Beneath the wide-open sky, green of all shades extends throughout meadows, fields and forests. The birch leaves gracefully sway in the bright spring light. We are in Southern Bohemia in the city of Budweis. This is where the story of Weleda Birch Cellulite Oil begins.
Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, Leo Taraba, an expert manager of herb collecting in Eastern Europe, approached Weleda with an interest in establishing fair business contacts between the east and west. With Weleda’s technical know-how and financial support, he developed a modern processing facility for the creation of Weleda’s prized birch extract.
The collection of birch leaves is also organized by Taraba. When the birch trees have reached the most vital phase in their development—during which they contain the highest amount of active ingredients—collectors gather 500 tons of fresh, organic birch leaves for Weleda. Taraba has carefully trained each of these collectors to do this work in accordance with the Swiss and European Union organic guidelines. Even beyond these standards, the collectors rigorously ensure that the quality is perfect.
“From mid-May to mid-June the leaves are collected by more than 200 people who often start at dawn, sweeping the leaves from the branches,” explains Taraba. “This handicraft requires special attention and a lot of stamina. The fresh, organic birch leaves are then delivered to one of 18 collection points until the early afternoon. There they are passed through an initial quality check, weighed, and a fixed price is immediately paid to the collectors. Weleda also finances part of the harvest in advance.”
As the leaves are gathered and inspected, they are carefully loaded into sacks and taken to the drying facility. “Two men unload the truck, and three men distribute the leaves over 12 drying trays covered each year with new, fine mesh,” explains Taraba. “A large ventilator sucks in air from outside.... The birch leaves are also rotated twice daily, similar to the way in which hay is dried on a field. Only flawless drying guarantees the highest quality [leaves] for further processing!” Once the leaves’ moisture has evaporated, which takes about five days, they are loosely packed and sent to be cut into small squares.
The leaves are then returned to Taraba and the warming process, developed by Weleda to extract the leaves’ valuable ingredients, begins. As the tincture is created for Weleda’s Birch Cellulite Oil, it is easy to perceive the quality and care that has been poured into every drop.