Transparency in Tea: Nepal Tea Collective’s Role

For the ethical tea consumer, how transparent a tea brand is with their sourcing and farming practices can be important in their decision to trust a brand. This is absolutely fair, crucial even – when you’re buying tea, you’re putting your health and your hard-earned money into a brand. 

In an industry that is rife with labor exploitation, the harsh treatment and underpayment experienced by tea farmers making headlines every month, ethical consumers need to know that they can trust a brand. And this is exactly where Nepal Tea Collective’s transparency and traceability regarding our sourcing practices comes in. 

Exploitation in the Tea World, and the Need for Transparency 

In centuries of tea-drinking traditions, markets plied with teas of mysterious origins is a recent phenomenon. Indeed – even until the 18th century, we can’t imagine that tea buyers and consumers wouldn’t be able to tell where their teas had come from. 

Originating in China, and then permeating through most of the world, teas have historically had very distinct flavors and processing styles that were specific to the region of origin. Since the 18th century, however, rocketing demand for tea has made the true origins of most popular teas difficult to trace. 

Tea farmers working in the field.

Tea has attained and clung onto the status as the most popular beverage in the world. As prominent tea estates have struggled to meet the demands of tea buyers around the world, they have been sourcing higher volumes of tea leaves from beyond their own estates, beyond borders, even. Tea brokers source cheaper teas to cut costs, all the while attributing prominent brand identities to the teas. 

As supply chains for teas have lengthened, tea communities on the ground have suffered in two ways. First of all, due to a lack of market access and unable to compete in the tea industry, tea farmers on the ground have felt compelled to sell even their premium teas to tea brokers at minimal rates. 

Adding insult to injury, isolated farmers have been unable to attain any type of brand identity in the international tea industry – their teas sold under the guise of popular brand names. Tea communities have become trapped in a vicious cycle of selling their teas to exploitative supply chains due to a lack of market access, and further lacking market access because their teas are sold under bigger and more popular brand names. 

This is the case for many smallholder tea farmers in Nepal. Nepal’s staggering geographical and climatic complexity allows for a great variation in flavor and aromatic profiles of tea and tea products. At the same time, the extreme ruggedness and treacherous nature of these landscapes cause farmers and smallholder communities to be isolated not only from each other, but also from the world at large. 

Nepal has also been long-burdened by its borders: landlocked between India and China, Nepal has no access to a port, making it even more difficult for Nepal’s tea to directly reach international markets. 

And so, Nepali farmers are compelled to sell their complex, nuanced and well-crafted teas into long-supply chains. Almost 90% of tea produced in Nepal is sold to middle-men, mixed with teas from multiple sources and sold under the guise of popular brand names. Nepali farmers have been subsisting with under $2 a day, struggling to make ends meet, trapped in a vicious cycle of being unseen and underserved. 

Nepal Tea Collective Steps In: A Transparent Tea Brand 

Founded by second and third generation tea producers from Nepal, Nepal Tea Collective’s work in tea is supported by a 40-year long tea legacy in Nepal. In fact, their family tea estate, the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center, was the first certified organic tea estate in Nepal. KTERC was founded in the late 80s by their father, Deepak Prakash Banskota, who recognized that tea could be the crop that could uplift the livelihood of the remote farming community of Phidim in Eastern Nepal. 

Though tea did strengthen the livelihoods of these remote highlands, and lack of visibility in the tea world and the subsequent lack of fair compensation persisted. Recognizing these fundamental issues that held Nepal’s tea communities back, our founder Nishchal Banskota founded Nepal Tea Collective with the vision of disrupting the long-supply chains that erased and exploited Nepal’s tea communities. 

Cutting out the middle-men was the first step. Installing a transparent, traceable, direct-to-consumer model, Nepal Tea Collective has been able to create pathways for even Nepal’s most remote high-land tea communities to directly reach international markets, all the while keeping their origin stories intact and platforming the farmers themselves. This way, our transparent model achieves two important things: 

  1. For consumers who are conscious about the quality and freshness of their tea, Nepal Tea Collective ensures that they can verify that the teas they get are certified organic, packed at origin, and single source. Our wholesale clients can rest assured that their buyers are getting unadulterated, premium quality teas that are healthy and worth their money. 
  2. Our transparent and traceable model allows buyers from all over the world to get acquainted with Nepali tea farms. From learning about the region in Nepal from which the tea originates, the altitude, the plucking season, to connecting directly with the pluckers, farmers and tea producers who made their teas, we ensure that Nepal’s awe-inspiring terroirs and fantastic teas are seen and appreciated! 

How Nepal Tea Collective does Transparency: 

1. Immersive Tea Tours: 

Our tea tourism package takes tea enthusiasts on an immersive journey through Nepal’s tea world. Guided by our founders themselves, these tours bring small groups of our tea buyers or tea curious folks with an interest in learning about Nepal’s tea regions, on a guided tour customized to the buyers. 

A picture taking during a tea tour.

Tea enthusiasts get an authentic experience of Nepal’s tea regions, living as tea artisans in the tea mountains themselves, surrounded by the ripping hills blanketed by tea gardens as far as the eye can see. They get to pluck with our pluckers, live with our farmers, and roll teas with our tea masters and producers. Most importantly of all, our tea communities get to meet and bond with the buyers who adore their teas, and tea enthusiasts experience the joy of living alongside tea artisans, creating a truly rewarding and unforgettable experience for both. 

Amy, the founder of Metolius tea, visited our tea mountains last year. The experience of seeing our work on the ground encouraged Amy to switch to us for all her sourcing needs! You can read about inspiring journey through our tea mountains here. 

2. Elevating the Buyer’s Experience: 

Enclosed with every package of Nepal Tea Collective’s teas is the complete story of the tea. Buyers receive a postcard from the farm detailing where the tea was plucked, the plucking season, how the tea was processed, how the naming of the tea came to be, when it was packed, and the names and faces of the farmers and producers involved. As you can see, every single one of our buyers receive a fully immersive journey of the tea, from farm to mug, as though they were present on the farm itself. If they wish, buyers are also able to directly write to their farmers about their favorite teas, and even hear back from the farmers themselves. 

For tea buyers who buy directly from Nepal Tea Collective, we also have a digital tracing component enclosed with every package. A QR code printed on every package of our teas, and every label of our plant-based tea-bags, allows tea buyers to digitally trace the entire journey of the tea with a simple scan. If they choose, buyers can also directly Tip the Farmer, and express a note of their appreciation for the teas they enjoy! 

Join Our Journey: 

Our ventures in establishing an ethical, transparent and traceable tea brand has brought a lot of incredible tea lovers our way – tea lovers who care for the people who make their teas, and the landscapes and terroirs that nourish them. Their love has taken our mission to uplift the tea communities in Nepal and take Nepal’s organic, premium Orthodox teas worldwide to new and unexpected heights. 

If you’d like to join us on this journey, please connect with us. We’d love to welcome you to the Collective! 

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