Drinking the Blues: Thriving and Empowering with Traditional Butterfly Pea Flower

What started as a unique drink for guests visiting her home, and treatment for relatives with diabetes, the butterfly pea flowers in Retno Nurhidayati's garden have now been ordered in bulk by one of Indonesia’s leading organic food companies. Seeing its potential has motivated Retno to thrive and become an empowered woman, not just for herself, but for her community.

Through the Wonder Women program, this year Kopernik has supported women micro-entrepreneurs in Tuban, East Java to become empowered in developing their businesses. 100 women-led micro-enterprises are receiving full support to develop their business capacity and operations, and also to access markets. Retno, who is better known as Ibu Nuri, is one of them. Her blue pea flower business has grown significantly with support from the Wonder Woman program.

Ibu Nuri and her butterfly flower tea products at Sekarmeera Garden.

A multi-talented woman, Ibu Nuri has myriad skills such as batik making, sewing, stone painting, and butterfly pea flower cultivation. For the past year, Ibu Nuri has focused on cultivating butterfly pea flowers in her garden, called Sekarmeera Garden, in Semanding District’s Prunggahan Kulon. A striking vivid blue color, the butterfly pea flower is processed into a unique tea; when brewed, it produces a beautiful natural blue hue.

Beginning with serving the butterfly pea flower tea to guests, Ibu Nuri became increasingly fascinated by its numerous benefits, one of which is anti-diabetic properties. After discovering this, she was reminded of her close friend who is diabetic, and so she began diligently making this unique tea for her friend. Gradually, more of Ibu Nuri’s friends became interested in her butterfly pea flower endeavors, and so she began producing dried butterfly pea flower products. As time went by the orders increased, so she proceeded with an innovation to produce instant butterfly pea flower tea in a powdered form, which is more practical for consumption. The butterfly pea flower products are now the best-selling items from Sekarmeera Garden.

Ibu Nuri’s instant butterfly pea flower tea powder mixed with spices. It’s easy to make and ready to drink.

Because of its various benefits and possibilities for product diversification, the butterfly pea flower has the potential to enter the international market. A number of product diversifications are already sold on the domestic market, such as dried flowers, dried flowers mixed with spices, ready-to-brew powdered tea, teabags, flower extract for natural food and beverage coloring, and other creative combinations. The various benefits and derivatives of this product provide great strength and opportunity for Ibu Nuri to continue developing her business. At this point, she is able to see the potential to enter new markets, maintain and improve product quality, and continue to innovate to create more products from dried butterfly pea flowers.

After participating in a series of capacity building training sessions conducted by Kopernik, Ibu Nuri became more confident to expand her business in the butterfly pea flower market. Through a network of Kopernik’s partners, she has successfully fulfilled the criteria and requirements to distribute her products to one of the country’s leading local food product companies, Javara Indonesia. During the last three months, Ibu Nuri has sent 24 kilograms of dried flowers to Javara. To fulfill this large demand, Ibu Nuri expanded the area for growing the flower in her garden and encouraged her friends to also plant the commodity, which could provide them with an additional source of income. One of Ibu Nuri’s aspirations has always been to bring a positive impact to the surrounding community through her butterfly pea flower business.

Sorting the dried butterfly pea flowers before final product packaging.

Ibu Nuri’s is just one of the inspirational stories of empowerment that have emerged from the 2022 Wonder Women program. There are many more from the 99 other Wonder Women who are becoming increasingly confident in realizing their business aspirations and potential. Decades ago, it was not easy for a woman to become empowered. Here in Tuban it has happened through education, being heard, pursuing their aspirations, and developing a business to support themselves and their communities. With the passage of time and the development of culture and ways of thinking, as well as the rise in support, the women of this era are growing to become more empowered.

The Wonder Woman Program is supported by the Women’s Economic Empowerment Program of the ExxonMobil Foundation.