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Where Does Tea Come From?

People often forget to question where their tea has come from and as a result, big conglomerates are not held accountable for their actions. They treat their workers like shit, they fill their fields with pesticides and fertilisers, and they ruin local ecosystems whilst facing zero repercussions. So, let's have a look at what's happening in the world of tea, and learn how we can move forward, together.



ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS


NO PLASTIC


You may have noticed that over the last year or so, every household tea brand seems to be bragging about their new plastic-free tea bags. As it happens, this is a big fat lie.


Why did they all swap out their plastic bags at the same time?

The simple answer is that these brands never had any intention of becoming plastic-free! Not before customers wised up and demanded better, anyway.


Are they more eco-friendly now?

Personally, we're not convinced. The new plastic-free tea bags are made from PLA, and whilst this is biodegradable, it is not compostable. This means that unless they are heated and fed a steady diet of microbes, they won’t break down - most tea bags will not make it to facilities that can provide these conditions.


What can I do to help?

Skip tea bags altogether and opt for loose leaf tea instead. Not only is it better for the environment, but it also tastes better too!



SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE - PESTICIDES & FERTILISERS


Tea is typically grown in carefully manicured gardens. Here, fertilisers and pesticides are sprayed over the crops and the soil is drained of all nutrients. Eventually, these chemicals leech into the rivers, harming local people, animals, and entire ecosystems.


What can I do to help?

Know where your tea is coming from! If a company doesn't display this information then you should read it as a red flag and ask the company for the origins of the tea. If they don't answer, then you know what's up. Question the chemicals - are they really necessary? One of our farmers harvests her tea from ancient wild tea trees that have never seen a fertiliser or pesticide, and they're all the better for it.


SHORTEN THE SUPPLY CHAIN


Tea travels a crazy amount before it gets to your cup.


Once picked by the farmer, all of the tea will be sent to the co-op where it is mixed with other local tea, then sent to a factory to be processed. The dried leaves are then sent to auctions where


some of the larger tea companies bid on batches. After this, it will be shipped to another factory, usually in Europe to be blended and packaged into tea bags, all before being sent to the supermarket. This adds up to a lot of unnecessary air miles.


What can I do to help?

Pick a tea company that sources directly from the farmers! Who needs 10 middlemen all taking their cut of what should be the farmers' wage?


SOCIAL FACTORS


WOMEN IN TEA


Most tea pickers are women, while men make up the majority of management positions. In tea, as in most industries where this is the case, this imbalance often leads to systematic abuse of power. We highly recommend watching ‘The Tea Trail with Simon Reeve’ to get a better understanding of the awful situations these women face!


What can I do?

You can help by demanding traceability - if all tea brands are open and honest about where their tea is coming from, then they can be held accountable for what happens on their farms. At EISA Tea Co. we know all of our farmers personally, and all of the small farms we source from are family- or women-led!



NO WHOLESALERS


A lot of tea brands buy their tea from wholesalers instead of farmers.


When setting up EISA Tea Co., we tried over 200 different brands and realised that many of them were using the same wholesalers and selling the exact same blends. This is an issue as it takes the tea away from its origin, ruins its quality, and steals hard-earned money from the farmers.


What can I do to help?

As in the supply chain section, buy from a company that sources directly from the farmers!


TELL THEIR STORIES


We recently asked another tea business owner for feedback on our product photos, and their response was less than helpful:


‘Get rid of the stock images, it’s an overused tactic’


It took us a good minute to work out that she was referring to the (non-stock) images of our farmers, but once we did we were angered at the thought of companies using stock images to fake a relationship with their farmers.