Karen Cayen

Karen Cayen

Chilliwack shop fights for freedom with tea

Aromatica Fine Teas and Soaps in Chilliwack is raising funds for the International Justice Mission with sales of its Freedom Tea.

Stick your nose into a canister of Freedom Tea and be prepared to have your senses shocked full of the most pungent lemon scent around.

“That’s freedom,” smiled Karen Cayen, co-owner of Aromatica Fine Teas and Soaps.

Freedom Tea is a fundraiser, created by Aromatica, in conjunction with Miss World Canada Tara Teng, of Langley, that supports anti-sexual exploitation initiatives.

A cause Cayen couldn’t get behind fast enough.

Two years ago, when Cayen was made aware of the sex trade industry in Chilliwack, she was horrified. She had no idea there was a whole community of women, some as young as 14, working the streets. She had no idea Chilliwack youth were being recruited at school, local convenience stores, and online. She had no idea Chilliwack was home to illegal brothels.

But once she found out, she knew she couldn’t just sit idly by.

“I didn’t want to just bring awareness to the issue, I needed to do something,” she said.

It’s not surprising Cayen felt an instant connection with Teng shortly after.

For several years, Teng, a young “abolitionist” – who’s currently competing for Miss Universe in China – has been a strong advocate against human trafficking. She’s launched campaigns to end rape and help the racially oppressed in third-world countries; she’s served children in the projects of Brooklyn; has been a regular fixture helping the homeless on the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver; has worked with politicians, musicians, and other such advocates speaking out against racial oppression, gender inequality, modern-day slavery and social justice.

She’s also the face behind Aromatica’s Freedom Tea.

“Tara’s making things happen,” said Cayen. “She’s not just talking about bringing awareness to the issue, she’s actually out there doing something about it.”

Aromatica’s Freedom Tea is supporting the cause.

For every one pound bag sold, $10 goes to the International Justice Mission, a human rights organization that secures justice and aftercare for victims of violent oppression.

So far, it’s raised almost $500.

“That’s almost 50 pounds of tea sold,” said Cayen. “That’s a lot of tea.”

And this isn’t a tea that was just thrown together, and passed off as freedom, there was an intense development process involved.

It started with a question posed on Teng’s Facebook page – What does freedom taste like? – which produced a rapid succession of responses including bold, fresh, citrusy, smooth.

“My challenge was to come up with a flavour that represented all that,” said Cayen.

A day of tea combinations and tweaks resulted in four different samples for Teng to try. The one that won over her palate was a green and red rooibos blend with lemon myrtle, lemon verbena, lemongrass and a hint of vanilla.

“To me, it’s fresh and inviting and lemony – it’s bursting with flavour,” said Cayen, who knew off the hop the flavour that would best represent freedom was lemon myrtle. “It was pretty clear it needed to be something citrusy, and lemon myrtle was the best element that could speak to that.”

Using rooibos was no mistake either. While the rooibos blend was chosen for its flavour and antioxidant qualities, the fact its origins stem from Africa, home of the historic slave trade, adds to the tea’s features.

“It has a synergy about it,” said Cayen.

Freedom Tea is available at Aromatica Fine Teas and Soaps on Young Road.

For more information on Tara Teng, visit her blog at http://tarateng.wordpress.com/ or Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Teng/139027189514085.