Social Justice: Teatulia Teas and an Industry Full of Challenges

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If you know me at all, you know that I’m a huge Tea addict; years living in the UK made the ritual of a cup of tea part of my daily life.

And since I’ve left the UK I’ve lamented the horrific tea most American restaurants foist upon their tea loving patrons. Considering that after water, tea is the most popular drink in the world, we can only hope that its rising popularity in the US means there is things are going to get better her in the US.

Starbucks purchase of Teavana back in 2012 certainly indicates that changes are afoot.  Historically, and to this day, most of the tea consumed in the US is iced (85%), but sales of  teas not meant for iced tea are growing year to year.

Discovering of the rise of Teatulia gives me hope, but before I tell you about the Denver based B Corp, understanding how the tea industry works is important.

Challenges in the Tea Industry

Tea was discovered in China but didn’t make its way to England until the 1600’s; the British government’s history of heavyteatulia taxation on the popular drink is well know and led to not only one of the epic chapters of the beginning of the American Revolution, but also a tradition of tea smuggling.

The ethical challenges within the tea industry have endured for hundreds of years, and in this massive industry with nearly 5 billion tons of tea sold in 2012, they will probably continue for some time.

A long supply chain that includes growers, processors, auctions, importing companies, large and small corporations etc., it is a very long way from the field to the consumer in most cases.  Wages are historically low; consider that tea brings in far lower prices per acre than coffee.  Additionally, because so many tea farmers are small (less than an acre), it is harder to trace whether fair labor practices have been adhered to.

Creating fair trade practices within the tea industry is still a huge issue; The Ethical Tea Partnership is one attempt at rewarding sustainable growers.    A 2008  film by Danish documentary producers Tom Heinemann and Erling Borgen, indicates that the difference between fair trade and non fair trade tea producers, at least at the time of the making of the film, was minimal.

After learning about all of this, Teatulia was a breath of fresh air.

Teatulia Does it Differently in Bangladesh

Tetulia Teas are named after the pristine northern region in Bangladesh where they are grown.  The company created a single garden on unused land and cut out the middle man, bringing their customers fresh certified organic tea directly from the garden.

BlackTeaDr. Kazi Anis Ahmed, CEO, Tetulia’s CEO, describes their company thusly:

Teatulia started a Cooperative that is open both to its workers, and to neighbors in surrounding villages. Teatulia’s Cooperative began with an innovative method focused on dairy.

The Co Op members are given a milking cow that they must eventually pay for, not with cash, but with one liter of milk  and 10 – 20 kgs of cow dung per day.  Yes, you heard that correctly, cow dung, which was necessary to create the lush gardens out of unused soil.

These cow loans are usually repaid within 3 years, and Co op members now number over 1000.

Tetulia’s single garden is USDA certified organic; it’s website lists its cultivation methods as such:

  • Virtually no tilling, weeding, etc.
  • Develop the soil with cover crops and mulch
  • Utilize water bodies & herbal shade trees to restore the eco-balance to the area
  • Use only natural pest & weed controls
  • Nourish the land with bio-fertilizers
  • Protect wildlife
  • Process the tea in bio-gas plants

The company uses no pesticides, machinery or irrigation other than rainfall.

Check out the Teatulia Tea Gardens:


The Real Social Good Being Done by Tetulia

The story of organic farming of unused land certainly is one of sustainability and an eco friendly tea, but the real story of this B Corporation is the impact they are having on individual lives.  An article in Boulderganic in 2011 illustrates how one cow can change many lives:

 The real cornerstone of the social side is the cattle-lending program,” says Lipsius. Supporting a 1,200-acre organic tea garden requires a lot of natural fertilizer, so Kazi & Kazi started a micro-loan program that loans cows to women in the community to tend. The women repay the loans with manure and, over time, own the cows outright — while the garden gets all the fertilizer it needs.

There are women who are on their fourth and fifth cow now,” Lipsius says. “There are women who are sending their children to university. They’re able to buy little solar panels to put on their roof so they can be productive during the evening hours. It’s been really kind of incredible.

Apart from producing high quality, organic tea by fair methods that include living wages, Tetulia contributes to the following:

  • Poverty alleviation through cattle rearing
  • Safe Hygiene Distribution
  • Distribution of Herbal and Medicinal Plants
  • Health and Recreation for the Youth
  • Adult Literary Education
  • IT Education

Teatulia was rewarded for its efforts in October of 2013 when it because a Registered B Corporation.

Sustainability is Key to Teatulia

In addition to the organic farming methods covered already, Teatulia makes sure its packaging is also eco friendly.  Theirteatulia on arcompany packaged is all compos-table, including its tea bags  It uses water based inks and all labels are  made from recycled paper. All canisters are also compos-table.

Tetulia Social Media

Tetulia is using social media a bit more robustly than many of the smaller sustainable companies we cover.  They have an active  Facebook Page with nearly 14,500 follwers.

Their 2100+ follwer on Twitter could certainly grow, as the social good community on the platform is strong.  They are also sharing their gorgeous images on Pinterest, a YouTube Channel, and have an active, if un-engaged,  Google+ Page (who doesn’t?).

Tetulia’s Future

With the rise in popularity over the last half a decade, both for tea and for ethical & sustainable companies, Teatulia’s future looks bright.

Teatulia products can already be purchased widely throughout the US, and we’ll be watching closely to see how great its impact will be, not only on the people of Bangladesh, but on the tea industry as a whole.

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