Rhoeco – drink it, plant it!
On our research and networking trip to Thessaloniki in February 2020, we had the chance to get to know the lovely herbal tea producers of Rhoeco. In the morning Vaya Mitsiou, Harry Kazas, and Katerina Chatziangelaki picked us up and we drove out of Thessaloniki into the surrounding hilly green countryside to get together in the company’s headquarters.
After their study of agriculture, the three friends aimed at developing an innovative sustainable agriculture business model. They found their passion in organic herbal tea locally grown in the various areas of Greece and cofounded Rhoeco in 2016. Rhoeco is a word formation inspired by the Greek word ‘ροή’ [rhoē] -meaning flow-, ecology [eco] and cooperation [co]. They found a way to produce herbal tea in an even more ecological and fair manner and to provide their brand with a splendid hip identity.
What can be innovative about organic herbal teas?
Greek Mountain tea grows wild in the country’s mountains. Usually the local herb is picked by hand from nature and sold on market stalls all over Greece; presented openly without any packing, perfect practice of Zero Waste. So what is even more sustainable about the new concept of Rhoeco?
The herbs inside Rhoeco`s teas are not harvested from wilderness. In order to reduce the burden of picking herbs from the local ecosystems and to protect biodiversity the herbs are cultivated on organic farms. With respect to the principles of fair trade, ethical and organic food production, the founders have developed a network of certified organic smallholder family farms across Greece, which supply them with raw dried herbs. Each herb is planted in the geographical area of Greece which suits best its growth and the development of its full aroma.
Behind the office room, we enter the production and storage rooms. All herbs are lovingly sorted by hand. Only whole leaves are chosen in order to preserve the whole aroma. The herbs are mixed into five different tastes: Agros, Forest, Mountain, Sea and Urban. Additionally a Monovarietals choice is offered.
More than just a packaging…
For the goal of selling the traditional Greek agricultural product outside the country, Rhoeco needed to develop a packaging that would make it ready for export and international markets. The herbs need a shell for keeping their aroma, for making them transportable and presentable in shops. At the same time, the packaging should transmit the identity of the brand, its ecological awareness and the story of the product inside: herbs growing. Like plants, the packaging should dissolve into earth and bring about new plants to sprout.
Therefore, Rhoeco developed the “drink it – plant it” collection: The herbal tea compositions come along in compostable planting pots. On the underside of the pot`s lid, you find a stick with the seeds of the herbs in the tea blend. So add soil to the compostable container, embed the seed stick and grow your own aromatic plants. Plant the container into a bigger pot or directly into your garden. While the herbs keep growing, the pot will dissolve into earth.
Although this packaging is quite resource intensive for a tea packaging, with the use of bioplastics leaving a large footprint in energy and land use, it wonderfully fulfils the goal of presenting the herbal teas as the valuable commodities they are and raises awareness for the worth of agricultural products.
Rhoeco’s love for details got rewarded: Not only is the brand selling internationally, and featured in diverse media on ethical consumption – Their FOREST herbal tea blend was one of the winners at the Great Taste Awards 2018!
Fotos: Isabel Oestreich
Die Recherchereisen nach Tunis und Thessaloniki im Rahmen des ECO DESIGN FORUM international veranstalten wir als Kooperationspartner der Stadt Köln. Das Projekt wird gefördert durch die Stadt Köln aus Mitteln der Partnerstadtprogramme und Engagement Global aus Mitteln des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen.