Our Blog - Tales Around The Teapot
Category: Our Tea Guys Journal, Tales From Around The Teapot | Posted on: April 17, 2014

20 Years of Fairtrade – Clipper’s Tea Estate Anniversary Visit

DSC_0270This year marks 20 years of Fairtrade certification and as the pioneers of Fairtrade tea, we wanted to go back to where it started for us, Southern India. At Clipper we made the decision to work with just a few progressive, partner estates, to ensure the best quality tea is grown with the lowest environmental impact, and the biggest positive effect on the workers and their families.

The South Indian State of Tamil Nadu is where the British first introduced tea as a plantation crop at the turn of the 19th century, and we visited some of the Fairtrade and Organic tea gardens that Clipper has been working with for the past two decades.

Tired and triumphant after travelling for 24 hours, we started our trip in Ooty, high up in the Nilgiri Hills romantically known as the Blue Mountains, the oldest mountain range in India. They are known as the Blue Mountains as it is here, that the Neelakurunji (Strobilanthes Kunthiana), flowers once every twelve years and bathes the entire mountain range in a lavender hue. It is largely due to progressive growing and farming methods on the Fairtrade and organic estates that wildlife has flourished here.

Treating People FairlyDSC_0142

At Clipper we source all of our tea, including our organic teas, from producers who we know and trust, where we are confident that the workers are being treated fairly and with respect.

Every estate we buy from pays at least the minimum wage, but the workers also receive many supplementary benefits, paid for by premiums, donations and estate funds. These benefits range from schooling, holiday and sick pay, medical expenses, food and fuel allowances, education and crèche facilities and housing for families both in the estate and for those who remain in their villages and also safe travel for both workers and their children to and from schools.

For our trip, we had the honour of being accompanied by two food journalists, bloggers and influencers, Ravinder Bhogal and Vanessa Kimbell. Both Ravinder and Vanessa are key supporters of Fairtrade and organic produce, and we asked them to come and witness first-hand the positive impact that Fairtrade and organic certification has on the tea gardens and the surrounding communities.

 

082Treading Lightly on the Environment

First stop was a visit to the team at the Welbeck Estate, where we buy Fairtrade and organic tea for our Green and Earl Grey blends. Welbeck was certified Fairtrade in 1994, and was one of the first tea gardens to achieve status.

These guys are real trailblazers not only in the ethical production but in the environmentally responsible production of tea. Since becoming an organic garden, without the use of pesticide in the area, Wild Bison and indigenous plants have once again returned to the hills.

Walking through the beautiful gardens, 7500ft above sea level, we were accompanied by bird song and the intense whispering rustle of tea-pickers, selecting and harvesting the young tea leaves. If it was possible to invite every tea drinker from the UK to spend just five minutes in this magical place, we wouldn’t need to persuade them to start buying Clipper.

 

ChangemakersDSC_0219

Next stop, the Burnside Estate to visit some of the Fairtrade projects in action!

We spent time with the joint Fairtrade Committee, the tea workers who have been elected to decide how the Fairtrade Funds are spent. Many of the members are women, ladies with a vision for the future of India’s children, and it is because of these women that funds are being used to support education and medical facilities. One of the committee proudly said, “I might be a tea worker, but my daughter will be a doctor”.

Burnside Primary School, built and funded with Fairtrade premiums, was an absolute joy to visit as we were given such a fabulous welcome by the children and teachers. With additional funding from the Fairtade Foundation, the children were all learning English and computing, as well as learning through playing games such as chess. The Fairtrade funding has given them something else too; ambition. Children as young as five already want to be teachers, doctors and one little boy had his heart set on a career in comedy!

The children are happy, fulfilled, articulate and their parents are hardworking but proud. On a personal level, I was completely in awe of the projects we visited. From the Burnside Estate Crèche which allows mums to go back to work and provide for their families, whilst knowing that their children are happy and safe, to the NPA Centenary Polytechnic College, which provides the older children with vocational training, such as engineering and electronics which sets them up for life.

