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Arbor Tea Co.

1342 North Main Street, Suite 4
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Jeremy and Aubrey Lopatin

After steeping that dream in a fortuitous brew of gumption and opportunity, the couple founded Arbor Teas. The Ann Arbor-based online tea seller has been in business since 2003, and has grown steadily each year.

Aubrey marvels at their success “given the economy of the past decade,” she says. “The tea business is a wonderful market … it’s healthy, it’s been around for thousands of years, it’s organic and fair trade — how can you go wrong?”

With a socially conscience business model that’s proven successful, the Lopatins recently moved the business out of their home and have opened a new warehouse distribution center in the heart of downtown Ann Arbor.

Red Thread Magazine's Stefani Barner spoke with Aubrey and Jeremy Lopatin about running a business and Arbor Tea Co.

Why do you call your business model “socially conscience?”?
Aubrey Lopatin: All of our products are certified organic, and about 75 percent are also certified fair trade. Fair Trade USA ensures that tea estates, as well as the larger plantations, meet their criteria for fair business practices and working conditions — such as paying a living wage, allowing their employees freedom of association and avoiding of child labor.
That standard is important to Jeremy, who holds a degree in environmental policy from U-M’s School of Natural Resources. We strive to bring an eco-conscious mindset to our work.

How is that philosophy applied to your packaging?
Jeremy Lopatin: When we first started, we used tins to package our products. After learning more about the environmental impact of this choice, we looked for alternatives.  We moved away from metal and introduced recyclable paperboard packaging. But further research revealed an even more desirable product: backyard-compostable packaging.  It’s made to be compostable in the average, non-industrial compost pile. Now, if you compost your used Arbor tea and its packaging, you’ll produce no waste at all.

How else does the business hold true to your values?
Jeremy Lopatin: As the parents of two young children, Arthur, age 3, and Penelope, 1, we have created a business model that allows us the flexibility to spend time with our children while also doing work that is true to our values.  When we sell teas from these [fair trade] estates, a percentage of the profits go back to them, where a democratically chosen panel of workers and owners, decide together how those funds should be used to benefit the tea estate as a whole. They’ve used these funds to purchase ambulances, provide child care to the tea pickers, for micro-lending to start new businesses or for school monies.

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