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.

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Author: Leo Kapusta

Of all the useless degrees he holds, Leo is most proud of his Bachelor of Science in Radio-Television-Film (Mass Communication Sequence) from the University of Texas at Austin.

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