For some areas of the food and drink industry, such as coffee and cocoa, traceability of ingredients has long been under scrutiny. Yet much of the tea trade especially from South Asia still operates on a very opaque system where tea is sold in bulk at auction and passes through several hands before reaching the end consumer. The exact provenance is often concealed especially when it comes to blends.
In the UK we may drink a lot of tea, but we still know very little about what we are drinking exactly. That’s why at The Karma Tea Co. we put as much information as possible on our labels and provide details about the provenance including the name of the maker and the exact region where the tea is harvested.
In a recent article for Specialty Food Magazine, we explain why transparent and traceable supply chains matter for tea in terms of taste, ethics, and sustainability.
Here is the brief version:
- From an ethics perspective, a lack of transparency makes it easier to turn a blind eye to whether everyone along the supply chain is being paid and treated fairly. It also means that if farmers are not recognised or paid more for producing better quality leaves as most will be sold as a commodity at auction and later blended, there is little incentive to do so, and so growers struggle to move up the value chain and enhance their incomes.
- When it comes to taste, knowing where a tea is from and who made it tells you a lot about its flavour. Specialty tea is a reflection of its terroir, a mix of the geology, climate and geography that makes a product unique. The particular characteristics of a garden can give a tea subtle nuances in taste that are missing in your supermarket tea bag which will have been blended with many other sources to create a generic homogenous taste. Full transparency around sourcing on the other hand can help put tea on a pedestal and mark it out as special. In turn, this can help foster more of a connoisseur culture around tea and help to elevate tea to the level of a wine, a single origin coffee or a bean-to-bar chocolate for example.
- Full transparency can help the tea industry to become more environmentally aware and sustainable. Most tea from South Asia is sold as a commodity crop, the type used in black tea bags, and is produced on large monoculture estates. To meet market demand for cheap commodity grade tea, growers have come under huge pressure to produce more tea, at cheaper prices, and this has created a wide-scale dependence on chemical inputs. There are exceptions of course, but overall the system has become more and more untenable. If we consumers become more connected to the origins of what we are drinking through transparent reporting on the origin, we can seek out tea from gardens that has been grown in a way that helps to sustain the soil quality, minimise erosion and maintain the biodiversity of the gardens for example.
To read the full article, click on the link below:
If you'd like to know more about the traceability of our tea, please get in touch here.