There’s no better (or more British) way to wind down after a long day than with a cup of tea. In this case, we’ll be looking at a popular tea company in the UK called Teapigs, known for their range of herbal teas as well as their unique commitments to sustainability.They claim that quality, sustainability and community are their core beliefs as well as the welfare of their employees through creating a positive company culture. These commitments explain the higher price tag of these teas compared to other brands stocked in supermarkets such as Tetleys or PG Tips.Although their website contains a multitude of information about topics such as packaging, sourcing and materials, I’ll take a deep dive to investigate what these mean for the average consumer. Are Teapigs commitments to the environment genuine, or just very clever greenwashing? Are the teas worth the price?
I’ll be focusing specifically on Teapigs’ “Everyday Brew”, one of their best selling teas. Given that most teas only contain a few ingredients, I believe it is imperative to source them in the most ethical way possible. Teapigs state that their black tea is organic and sourced from Assam and Rwanda. It is to be expected that the company imports their tea given the wide variety of herbal teas they stock however we cannot deny the carbon emissions released when transporting products over such a large distance. Tea is usually grown in warm, wet climates with the dominating supplying countries being India, Kenya, Sri lanka and China. Teapigs say they mainly source from Rwanda, Taiwan , China and India although they do not state why these particular locations. In terms of their packaging, they pay a lot of attention to detail in order to explain every part of the product. The actual tea bag is made from plant based materials (corn starch) and are therefore biodegradable and compostable. However, they do state that this process is best left to local councils rather than a home compost as it requires more heat, oxygen and water. This is a little disappointing as often local recycling providers can be difficult to completely trust and so consumers often take matters into their own hands . In fact, a Greenpeace Unearthed Investigation found large amounts of British and European waste in illegal dumps in Malaysia: items such as Tesco crisp packets, Flora tubs and recycling collection bags from three London councils according to The Guardian. Governments definitely need to improve on this front as it cannot always be the consumer’s responsibility! The outer packaging is made from paperboard, which is widely recycled, and they have a growing range of loose teas as well. Additionally, the ink they use to print their cartons is vegetable-based although they don’t specify the exact name of it.Clearly Teapigs is very detail oriented when it comes to making their products!
Although Teapigs is transparent about where they source this tea from - Assam and Rwanda, they do not go into detail about the process of growing and farming the tea. We do know that they are working in partnership with the Ethical Tea Partnership. This organisation runs many social programmes to improve the lives of those working to make the teas that Teapigs uses. For example, the partnership has a programme which is focused on improving the often nutritionally poor diets of tea farmers working in Kenya and India. I was happy to read that Teapigs is a certified B Corp - that is an organisation which awards the certification only to companies making a true positive impact on the planet and being transparent about their business practices in the process. This gives me optimism that the growing process of their teas is one that is sustainable and the welfare of locals is of the highest importance to Teapigs. This particular tea - the “Everyday Brew” has the Rainforest Alliance certification and the company is looking to get more of their products certified in the future. The certification ensures that a product was produced by farmers and companies who are working together to create harmony between people and nature according to their website - definitely a certification that Teapigs should aspire to have on all their teas.
The Brentford based company Teapigs is open about the fact that their company is a subsidiary of Tata Consumer Products (who also happen to own Tetley,) who provided funding for the start up of the company.Doing some preliminary research on the corporation, I can see that their sustainability section is listed on the first page on the site which is impressive to see. Additionally they list the work they are doing to address the various Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations. Furthermore, they state on the website that all their teas are sourced from “premium, sustainable and well run tea estates” which are supported by the Ethical Tea Partnership. It would be great if they could tell us a bit more information on conditions and welfare of staff here since they are vocal about their work with the Ethical Tea Partnership. Furthermore, they list all their employees from the main office on the site, showing their commitments to putting their welfare first and giving them the recognition they deserve. The same should be done for those involved in the farming process of production
Teapigs in general impressed me with their attention to detail about various processes in the business. I can see that being ethical is at the forefront of their business model, not just an afterthought. Additionally, I can see their honesty in all parts of their products as well as improvements they are aspiring to make in the future. I definitely think that aspects of their production could be a bit more clearer for the average consumer who is perhaps not aware of the role of different partner organisations. Overall, I can see the justification for their higher price point given their attention to detail on all aspects of their business and production. Furthermore it would be great to see Teapigs provide information themselves about different companies they work with rather than directing us to external websites. They should continue the great work!