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Rebelling with Purpose, Tea Transparency, www.tearebellion.com

Rebelling with Purpose

In 1773 Bostonians protested “taxation without representation” by throwing tea into the harbour. Today the tea industry still holds onto old practices that lack transparency and obscure tea provenance. It’s time for another tea rebellion.

Today, tea growers and workers face outdated tea-grading systems, challenging commodity markets and low prices. Their teas are blended together to produce the same old cups of tea over and over again. There are lots of environmental and social standards in place to inform consumers about the practices on tea estates — yet the practices of some larger fair trade certified estates, with their tied compensation, housing and land tenure for workers seem to contradict the standard.

We at Tea Rebellion rebel against an intransparent, multi-layered industry that pays farmers and labourers a tiny return and does not credit a tea’s origins. We believe that the blending of low quality teas into blends across estates and continents puts growers and workers at the mercy of packers who own all the brand value. Blending for conformity produces consistent, bland flavours and keeps tea drinkers ignorant about flavours and origins.

What does this mean for tea farmers and tea consumers?

Tea farmers…

  • face a ridiculous tea grading system that only evaluates physical leaf appearance, not taste.
  • are selling into a commodity market.
  • face climate change/weather adversity impact on quality.
  • try to certify production as organic and fair to improve upon commodity prices.
  • employ mostly female workers at low cost.

Tea consumers…

  • have no idea about what producing tea entails.
  • don’t know any of their planters, pickers, workers, tea masters.
  • don’t know the origins for most of their teas.
  • trust tea certification labels without knowing what they assure.
  • never get to know the flavour from specific tea gardens.

We believe that a radical shift is needed. We call for representation and crediting of the people who craft our teas — they are the skilled artisans who should claim the brand value. This can only be achieved if we credit teas to the tea makers. This is why Tea Rebellion does not blend teas. Yes, that’s right — no blends across countries and continents and no adding of things that do not belong (e.g., kiwis, oranges and… umm… potatoes).

Tea Rebellion believes that it’s possible to create a future where true value networks exist between tea estates and tea drinkers. A future where the story of the people behind the tea is heard. Where tea drinkers know who plants and picks their tea and what is needed to turn a crop into a cup. Tea is fascinating. A fair and transparent tea trade is a powerful possibility.

Join the rebellion. Raise the bar.

 

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About the author: Annabel Kalmar founded Tea Rebellion to change the way tea is traded and to connect tea drinkers with tea farmers. She noted that consumers care deeply about the origin of their coffee, but are still in the dark when it comes to their tea. She developed a passion for improving farmers’ market access and incomes while studying agriculture and working in the fields of El Salvador and St. Lucia, harvesting coffee and interviewing farmers. She founded Tea Rebellion to change how tea is traded, marketed and consumed.

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