Guayusa is grown in traditional forest gardens called chacras always in a natural rainforest setting with other native plants.
To the foreign eye these areas would look like the rainforest, but are actually a diverse mix of food crops, herbs, hardwood trees, fruit trees, spices, and medicinal plants. The Kichwa people see farming as a process that takes place in harmony with the rainforest, and the diversity of their gardens reflects this attitude toward the natural world.
Guayusa is planted from cuttings under the shade of other trees and shrubs, by taking a piece of a branch from an existing tree and placing it in rich soil. New cuttings reach productivity in about 3 years after planting, at a height of about 8 feet.
Guayusa is always shade grown. It needs the shade of other trees to fully develop its rich leaves, and is thus perfectly designed to be grown in robust and diverse agroforestry systems. Runa plants guayusa with endangered hardwood trees, food crops, cacao, coffee, and other local plants, in order to maintain the ecological integrity of the rainforest while offering a variety of income sources to the farmers.
Every day indigenous families harvest fresh guayusa leaves from underneath the rainforest canopy. Harvesting is a family activity that involves lots of laughter, storytelling, and careful attention to proper leaf selection. Dark green, mature leaves are selected for harvest, in contrast to the fresh leaves and buds harvested for green and black tea.
The women and mothers of the family usually lead the harvest, and fill their traditional woven baskets full of leaves in the early morning hours.
Runa purchases fresh leaves from each family farm and then dries and mills the leaves in our processing facility in the small jungle town of Archidona, in the Napo Province of the Ecuadorian Amazon. The leaves are first withered (or pre-dried) on long troughs in order to allow the flavor to set in and to reduce the moisture content of the leaf. After the pre-drying process, the leaves enter industrial batch dryers that fully dry the leaves. Then, milling, sifting, and packing takes places, before large sacks of guayusa begin the long, mythic canoe ride from Ecuador to the United States.