Yorkshire Tea is caring for the people behind our cuppas this International Tea Day

WHILE sitting down for a cuppa may provide a momentary escape from these most unusual times, the effect of the global pandemic on the tea fields of Uganda or Kenya may be far from your mind.

Social distancing in a tea field in India. Picture: Mcleod Russel India Ltd.

But the wellbeing of the people producing the crops that will eventually be blended into one of the region’s most prized brands, Yorkshire Tea, made by Taylors of Harrogate, is very much at the forefront of the company’s concerns.

So much so, Taylors has set up a £500,000 Emergency Response Relief Fund, one of five commitments to its suppliers to ensure they will be able to continue to produce quality tea and coffee in the future.

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The commitment comes as tea lovers around the world today mark the first International Tea Day, as ratified by the general assembly of the United Nations in December last year, to celebrate and recognise sustainable production and consumption of tea.

Supply director for Taylors of Harrogate, Keith Writer, said: “The outbreak is having a very real impact on suppliers around the world who grow tea and coffee for the Taylors of Harrogate and Yorkshire Tea blends, but it has also been reassuring to hear how our suppliers have moved to quickly implement prevention measures. These include strict standards of social distancing and hygiene.

“However, the lockdowns – while essential for public safety – are impacting farmers, workers and growers, and their communities and we are working closely with them to support and help in this time of crisis.”

Taylors has 126 suppliers in 27 countries, from Ethiopia to El Salvador, and Papua New Guinea to Peru. Many of these countries have made it mandatory for people to wear face masks in public, but in some countries, travel bans during lockdowns have made it difficult for people working in harvesting to get to work. So far though, there have been no significant delays on production for Taylors.

And the five commitments, Mr Wright said, will help bring growers “greater certainty”, reassurance and help to secure their long term future.

Handwashing at Rwanda Mountain Tea. Picture: Rwanda Mountain Tea

Alongside the emergency fund, which will support humanitarian impacts caused by the pandemic such as maintaining healthcare services and supporting measures to reduce virus spread,

Taylors has pledged to honour every one of its long term contracts and look to grow volumes where possible. It is also shortening its payment terms to keep cash flowing, committing to sustainable practices including implementing living wages, and will publicly report on its progress on all five commitments.

Mr Wright said: “We are committed to working in partnership with our suppliers in the good times, the tougher times and the most challenging of times. In this current crisis we really are all in this together and we have underpinned this with our five key commitments to our tea and coffee suppliers to demonstrate our deep commitment to them.”

For more information on sustainability at Taylors, visit www.taylorsimpact.comHelp at home

Social distancing in at Rwanda Mountain Tea. Picture: Rwanda Mountain Tea

Taylors and Bettys are also working quietly behind the scenes to help the coronavirus effort at home.

They are supporting regional charities and community groups via the York-based the Two Ridings Community Foundation’s Coronavirus Community Fund’.

It has also ensured tea, coffee and Bettys specialities have got into the hands of NHS and social care workers in Yorkshire.

And while there have been many changes in its head office and factory, “proper brews are still making their way out to supermarkets”, Taylors told The Yorkshire Post.

A pre-pandemic picture of Taylors Kenya Imenti Tea Farms smallholders. Picture: Jonathan Gregson
Kenyan tea farms. Picture: Jonathan Gregson