For us, a cup of tea is more than just a cup of tea. We want to elevate the experience of tea from India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal not only for those who drink it, but for those who make it.
Why South Asia?
The Indian subcontinent is a tea lover’s paradise, with a huge difference in the types of tea produced from one region to the next. From Nepal and the Himalayan foothills in the north, to the lush plains of Assam to the east, and the misty hills of the Nilgiris and Sri Lanka in the south, the subcontinent produces some very distinctive, unique teas with a range of flavours and aromas.
Yet production of commodity grade black tea, the type of tea that is used in tea bags and ready to drink iced teas, still dominates in this region. The world market’s thirst for cheap, low quality tea from South Asia especially has resulted in great hardship for tea farmers and workers.
Many growers have fallen into a price slump that the mass market tea has fallen into. The commodity price for teas today in this part of the world is so low that many growers have given up and abandoned gardens, along with the workers.
How can specialty tea and direct trade help?
At Karma Tea Co. we care about where our tea comes from. This is why we source directly from the growers. Direct trade allows farmers to earn higher selling prices for their teas. Receiving sustainable prices incentivises them to move up the value chain and keep raising the quality of their teas. It also helps to justify switching to organic growing methods.
It is no surprise then that a new generation of artisan tea makers are turning their attention to crafting teas in harmony with the local environment and reviving teas that may have been forgotten in the rush to commoditisation. It is these “new and forgotten” teas that we at Karma Tea are focused on unearthing.
As consumers we too can play an important part by seeking out specialty teas that have been well crafted, produced sustainably and sourced transparently. Such a simple every day act of mindful consumerism can actually make a huge difference for both the environment and the growers. Besides, these teas just taste so much better and are more interesting!
When we compare how far chocolate and coffee have come in moving up the value chain, specialty tea from South Asia in particular still lags behind. The direct trade approach for bar to bean cacao and coffee has changed the way these two commodities are traded, and helped empower those at the source, as well as giving us consumers more variety to choose from.
Surely it is tea’s turn now?