Tea is our national drink. And whether it’s a builder’s brew or a lapsang oolong, we’re united in our love of the humble cuppa. But how often do we consider, as we’re popping the kettle on, the people who brought us this wonder-liquid?
There have been a lot of conversations recently about how much plastic is in tea bags. And these are important conversations to have: our over-reliance on single-use plastics is damaging God’s creation, as well as harming communities living in poverty. This is an issue that Tearfund has long been campaigning on.
Today though, we're turning our attention to the issue of the tea workers and the conditions they live and work in.
Falling tea prices can mean disaster for workers. In some countries, the cost of tea has fallen below what it costs to produce it. This is pushing more and more people into poverty.
‘The exploitation of workers in some tea gardens is systemic,’ says Prince David, who leads Tearfund’s work in India – the second largest producer of tea in the world. ‘Tea workers in unregulated gardens often don't receive minimum wages. They are unable to negotiate wages with owners and management.
‘During peak seasons, casual labour is recruited for short periods. These are desperate laborers who otherwise lack a source of income. They do not receive employment benefits such as sick leave.
‘The remote location of tea gardens means there is limited access to good health care facilities and few education opportunities for children. Inadequate housing, lack of safe drinking water and poor sanitation are a few of the problems faced by workers. Vulnerable children, women and men end up taking on risky job opportunities and are exploited and trafficked.’
By choosing Fairtrade products, we can influence companies to change their ways.
Making a difference
Each and every one of us can bring positive change for these vulnerable people. As consumers, we have a huge amount of power. The UK is one of the biggest consumers of tea globally: the average Brit drinks 876 cups of tea every year.
By choosing Fairtrade products, we can influence companies to change their ways. Buying Fairtrade tea (and coffee, and chocolate!) helps ensure that farmers are treated fairly and are able to make a living.
‘Fair wages provide more than just food on the table for family members,’ says Prince. ‘Earnings of workers enable them to send their children to school. Workers receiving fair wages can access better quality health care and help support their families back in the villages.’
A better deal
‘Fairtrade practices in some companies invite workers to participate as shareholders,’ Prince adds. ‘Workers are empowered co-owners, and this runs the company well. In the longer run, businesses that meet Fairtrade standards also benefit in achieving higher productivity, better price and higher brand value.’
And not only that, but Fairtrade goods are often organic and produced in an environmentally-friendly way – helping to care for God’s creation.
Please join us in choosing to buy Fairtrade products. And please pray with us for the people responsible for this beau-tea-ful (sorry – couldn’t resist) drink.
The optimum brewing time for a cup of tea is (and we’ve verified this after extensive testing) four to five minutes. Which also feels like a great amount of time to pray. So, next time you make a cuppa, while you’re waiting for it to brew, close your eyes and bring to mind the farmers who helped bring it to you. Think of the men and women working on the tea plantations, and their families. Think about what they might want for their lives. Lift them up before God, and ask for his blessing upon them. And finally, pray that every tea brand will prioritise the needs of the people who work for them – giving everyone a fair deal.
To find out more, please visit our friends at Fairtrade.