Social Drinking: ChariTea’s tasty quest to transform communities

As an aid worker in Sri Lanka, Paul Bethke saw resources go to waste. When he returned to Germany, he and two friends started a new kind of enterprise: a drinks range that could combine great taste and real change in one beneficial bottle.

LemonAid and ChariTea founder, Paul Bethke.

LemonAid and ChariTea founder, Paul Bethke.

It all started in a Hamburg kitchen.

Just around the corner from where the Beatles took their first steps to stardom, three friends — Paul Bethke, Jacob Berndt and Felix Langguth — were locked in a kitchen with stacks of recipes and a common goal. Having seen first-hand how wasteful large aid organisations could sometimes be, they decided to combine their two great loves: foreign aid and fantastic soft drinks.

As Julian Warowioff, managing director of ChariTea and LemonAid, explains: “The idea was to produce soft drinks made to the highest standards that would also give back to the communities where the ingredients were sourced – we wanted to prove that you can make a range of soft drinks while doing good.”

The result was LemonAid – a range of sparkling lemonades in three flavours – and the beautiful whole-leaf iced teas that make up the ChariTea line. For every bottle sold, five pence goes directly to their charitable organisation, which has raised more than £1,000,000 since 2008. But ChariTea goes beyond that: they work directly with their farmers, not middlemen, and pay higher prices for their raw ingredients.

This approach supports fair and dignified farming, and means that local farmers can afford to implement community projects – often with additional support from ChariTea and LemonAid.

“All of our projects are humanitarian,” Julian says. “We’re focused on trying to help local people help themselves through education projects. We support a farming school in Paraguay where we teach local farmers how to grow ingredients in their own gardens, and in Sri Lanka we run a school to help the children find skilled jobs when they grow up.”

The rooibos that serves as the main ingredient in the ChariTea Red in September's Gin of the Month box is sourced equally sustainably: it’s grown on one of the few farming co-operatives owned and operated by black farmers in South Africa, where rooibos is the national drink and the economic aftershocks of Apartheid are still impacting the tea market.

ChariTea red drink

Julian says, “Rooibos farming in South Africa is a very monopolised industry. One company owns 80% of farms, the majority of which are operated by white farmers. We chose a cooperative where the farmers own the land – it’s a group of 12 families that grow the tea in what is essentially their back garden. It’s a lot smaller than you would expect.”

Julian should know – just last year he travelled there to meet the farmers and learn how ChariTea could best support their efforts.

“You can read about these things in brochures,” he says, “or you can travel there yourself and be really sure that this is going to make a positive difference for people.”

At the moment ChariTea is working to help the co-operative raise the funds to buy more land, which in turn can increase their yield and profits. The same kind of care and consideration goes into the other ingredients in ChariTea Red – passionfruit juice and agave, both sourced directly from the farmers.

The quality of the ingredients is one important factor in ChariTea’s delicious taste, and the care with which they’re prepared is another. ChariTea is made with whole tea leaves brewed in kettles, just like you would brew tea at home, before being combined with fresh juices and bottled by a small organic company in the south of Germany.

As a result, ChariTea Red is a far cry from most iced teas. Julian says, “The iced tea you traditionally think of has a very sweet, intense flavour. Our teas are quite mellow and refreshing – a bit more understated.”

Delicious with ice and lemon, they’re also amazing as mixers – in fact ChariTea will soon release a mate iced tea, an Argentinian staple with a slow-burning energy boost that’s made it a popular mixer in Germany. To incorporate ChariTea red into a very special cocktail designed with Elephant Gin in mind, give the accompanying G&Tea recipe a whirl.


Elephant gin

50ml Elephant Gin
5ml Orange Syrup (see below)
ChariTea Red
Fresh mint leaves
Slice of orange, to garnish


Gently muddle the mint leaves with the orange syrup at the bottom of a highball glass. Add ice. Pour in the Elephant Gin and top up with ChariTea red. Add more ice and garnish with a mint spring and a slice of orange.

To make the orange syrup: combine 1 cup of water, 1 cup of sugar and the juice and zest of half an orange in a small saucepan. Simmer until the sugar has dissolved, then remove from heat, cool to room temperature and strain. Can be kept covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.