Article written and translated by Ryan of Pei Chen Tea Palace
The Sand Family immigrated from Finland (which was then Sweden) to Argentina in 1906. Johanes Sand (Ivan Sand's great-grandfather) was the first Finnish immigration to Argentina. Today, Ivan Sand, and his father Hugo, are tea and yerba mate farmers, as per the family tradition. Hugo Sand has seen the tea industry turn from a family-owned, small-scale operation into a centralized and industrialized mass production operation over just his lifetime.
The Sand family has always been active in the local community, spearheading different marches and protests over the years to obtain better economic and socio-political opportunities for the more than 600 tea farming families of the area. These families sell the tea leaves they tend to year-round for cents on the dollar per pound to a handful of immense factories that make tea dust, food pigment, tea bags, and fannings later exported to the US, England, and other international destinations.
As counterproductive as it may seem alongside the tractors and heavy machinery, the Sands family has considered the possibility of relearning how to make hand-crafted teas in recent years. This prospect has caused the family to be reinvigorated with a new hope of a possible fork in the road, steering them and dozens of other families away from falling into bankruptcy or having to rip out their tea fields to plant a more profitable crop. The Sand family had kept the low-yield, seed-planted tea bushes that their great-grandmother, Alma Annette, first planted when she took seeds to Argentina in the 30s. These slow-growing plants that yield almost no profit were kept out of sheer tradition and commemoration and are a remnant of another time, before the machinery, when farming tea was something that could put food on the table. Hugo and Ivan are so feverishly optimistic about learning how to make artisan-style teas that they have spread their enthusiasm to several other families. Together they've begun hand-crafting tea in the barn, made of logs they hewn from their property to have a roof under which to begin experimentation in 2018. Their vision for the future is to reemploy someday the hundreds of local yerba mate and tea harvesters and train a young generation of farmers. In the inefficiency of hand-crafted tea lies an opportunity to return to the past, cultivate the land, work hard, produce excellent products, and provide a better future for their legacy and the people of the province of Misiones for decades come.
In The Field: A Course in Argentinian Tea Country will carry them along on that quest, as we all learn traditional techniques and crucial technical specifications for creating a new Argentine identity on the world stage of fine teas. You can join us in February 2022 and meet the Sands family and learn tea processing alongside them while learning from the industry's best!