Following my Facebook post earlier this week, I felt that it would be better to expand on working conditions within the tea industry. I would strongly urge everyone to read this article.
The majority of tea that we consume in America, is a product of imperialism. Tea was never grown in “estates” before British India. Small tea gardens, yes, hectares of tea? no. Tea production can be highly labor intensive, making this a luxury commodity, that is only readily available to the masses because of this mass production/imperialism. You and me, the consumers of tea, can only afford to drink tea (at a reasonable price) because of this mass production.
TL;DR There is both good and bad from mass production.
The bad from this mass production though, is what the above mentioned article is about. I feel, that as a citizen of a developed country, that there is a moral obligation to ensure fair working conditions. A business organization that I greatly enjoy is Rotary. Rotary has a great principle called The Four Way Test:
1.) Is it the truth?
2.) Is it fair to all those concerned?
3.) Will it build good will and better friendships?
4.) Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
Speaking from my experience on a tea estate (Amba Tea Estate), I know that growing and processing tea is not easy. It is very labor intensive and stressful. That being said, I know that Amba Tea Estate pays its workers very high wages (for Sri Lanka), and I know what commitments are made to ensure the workers are happy and healthy. Each worker becomes a part of the Amba family, and joins a wider community.
Amba Tea Estate is the gold standard in my book. I know with first hand experience what a wonderful estate Amba is, and how it operates. I apply these standards to all of the estates I work with, though it is hard to beat an estate like Amba that is run by an aid worker.
How we can solve this. Tetley Tea, and Tata Tea are not going to change their positions, unless they see it as an important economic decision. We vote everyday with our dollars. It is a simple solution but an important one and probably the only one that will create a change. Try and buy from companies that offer the most transparency of where they get their products.