Tata Trouble: The Tea Workers who Bring You Tetley Tea

Tea is an experience. It’s part aroma, part flavor and part feeling. Imaging the feeling you’d get while sipping your morning or afternoon cuppa knowing the plantation workers who brought you your tea were underpaid, exploited, living in squalor, and even plucked by slave traders.

These are the allegations that have been brought upon Tata Global Beverages, the parent company of Tetley. I’ve reviewed a few Tetley varieties for this blog — my favorite being Blend of Both — and I have one more in the works.

This news has me questioning not only Tetley’s integrity but the integrity of many other name-brand tea companies that use Assam in their blends. This is nothing new, just something many of us tea drinkers have long ignored. Do some Internet research, and you’ll easily find information regarding the long history of poor working conditions and exploitation in the Assam region.

Somehow I missed the story when it broke earlier this year, but it has been reported that plantation workers face abuse and poor living conditions on the Nahorani estate — owned in part by Tetley’s parent company, Tata Global Beverages — in the Indian state of Assam. More information can be found in recent articles by The Guardian and The Telegraph, and the following video produced by The Guardian:

In response to the allegations dated March 7, 2014, Tata Global Beverages declared its commitment to the ethical treatment of people throughout its supply chain and promised an investigation into existing labor practices and working conditions of the tea gardens in question. Once the investigation is complete, Tata promises to take action based on recommendations by its legal team.

So what can you do to put your conscious at ease? If you feel strongly about the proper treatment of workers who helped produce your tea, one thing you can do is purchase Fair Trade Certified products. The Fair Trade designation indicates the manufacturers commitment to fair labor and environmental sustainability. Though it may cost a buck or two more, Fair Trade tea will provide a level of certainty, allowing you to experience the peace and tranquility you want from each sip.

Reviewed: PG Tips The Rich One

Image of PG Tips: The Rich OnePG Tips launched its Premium Range of teas a couple of years ago, though I’ve had a hard time ordering them stateside. I did recently get my hands on The Rich One, which I’ve incorporated into my tea rotation for the last couple of weeks.

The main selling point for this and the other premium range of teas, which also includes The Strong One, The Fresh One and The Mellow One, is the process in which the tea is produced. PG Tips claims to have discovered a new technique where fresh tea leaves are picked and pressed to release their juices; the juices are then added back to the final oxidized tea leaves at the end of production.

The Rich One is a blend of African, Ceylon and Assam teas that definitely offers more complexity than your standard PG Tips. I did run into issues with the first couple of tea bags; they seemed to produce a more vegetal, green tea aroma than subsequent tea bags.

Now I’m consistently getting a citrusy aroma, full body, and a strong and somewhat bitter flavor. As you would expect, The Rich One pairs well with milk and sweetener.

Though I can’t quite put my finger on it, I get a disconcerted feeling about this tea. It’s like the process of extracting the tea’s oil and placing it back somehow leads to an unnatural, fabricated result — a frankentea if you will.

All said and done, however, it’s been a pleasure to drink.

Aroma: Vegetal, Citrusy
Body: Full
Flavor: Strong, slightly bitter
Color: Dark Amber