With the state of the environment at the moment it can be really easy to get caught up in eco anxiety. And with the government not stepping up, especially with the recent news of them doing nothing to tackle fast fashion, it can be really easy to get frustrated and worry that all out hard work isn't really changing anything.

So I'm here with a success story, the story of British tea, and how the tea industry in the UK went from one of the least transparent to most transparent industries in less than a year.

Image: Traidcraft Exchange (edited)

In the Uk the top 6 brands make up around 67% of the industry, that's Yorkshire Tea, Twinings, Tetley, PG Tips, Clipper, and Typhoo. And until the Summer of 2018 none of these brands disclosed where their tea supply came from. There was a handful of smaller brands being transparent but the tea industry as a whole was, well, wholly opaque. This means that no British consumers could really track where their tea was coming from, and therefore couldn't see whether this tea was being produced fairly.


Assam, India, is the largest tea growing region in the world; and where pay and working conditions are amongst the worst. With some of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, and the highest child trafficking rates. Assam tea is also a key ingredient in most English Breakfast teas meaning that the majority of the tea used in traditional British tea is grown in Assam.

So Traidcraft Exchange started a movement, supported by anti-slavery organisation Freedom United, focused on Assam tea. Partnered with Fashion Revolution's "who made my clothes?" this campaign, launched June 2018, was "Who picked my tea?", and thousands of Brits got involved in asking their tea brand of choice who exactly was picking their tea.
Image: Traidcraft Exchange 
More than fifteen thousand people wrote to the big 6 UK tea brands asking them to publish the full list of tea estates they buy from in Assam whilst hundreds took part in ‘Who picked my tea? On tour’ in public events across the UK. [2] Yep, they even had a tour.

And it worked , we can find out where more than 70% of tea sold in the UK comes from.  Marks & Spencer were the first big brand to make their tea sources transparent with other brands following soon after, soon it was all 6 of the big UK brands. You can now even go onto Traidcraft exchange's website and find a detailed breakdown by estate name, estate owner, district, and tea brand as to exactly where British tea is grown and made in Assam. And not only in Assam either, a lot of these companies have released their tea, Coffee, and other suppliers worldwide.

Tea Supply resources by brand:
  • Bettys & Taylors Group (Tea, Coffee, Fruit and Herbal, and Packaging suppliers)
  • Twinings (Tea, Fruit and Herbal, and Packaging suppliers)
  • Tetley (Tea Suppliers)
  • Clipper (Assam Tea Suppliers)
  • Unilever includes Lipton, PG Tips, Lyons, Pure Leaf, and Scottish Blend (Tea Suppliers)
  • Ringtons (Tea suppliers)
  • M&S (Tea and Coffee suppliers)

This information alone doesn't automatically mean that worker's right and pay are going to improve overnight. But this information does give both consumers and tea growers a lot of power. It means brands can be held directly accountable for tea workers pay and working conditions and that they themselves can stand up for their rights. And Tradicraft is still working to share messages of support with workers in Assam to support them in their fight for better working conditions and pay.

So the struggle is definitely not over. But it has come a long way in less that a year, and just shows that when enough people get together and demand change it can happen. So whatever it is you're fighting for, keep fighting, keep putting pressure on companies and industry leaders to be more transparent, because change can come from there.

Hopefully this little tea story has been somewhat inspiring to you, even being within the ethical/sustainable living sphere I hadn't heard this was happening until I read about it in ethical consumer mag (which I highly recommend, it's an incredibly well researched magazine). So if a somewhat niche campaign can make this sort of impact, imagine what we can do if we just keep going.

If you want more specific information about this campaign definitely check our Traidcraft Exhange's website, they breakdown the causes of these issues and exactly what is happening in Assam.

What are you fighting for? I'd love to hear about campaigns you're involved in in the comments!

[1] - Euromonitor report into the UK tea sector, February 2017  (https://www.euromonitor.com/tea-in-the-united-kingdom/report)
[2] - Ethical Consumer Mag, Issue 179, Page 7