As the founder of TEAmwork Tea, allow me take you to the TEAmwork Tea plantation! I’d like you to meet the women that actually PICK the tea leaves in Sri Lanka – all by hand. One of them is Pasamalar. She works on the plantation, in the garden, surrounded by a million lady bugs. They don’t use pesticides on the plantation – it’s all organic, so they plant certain flowers and plants to attract insects like the lady bug, because they eat the spider mites and aphids etcetera. Like a lot of women in Sri Lanka, Pasamalar is quite humble and a bit shy in public, and she doesn’t really speak a lot of English. With a little help from her supervisor, she told me a story that I would like to share with you.
Picking tea leaves is a typical job for women in third world countries. Men don’t do it. It’s the same in countries like Nepal and India. One day, there was a man among a group of tea pickers on the other side of the plantation. Pasamalar and her colleagues couldn’t believe their eyes (A MAN! Picking tea leaves?! That’s a job for women!). When they were close enough they asked him: what are you doing here?! The man started laughing and replied it was his wife’s job to pick tea leaves, but she fell ill that day. Since her salary, a fair-trade salary, paid better than his, they figured that it was only logical for him to replace her on the plantation, instead of going to his own job.
For me, that is exactly what Fair trade is about: a change that might seem small, but with impact.
See, I believe that quality tea can taste good and DO good. Simultaneously. That’s why TEAmwork Tea supports local farmers from Sri Lanka. To make sure of that, I visited the plantation where our green tea originates from in 2017. Every tea leaf is 100% Fairtrade, which means that the Fairtrade committee (a delegation of the workers on the plantation) receives a Fairtrade premium ($0.50 per kilo of tea). The committee decides democratically what the premium will be used for. Often it is used for community projects like education and healthcare. Thanks to the Fairtrade rules (standards) and the premium, the women who pick the leaves have better working conditions. On the TEAmwork Tea plantation, the workers and management decided on a special fund: to help the children of the employees with their schooling and give back to the local community in the form of insurance, pension schemes, the building of a cultural hall and university grants for promising scholars. If you ask me, the way to a better world starts with sustainable trade.
On the plantation in Sri Lanka were TEAmwork Tea grows, they make their own compost and use that instead of pesticides. The plantation is located at an altitude of 1500 – 1800 meter above sea level in the Uva Highlands in Sri Lanka, which means it’s high grown tea. The tea estate is not only certified organic, but also part of the Forest Garden program, to reverse the effect of deforestation on the environment and society.
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