This variety here in Dorset is probably Camellia Williamsii or Camellia Japonica -not the variety which provides the tea!!
This week I listened to Dan Saladino on BBC's Food Programme, talking about tea. It was the second of his two programmes on the subject [links here and here] He spoke about Justin Rowlatt's report on the Tea Industry which JP prepared for the BBC in the summer of 2015 - which highlighted the appalling conditions suffered by many workers in the tea industry. Read JR's follow up report here.
The good thing is that, following the BBC reports, the owners of the plantations have speeded up their plans to repair and improve the living conditions for the workers, and put more money into this work. But it is still far from encouraging. McLeod Russell India and Tata [same as the steel company] are the two main owners involved in all this. The tea they supply goes to Twining, PG, Liptons and Tetley.
Although they have Rainforest Alliance Certification [so the frogs etc are looked after] they sadly fall short on their provisions for the human beings who maintain and pick the tea crops.
So what can be done? The answer is not to stop drinking tea ...Campaigners argue that tea is just too cheap and the big brands need to pay fairer prices to plantations so they in turn can afford decent wages and conditions for workers. Tea plantations have traditionally restricted union membership, and sometimes ban NGOs from operating on their estates. They want that to change so workers can know their rights and be able to articulate their demands clearly and effectively. Campaigners believe tea lovers can help too, by using their voice and influence to keep companies honest. They want consumers to tell tea companies that conditions of the workers matter to them, and to challenge their favourite brand about what it is doing to ensure that its employees have decent homes and enough money to buy nutritious food.
Most of the time** at home we drink Sainsbury's Red Label - a Fairtrade blended tea. I am very happy with the efforts made by this supermarket to ensure conditions for the workers are good.
This blend is sourced from Fairtrade smallholder farmers’ co-operatives in Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and South India.
It also came top in a taste test by Edward Bramah [of the Museum of Tea and Coffee in London]
90% of us in the UK use teabags now - but I still prefer to make my tea in a teapot [with a teacosy]
** Bob is fond of Earl Grey, and I like Redbush [I like to use RB teabags when I brew myself some sweet spiced Chai] - but these tend to be occasional treats.
Do you drink tea? or are you committed to coffee? - would you be prepared to pay a little more for your favourite brand in order to benefit the workers on the plantation that produces it?