SLO family's tea business recognized by Hillary Clinton

jhickey@thetribunenews.comNovember 28, 2012 

Susan and Tom Stenovec of San Luis Obispo and their family with Rep. Lois Capps at the U.S. State Department following the awards ceremony to announce the Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence recipients. Susan Stenovec is to the right of Lois Capps, and Tom Stenovec is to the left.


A San Luis Obispo family’s business was one of two companies in the nation to receive an award from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

Susan and Tom Stenovec of San Luis Obispo, who own Tea Importers Inc., received the 14th annual Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence for their company’s efforts to eradicate child labor in Rwanda’s tea sector, according to a news release from Rep. Lois Capps’ office.

The Stenovecs were unavailable for comment Wednesday. Tea Importers Inc. is headquartered in Westport, Conn., according to its website, and is the primary stakeholder in Sorwathe — the largest tea company in Rwanda.

Tea is one of Rwanda’s biggest exports. The ACE award honored Sorwathe, located in Rwanda’s capital of Kigali, for its efforts to support adult literacy, worker association and collective bargaining rights; undertake sustainable forestry and water management; and produce socially and environmentally responsible high-quality tea, according the U.S. Department of State’s website.

In 1968, Susan Stenovec’s father, Joseph Wertheim, the president of Tea Importers Inc., traveled to Rwanda to advise its government on how to best grow and produce tea. Subsequently, he helped open a factory in Kinihira, Rwanda, which in 1975 became Sorwathe (Societe Rwandaise du The).

The ACE award winners were chosen from 11 finalists, culled from 82 nominations submitted by U.S. ambassadors stationed across the world.

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