My dad kept talking about the Mars Applefest. It was my first week back in Pennsylvania after almost four years in Manhattan. A sucker for fall festivals and homemade desserts, I finally conceded and found myself in the small town of Mars, Pennsylvania, 30 minutes outside of Pittsburgh.
As we walked up and down the main street, lined with businesses, churches, and community organizations, one immediately caught my eye. “Buy a tea, plant a tree,” was the slogan on the matching shirts of two men running a, you guessed it, tea booth.
Tea and trees happen to be two of my favorite things.
At the stand, I met Mark Sotomayor, the CEO of Treecup Organic Tea Company. I am so excited to share more of his story here. Oh and the Berry Jasmine tea? Absolutely phenomenal.
Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”
Mark: Happiness is living in the present moment and appreciating the beauty of life.
Liz: Tell me about your company.
Mark: Treecup Organic Tea is my company. We plant one tree in Haiti for every one bottle purchased by consumers. So far, we've planted 10,000 trees in Haiti! They are 80% deforested and the most impoverished nation in the Western Hemisphere. We partner with Haiti Friends to plant the trees in Haiti's Artibonite Valley.
Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?
Mark: The concept of leveraging the U.S. market economy to tangibly develop the environment in an at-need/third world country. I have visited Haiti twice and I love the Haitian culture, personality, creativity, food, and kindness each Haitian possesses. Haitians, as individuals, are limited simply because of their geographic location and I don't think that's fair. As such, I feel a sort of conviction to help people in Haiti.
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Mark: Service means helping people while strengthening their dignity. Service means giving without having conditions on the gift. Service means developing an understanding. Service means allowing people to develop as they'd like. Service, to me, is the manifestation of empathy. It's something that follows my understanding of the underprivileged all around the world, which is why I created something which services the impoverished in Haiti.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Also, anyone can buy Treecup Tea with your special online code: SpreadTheSmile! “SpreadTheSmile” will give anyone 25% off any 6 pack, 9 pack, or 12 pack on our website.
Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?
Mark: Thanks for asking me some great questions and allowing me to share my Treecup story with your audience. We will continue to grow in the Pittsburgh area throughout the next year so look out for us! We are entering the Wexford, East Liberty, and South Hills Whole Foods Markets in January. If people add themselves to our email list on our website homepage, then we can give them coupons!
Liz: Lastly, do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice to leave us with?
Mark: "Life by the yard is hard, life by the inch is a synch."