Residents wandering around Bethesda Row have a new option to quench their thirst, and these beverages come with a lesson in fair trade and organic materials.
Bethesda-based organic tea company Honest Tea installed a charitable vending machine outside its corporate office at 4827 Bethesda Ave. in mid-July. All of the proceeds go to its partners at Fair Trade USA and the Organic Farming Research Foundation.
The machine was set up between Poke Dojo and Dolcezza Gelato on Tuesday, next to a mobile tea garden, which offered free samples and an inside look at Honest Tea.
Customers get to donate to Honest Tea’s partners following their purchase from the vending machine, which is part of the company’s “small decision. BIG impact” campaign.
“What we’re trying to do is help people understand the connection between the choices they make and the impact that it has,” Honest Tea co-founder Seth Goldman said.
He explained that every time someone chooses a product from the machine, it’ll say what the decision supports, such as organic farmers or fair trade practices in India.
The machine also gives information about a particular aspect of the Honest Tea production process, such as supplier or farmer, then gives the customer the opportunity to make a donation directly to that entity.
Honest Tea has similar machines in New York, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Goldman said about 60% of customers make an additional donation.
The mobile tea garden features a stand with complimentary cups of tea in front of a trailer containing exhibits explaining Honest Tea’s origin, sourcing and ingredients, among other information.
At the back of the trailer is a map with pins noting specific areas of the world where Honest Tea’s ingredients originate, along with details about each place.
“It’s just a fun way to get people to interact with what we do and tell the story,” Goldman said.
Goldman started the company with Barry Nalebuff in Bethesda in 1998. Coca-Cola bought Honest Tea in 2011. Honest Tea’s annual sales topped $200 million in 2016.
The mobile tea garden is expected to make another appearance sometime in August. The vending machine will be in front of the corporate office all month.