Every cup of Fairtrade tea we drink in the UK, helps to support projects such as these and in return these producers are providing us with fabulous teas, made with love and skill. Every cup of tea represents a powerful choice for change and change really does taste good.

- Rebecca Vercoe

 

Read Ravinder’s Fairtrade review here and view her tea recipes here!



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  • Timothy Clarke says:

    A great result for the Fairtrade campaign, especially the benefits it brings to the workers and their families. It also sounds a magical place – perhaps they could diversify into tourism?

  • Flavour Tea Suppliers In India says:

    This is very nice blog !!! I like it.Flavour Tea Suppliers In India

  • Gillian Cheesman says:

    Dear Clipper Teas
    I love your organic Everyday Tea, I make it all the time and have converted many people to buy it for themselves….I love your super special Organic coffee which I drink just once a day when I’m not drinking your tea and last thing I make your Clipper natural, fair and delicious Hot Chocolate.
    I can truly believe your Tea grows in a beautiful place because it’s tastes so good and pure, and will enjoy it even more now I have seen where it comes from.
    I also support all Fair Trade products where possible, I visited India for an Retreat in January and saw for myself just how hard and long these people work and know they depend on and deserve a Fair wage.
    I Have been meaning to write for sometime to tell you this, thank you for the opportunity.
    Sincerely
    Gill

  • Kenneth Martin says:

    Very interesting story of history of the tea trade in Southern India. It all points the way that the tea that I drink which is Clipper Tea is a cut above the rest in all but the price which is still very competitive.

  • marilyn james says:

    My earl grey tea never tasted so good as it did today after I had read the above. Keep up the good work!!

  • Paula says:

    What a lovely journey and experience.
    Very overwellming.
    I am very happy to know that we are helping and supporting those projects somehow.
    Well done !

  • Angeline Cairns says:

    Clipper tea is just the best tea ever.

  • geraldine hayes says:

    very interesting reading!!

  • Susan Balfour says:

    What a lovely, inspiring and uplifting story. I always buy Clipper organic tea, and will continue to do so. I am so heartened that there are people who care about the wellbeing of their workers, and who look after the environment. It is so good to read a positive piece of news, when so much news from around the world is sad and depressing. I support Fairtrade whenever possible – long may it continue to be implemented around the world – trade should always be fair for everyone.

  • Jane Simmons says:

    Thanks for the extremely interesting update on where my tea comes from and the lives of the people who work on the Estates in South India.

    Well done to all for maintaining this invaluable connection with Fairtrade.

    Thank you.

  • Diane says:

    I am so pleased to read about the work Clipper do to improve the lives of the people in southern India. The parents there have exactly the same aspirations for their children that we have in the UK but all too often there are no means to achieve this – yet here we see happy workers with all the benefits of a good job, and good education for their children. I was surprised to hear they learn computing as well as English – both so important to make their way in the world we live in nowadays. I was also glad to read that education goes on to vocational training for older children and young adults …. this is the key to the whole country’s future. No wonder you are so rightly proud of what you’ve achieved! I, for my part, will happily continue to add my support by continuing to drink Clipper Teas (I prefer the taste anyway) now I can see what a vital role this has in continuing your work. More reports like this from time to time would be lovely so we don’t lose sight of what is important here.

  • Mr Peter H Jones says:

    A truly remarkable voyage – from clipper ship to wonderful teas at the same time as looking after the `family`

  • yvonne Mathie says:

    What a great review! I grew up in the Nilgiri hills surrounded by the tea bushes! ( Coonoor and Ooty). It was great to read of the support the tea workers and their families are getting with Clippers support of Fair trade and environmental policies. It certainly is a beautiful place and I’m glad you want to protect it and give back to the community.
    Yvonne

  • Jean Smith says:

    Reading this story is awe-inspiring, The people work so hard but are so happy, the children are a credit to them.

  • Sarah Waring says:

    I love Clipper te and reading this makes me feel I am making a good and informed choice when I choose to buy it. What a heartwarming story. Why cant all producers learn from this? It makes so much sense.

  • Alan Keith Richardws says:

    We have now been drinking Clipper Tea for the last three moths, and would not consider drinking any other tea. Keep up the good work!!