Sunday, April 14, 2024


State Department Honors Westport Tea Firm

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has honored a family-owned Westport tea business with the Secretary’s 2012 Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE). Image
Westport tea firm president Andrew Wertheim receives applause Wednesday at a State Department ceremony hosted by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

Tea Importers, Inc., with headquarters on Riverside Avenue, was honored at a State Department ceremony Wednesday for its majority-owned tea farm, Sorwathe, which it operates in the central and east African nation of Rwanda.

The ACE award, which the company won in the small-medium size category, recognizes U.S.-owned businesses that exhibit exemplary corporate citizenship, promote innovation, and advance democratic principles around the world.

“This is a wonderful classic American story,” said Clinton in the ceremony in the State Department’s Benjamin Franklin Room. “Joseph Wertheim came to this country to escape Nazi Germany, settled in Connecticut, and set up shop importing tea in 1953.

“By the 1960s, he was marketing tea from Rwanda and eventually the Rwandan government asked him to help build a factory for processing tea in a remote region of the country. Today, that joint venture, Sorwathe, is the top single producer of tea in Rwanda.”

Andrew Wertheim, the founder’s son and president of Tea Importers, said he was “extremely proud” to accept this award on behalf of his company, his family, and the 5.242 employees of Sorwathe and the 4,573 small farmers supported through tea production in Rwanda. Image
Wednesday’s ceremony attracted numerous dignitaries to honor the Westport firm. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) Contributed photo

He said the philosophy of his father, who was unable to be at the ceremony because of ill health, “is one of of community service and generosity.” He added, “He believes that for a company to be truly successful, it not only needs to prosper financially but also needs to be a leader in social responsibility.”

Among those attending the ceremony were Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes (D-4).

There were 82 firms nominated this year during the ACE selection process. The 2012 winner in the large multinational enterprise category is Intel Corp. Sorwathe and Intel were chosen from 11 finalists. Other nominees included Chevron, General Motors, and Microsoft.

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