Sapara people from Ecuador to document their rapidly vanishing plant knowledge. There are just 575 Sapara left in the Amazon. 

Rios Nete sees the Foundation working with traditional medicince practioners from the Shipobo people along with doctors from the west to research, in a scientific environment, various medicinal plants.

The third programme from this category is 'Research', where Amazonian plants are studied at a Foundation-built cutting-edge crop-science lab. Learnings gained at this state of the art facility are brought back to local farmers through the Foundation's workshops.

Want to learn more?

If you’re interested in learning more about the Runa Foundation and how you can donate to them, here is a link to their website:

If you’re interested in trying guayusa tea, Guayusa Tea Shop are a great seller in the UK!

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