David Duckler '05: Farm to Cup

This article was originally published in the Winter 2017 issue of Cyrus. To read the entire issue, click here.

David Duckler's '05 love of tea began with folktales. While at Bard College, he traveled as a Fulbright scholar to China, translating fiction and poetry. After graduating, he received a grant to research the folklore of tea. Based in Qingdao, China, he began to connect with teahouse owners, tea farmers and tea masters, who would generously open up their shops, fields and homes to Duckler.

The friendships that followed are at the heart of Verdant Tea. Duckler launched the business in 2011 with the idea of paying forward the hospitality and knowledge he felt so fortunate to have experienced. "I think of what I do as a sort of cross-border farmers' market," he says. "These farmers do such incredible things with their craft. I feel privileged to collaborate with them."

Verdant continues to work with the families Duckler met years ago, shipping their teas from small farms to customers around the world. The company is committed to transparency in the tea industry, benefitting the communities it represents and serving as a platform for farmers to shape their own stories. Verdant's blog tells these stories through narrative, photos and video.

Beyond expanding its tea offerings, Verdant has ventured into sourcing teaware, some of it handmade using ancient techniques. Verdant products are used to make Prohibition Kombucha, a fermented tea-based drink, and Duckler is half of the team behind Tree Fort, a line of all-natural sodas founded by his younger sister Eva '14 during her senior year at Blake.

Duckler finds himself at the forefront of a burgeoning tea movement, one shaped by quality, transparency and small production methods — similar to the shifts in the craft coffee, beer and whiskey industries. But it's the people, not industry trends, that have driven his vision.

"We've grown slowly because we start with the farmers, not the teas. Families set their prices and decide what to grow," says Duckler. "It's all about trust. If I can help farmers tell their own stories, then consumers can form a relationship directly with them."

Learn more at verdanttea.com.