The current decade is all about sustainability: in order to protect the basis of our existence and prevent further global warming, crucial decisions will have to be taken in the coming years. Acting sustainably, or, more specifically, questioning our own consumption and using all the Earth’s resources responsibly, will play a core role in this connection. The aim is to somehow reconcile the various environmental, social and economic aspects. For quite some time now, sustainability has no longer been about controlling or even reducing consumption. Instead, it has become a kind of culture that now influences lifestyles, trends and the business world. Being able to consume and enjoy even a natural product such as tea with a clear conscience is right on trend.
But although there is growing interest in sustainability in general, many people still don’t associate this with tea. According to a recent Statista survey, sustainability, organic production and social justice are factors that have only a minor influence on the decision to buy¹. Instead, 60% of survey participants stated that it was mainly on the basis of its flavour that they chose to purchase a particular tea. What many people don’t know is that enjoying top-quality tea and sustainable production can go hand in hand.
Around 6.5 million tonnes of tea are produced every year – something that requires a huge amount of land. Therefore, sustainable cultivation methods automatically have a big impact. But what does sustainability mean when it comes to tea production? In general, a tea plantation must be able to yield a harvest without destroying its own basis for existence. In other words, to prevent the land sooner or later becoming unusable, no pesticides or synthetic fertilisers should be used, or they should be used in as an efficient and resource-saving way as possible. If organic, environmentally-friendly methods are used instead, tea cultivation can be become sustainable too in the ecological sense. Moreover, the tea shrub itself is a very sustainable plant. This is because, during harvesting, only the leaves from the top two to five centimetres of the plant are picked, which means that a tea shrub can provide a yield for up to 100 years.
Following harvesting and preparation, the tea is transported away from the country of cultivation, usually by sea. Since a single ship can transport tens of thousands of containers, the impact – per cup of tea – is relatively low. Overall, in terms of the entire life cycle of tea – from the plantation to the cup – cultivation, production and transport all use less energy than you might expect. In fact, 80% of the total energy required is consumed during the final stage - preparing the tea or, more specifically, boiling the water needed to prepare it². Smart assistants such as the Avoury One, which precisely measure the amount of water needed, can help remedy this.
However, sustainability isn’t only about protecting the environment and saving energy, it’s also about providing for fair living and working conditions. A total of more than 13 million people work in the tea sector worldwide, many of them smallholder farmers whose entire livelihoods are dependent on tea production. In key regions such as Assam in India, home of our STRONG ASSAM, tea production shapes the whole community:STRONG ASSAM
almost a quarter of the population is employed in the tea industry. But what does this have to do with sustainability? On the Melitta Group’s tea plantations, employees are not just temporarily hired during the harvest, but work the whole year through. In addition, in many places the focus is still on manual labour rather than machinery, which secures jobs and creates good prospects for the local people.
We’ve now outlined what sustainable tea cultivation is all about. But at the same time, what can you, as a tea lover, do to enjoy a cup of tea with as clear a conscience as possible? Well, you might want to start by considering whether your tea has a relevant quality seal and how it is packaged. New, innovative and eco-friendly packaging methods can be particularly good for the environment.
It’s also worth taking a look at the philosophy of the company behind it. This means you can ensure that you find a tea that impresses you not only in terms of its taste, but also in terms of its underlying values. For example, Avoury is committed to organic cultivation, net zero logistics and circular recycling, and works with Fairtrade, Rainforest Alliance and Plastic Bank to ensure more sustainable value creation. Because, last but not least, partnerships, associations and initiatives also have a lot to contribute. Fairtrade-certified teas, for example, support social projects in the countries of cultivation that help build a better future for the inhabitants and thus ensure sustainable change.
¹ Statista (2017). Kriterien beim Teekauf in Deutschland 2017. Accessed on 10 August 2021 at https://de.statista.com/statistik/daten/studie/667213/umfrage/kriterien-teekauf-in-deutschland/
² Gabor, P. (2019). Wie ist die Ökobilanz von Tee im Vergleich zu Kaffee? SWR.de. Accessed on 18 August 2021 at https://www.swr.de/wissen/1000-antworten/wie-ist-die-oekobilanz-von-tee-im-vergleich-zu-kaffee-100.html