Now, however, Elliott can tell how she and others in her delegation planted saplings that will live for 100 to 150 years. She'll be able to describe the women clothed in bright colors who carried baskets filled with green tea leaves that have been plucked. Other women carried body-size baskets of dried grasses to mulch tea saplings.
The group also visited the processing center where the women bring their baskets of tea leaves every morning. There the tea leaves are dried, crushed, sifted and left to ferment before undergoing another drying and sorting process. The last stage is a five-step tasting and evaluation process.
A portion of those teas will eventually end up on the shelves at First Presbyterian in 12 flavors and selling for $3. "For the quality, products are very cheap," Elliott said. All products are 100 percent organic.
Coffee sells for $7 for 12-ounce bags and up to $16.65 for 2-pound bags. Almonds sell for $4.60, breakfast bars are $4 and cocoa is $5.50 for 12-ounce cans. "The chocolate sells really well," said Elliott, at $2.75 per bar.
Sometimes, Elliott said, customers pay extra for their order and that money goes into a kitty for special projects. Over the years, contributions have been made from the kitty for purposes such as a field mission in Delphi, India, a ministry for children with AIDS and to a local food pantry.
Elliott said she spends a piece of each day working on the coffee project. But the nice part of this volunteer effort is that she can still travel and still invest in other projects. "I can order online," she pointed out.
She recently returned from leading a group of eight to Charleston's sister city of Banska Bystrica, Slovakia. She is co-chairwoman of the sister cities alliance.
And Elliott is active in Hope for Children, a project that works with children and youth of the Roma people.
Romania and Serbia are on her bucket list of places she wants to visit, as is Palestine. "I tend to like places most won't want to journey into."
She has loved geography since the fourth grade when she pored over those textbooks with the little black and white photographs. She remembers one photograph was of Switzerland, one of the first places she visited.
Elliott said began traveling regularly in the early 1980s with a trip to Ireland. She has gone on only two organized travel tours. In India, she hired a driver to take her to other sights after the week at the tea gardens. She said she would love to return to there.
Next year, she plans to travel by sea from Bellingham, Wash., to Alaska. But rather than book a cruise, she'll take a ferry. "That sounds a little more adventurous," she said.
Reach Rosalie Earle at ea...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5115.