The Dark Secrets Hidden in your Tea: A Twinings Investigation

Although I’m usually a coffee person, I have recently increased my tea intake and trying new blends. As with most thing, this led me on an ethical journey to discover the story behind the brands I’m drinking. This is what I found out about one popular company Twinings & Co.

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The good ol’ Twinings & Co company sells Twinings of London, a large range of delicious teas for around $2.70 AUS in a pack of 10. Every now and then they have a special of $0.99 AUS and we all rejoice… but my friends there is a reason why you can buy tea for this price. The reports from 2015 and 2016 are not good:

  • 2015, BBC investigation found workers were paid so little they lived in horrible conditions, suffering from malnutrition and illness. Workers were also exposed to chemicals with no health and safety standards. On some estates, it was found that child labour was being used.
  • 2015, Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare scored Twinings a tier 6 on their farm animal welfare policies and practices. Tier 6 is the worst score a company can receive.
  • 2016, Newsweek Green Ranking of 34.2 out of 100 when measured against 8 indicators: energy, greenhouse gas, water, waste, fines and penalties, relating executive pay to sustainability targets, board oversight of environmental issues and external audits.
  • 2016, Rank a Brand (for use of cotton) scored Twinings 2 out of 19.5, making it one of the lowest performing companies assessed.
  • 2016, Oxfam’s Behind the Brands Scorecard ranked this company equal last on their agriculture sourcing policies with a score of 36%
  • 2016, given an ethical rating of F from Shop Ethical (the lowest possible score)

However, don’t throw out your tea bags yet, there are some great alternatives out there. Yes, they are more expensive, but the thought that my tea is keeping someone else’s child in forced labour horrifies me. I will not support modern-day slavery once I’m aware of what’s happening.

Let me offer three alternatives:

Peppermint Tea: English Tea Shop

  • 100% Fair-trade certified – sometimes Brands use a percentage of fair-trade products so they can put the logo on their packaging, this one is 100% fair-trade
  • NON GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) project verified nongmoproject.org
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.

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Camomile and mint: Planet Organic

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Camomile and Apple alternative: Pukka Planet

  • 100% Fair-trade certified
  • Certified Organic – All agricultural ingredients are organically grown and processed.
  • Environmentally friendly packaging including envelopes.

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I hope this blog has opened your eyes a little to how YOU can fight against modern slavery and help change the environment. Another popular brand to stay well away from is Tetley as it also ranks an ‘F’ on the Shop Ethical website. Bushells, Liptons and T2 all receive a ‘C ‘rating, so they pass, but it’s up to you to decide what you believe is acceptable.

I personally don’t want to be so removed from the production of the what I eat and drink (and wear) that I embrace a consumerist attitude towards my planet’s resources that keeps other in bondage and negatively impacts on future generations. The good news is that with tea, there are a number of positive brands including: Lotus Peak, Nature’s Cuppa, Madura, Dilmah and Nerada. So, the power is in your wallet and in your cup.
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Yes, the issue of ethical consumption can be a bit of a rabbit warren, but if you are interested in it, start somewhere. Why not start with your tea and help someone feed their family?

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Love Jess xxoo

PS – I wrote this while drinking my English Tea Shop peppermint tea and it was delicious!

References:

The Bitter Story behind the UK’s national Drink

The Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare – 2015 Report

Newsweek Green Ratings – 2016

Rank a Brand – Top brands failing on Cotton Sustainability

Oxfam, Behind the Brands April 2016 Company Scorecard

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