Tea is the best comfort before an early start, after a long day, if it’s too cold, or if you need a pick-me-up. I just love curling my fingers around my hot cup and sipping on the sweet nectar of raspberry infused Echinacea, lemon and ginger or spiced apple camomile – or if you’re most people, normal tea with a dash of milk. In the UK, it’s estimated that people drink a whopping 165 million cups of tea, every single day. That’s quite a lot of tea, and I certainly contribute to that. But up until too recently, I was shamefully ignorant about where my tea comes from.
The horrific reality is that most tea plantations rely on slave labour! In fact, it’s more than likely any tea we buy, excluding those with a certified Fairtrade label, are slave sourced. Those people are being manipulated, exploited and abused, working long, hard hours with little or nothing in return. Now it’s all I can do to think about the poor soul who may have suffered for my brew.
Men, women and children are being deceived with promises of new life and great work opportunities, but sadly, are ultimately trafficked. With no one to look out for them, this is a continuing cycle. Let’s be the ones to try and look out for these individuals.
It’s our calling to love other people: be it the people we see and spend time with every day, or those people half way around the world labouring for hours in terrible conditions to make the products we consume. We can actively love others by thinking about the way we live. Don’t buy into companies that exploit others. The more we buy Fairtrade, the greater pressure it puts on unethical companies and governments to build traffic-free communities.
It can feel so overwhelming when there’s so much going on in the world and tough to know where to start, so why not just start small and buy fair-trade tea? Fortunately, that’s becoming an easy way to make a difference. More and more cafés and shops are selling Fairtrade tea and coffee, so it’s easy to live a more ethical day-to-day life – it just requires a little extra attention on our part. We can also use our power as consumers to pressure international companies to change their policies on ethical trading; for example, Starbucks proudly serve Fairtrade coffee, but they are yet to do the same with their tea. We can change this.
Think before you shop. When you stop for a wee hot beverage, don’t just buy blindly – look to see if it has a Fairtrade certified symbol. Enjoy your delicious tea, which is all the sweeter when knowing it’s not been unethically sourced. Tea is a large and ever growing industry. Think of the difference we can make as a community of ethical tea drinkers!
Words: Susanna Findlay