Fairtrade Tea – A Kenyan Tea Story – M&S Tea

M&S was the first retailer in the world to launch a Kenyan tea that’s packed by the smallholders who grow it.

M&S and its Fairtrade tea supplier, Iri-iani, have been working on the project since 2010 with the aim of adding value to the Kenyan tea crop.

By providing funds, education and expert advice, M&S has helped the Kenyan farmers acquire the skills and technical knowledge to not only grow, but also package their tea. The aim is to enable the farmers to become self-sufficient and build their future business.

Find out more about Plan A at http://plana.marksandspencer.com/

All the tea and coffee we sell at M&S is Fairtrade and has been since 2006. Our aim has always been to find the best tasting tea to bring to our customers. As well as growing our tea here in Kenya our real challenge was whether we could pack the tea here as well, thereby adding more value at source to the farmers.

My name is Phil Mumby, I’m a tea consultant working for Marks & Spencer, helping them with the packed at source Kenya tea product. The quality of the tea starts in the field. The smallholder farms in this part of Kenya are renowned for producing the best leaves in the world. So my job has been to come here at the perfect time of year when the leaf is absolutely at its peak, and then, somehow, capture the flavour of this leaf in the taste of the final product.

Each set of leaves, being picked very carefully by hand, selected at just the right stage, goes to the local factory and is allowed to wilt naturally, lose some of its moisture, and is then ground into small pieces, ready for the next stage. The all important one for developing the flavour: the green leaf is allowed to oxidise and change colour from green to brown. Anyone who’s smelt that freshness, as the tea changes from green to brown, never forgets it. My name’s Paul Mylrea, I’m the food technologist for Marks & Spencer in charge of this project. Here we source product from Kenya as opposed to sending it to the UK to be packed. 18 They’re actually put into a foil pack and manually sealed. From there they’re passed to another area of the room where they have the labels put on; both front, top and back. And that needs to be done to an international standard that we find acceptable and will want our customers to receive all the time. I’m Louise Nicholls, I’m head of responsible sourcing at Marks & Spencer.

These are some of the farmers that supply us with Fairtrade tea and here, today, they’re at the collecting station, bringing in their quality tea, making sure it’s at the right quality for Marks & Spencer, and then they’re weighing it, and then they get paid according to the weight of the tea. The big thing about this tea is that for the first time ever we’re going to be selling tea that we’ve actually packed here in Kenya. And the fantastic thing about that is that the producers are going to see the value of the finished product back in Kenya, rather than being produced in the UK.

As you know, Kenya grows the highest quality tea in the world. For many years we have been looking at a way to add value to the tea grown in Kenya. So, together with Marks & Spencer, we have come up with this project where tea, to be sold in Marks & Spencer in the UK, will be packaged right here at the source. Fairtrade is unique; it offers a guaranteed minimum price to farmers for their products, which covers the cost of sustainable production. In addition to the fair price which farmers receive for their products they sell as Fairtrade, they also receive a premium, which is an additional sum of money they decide to spend as they feel fit in their communities. They can use that money for community development projects, to improve the quality of their product and also to adapt to the effects of climate change. Every time you buy a packet of Fairtrade tea you can benefit the lives of Fairtrade farmers and their families.