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BUSINESS: Runa
CITY: United States
State/Province:
Country: United States
Runa is a Brooklyn- and Ecuador-based startup that brews beverages from guayusa. Guayusa (gwhy-you-sa) is an Amazonian super-leaf naturally packed with caffeine and polyphenol antioxidants, so it provides a clean, focused, clear-headed energy. There are no tannins in the guayusa leaf, so it lacks the astringent, bitter taste sometimes associated with green and black teas. Instead, it tastes smooth, clean, and naturally sweet.

Runa products are certified organic, Fair Trade, non-GMO, and kosher, while the company itself is a certified B Corp.

Guayusa gives you a unique kind of energy, different from what you get from coffee or traditional energy drinks. We think of this as “clean energy” – it’s how we describe what Amazonian hunters call the “mental strength and courage” they get from drinking guayusa.

The compounds in guayusa give you sustained and focused energy. There are no harsh chemicals. No feeling burned out later. Just organic, healthy energy from a leaf. Drink guayusa to get the energy you want now without sacrificing how you feel later. Not all energy is created equal – keep yours clean.

Guayusa is grown in biodiverse agroforestry plots, or chakras. To the untrained eye, these ‘forest gardens’ look like pristine natural rainforest, though to the farmers who cultivate them they are highly managed agricultural plots combining a diverse mix of food crops, herbs, hardwood trees, fruit trees, spices, and medicinal plants. Guayusa is a shade-grown plant – meaning it needs the shade of other trees to fully develop – and flourishes in this setting.

Women traditionally lead the harvesting process, which takes place in the early morning. They pick dark green, mature leaves for brewing. Guayusa leaves can be harvested year-round, as there is no particular “growing season” for these trees in the Amazon.

Runa regularly purchases fresh leaves from Kichwa farmers. We then dry and mill the leaves in our processing facility in the small town of Archidona, in the Napo Province of Ecuador. The leaves are first withered (pre-dried) on long troughs in order to allow the flavor to set in and to reduce the moisture content of the leaf. Then the leaves enter industrial batch dryers to fully dry out. We air-dry our guayusa (we do not use burning wood in the drying process), so there is no PAH. Finally, the leaves are milled, sifted, and packed for the long, mythic canoe ride from Ecuador to the United States.

Traditionally, indigenous Kichwa families wake up before dawn and gather around a communal fire to drink gourds of guayusa. During this early-morning ritual, community members share dreams, myths, and legends. Several myths recount how the guayusa plant taught human beings how to dream, and throughout the morning shamans interpret dreams from the previous night.

Hunters also drink guayusa before nighttime hunting trips in order to heighten their senses of awareness and focus. Drinking guayusa enables them to get more in touch with the surrounding environment, allowing them to hunt safely in the jungle. For this reason guayusa is known as “The Night Watchman.”

In contrast to many indigenous communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon that grow coffee or tea (plants imported from other parts of the world), the Kichwa people grow guayusa, a native plant of immense cultural importance and mythological significance. Growing guayusa and sharing it with an international community is a powerful way for the Kichwa people to observe traditional cultural practices and recognize important values they hold in the modern world.