Empowering Women in Tea — the role of consumers

Woman with baby in front-carrier holding 2 teapots

Tea (camellia sinensis), is a wonderful ancient agricultural product, that has become the second most consumed beverage in the world behind water. Today many of us interact with it, as a packet of loose-leaf or bagged tea on supermarket shelves. Once an item entombed with Chinese Emperors it has been relegated to that unenviable position as an everyday staple - a loss leader in the value chain.

When you pay a few cents for a tea bag (1.2–1.8g of tea) at the registers, upstream in the supply chain those producing the tea are not going to be well compensated. It just happens that the majority of those involved in the production of tea are women (Ethical Tea Partnership, Women in Tea Factsheet, retrieved 7 March 2022).

I care about this topic because I am a woman in tea. I am the Founder of The Steepery Tea Co., a specialty leaf tea business, and I am also the Co-founder together with Tania Stacey, of East Forged, a refreshingly social new style of iced tea. Behind both businesses is a transparent sourcing model where the tea is purchased from our tea growers, the majority whom are female-led or family owned. Tea education and growing consumers tea knowledge is the other important focal point of these businesses.

It is not a coincidence I have decided to publish this on International Women’s Day 2022. The theme for this year is ‘Break the Bias’.

Tea drinkers have a vital role to play in empowering woman across the tea ecosystem. For each tea product placed in our shopping basket comes an opportunity to make a difference to the lives of women in tea. For the consumer, it requires a shift in thinking about the value of tea.

On equal measure, consumer tea brands need to innovate, deliver and educate on teas true value. We need to truly understand today’s tea drinker and their preference towards health & wellness, premium, crafted refreshments and step up to deliver that value. There is a continued tension in achieving sustainable gross profit margins and relegating tea back to a cheaper state such as an extract or flavouring. I would like to think as women we can do better — better for the tea drinkers who want to enjoy quality leaf tea (in all its forms — hot and cold) and better for the tea growers who make our tea.

There are many intelligent, talented and inspirational role models emerging in the tea industry. And it makes me excited to think about the possibilities for tea with more women being empowered to build and drive the tea ecosystem into the future.

So what can you, the tea drinker do, this International Women’s Day to #breakthebias? Here are 10 ways consumers can support Women in Tea.

10 WAYS CONSUMERS CAN SUPPORT WOMEN IN TEA

  1. Get TEA-curious about the tea supply chain. Find tea suppliers that source from women-led and family tea gardens. A good tea supplier can tell you where their tea has come from particularly if their marketing suggests they are transparent and close to the source. Ask the questions and if you receive evasive answers move on.
  2. Buy from women. Find a female-led tea business near you and buy their tea.
  3. Slow down your tea leaf shopping. Enjoy the discovery process of finding new or lessor known women-led tea businesses to support. As a small tea business, know that we don’t always carry the big budgets to be paying for advertising or have our websites optimised.
  4. Women leaders in tea. Support the businesses and organisations that have brilliant females at the helm. Giving them the financial independence and confidence in the job they are doing allows them to grow and flourish on their missions to support more females within their networks.
  5. Make enquiries with kindness and patience. Whilst women led tea businesses strive to provide great customer service, approach with empathy that the person you are likely speaking to may have additional responsibilities and commitments (e.g,, family, a day job).
  6. Advocate for the female-led tea businesses you love. Share details with family and friends about your tea discoveries and the owners that front the business.
  7. Write reviews about women-led tea businesses. If you loved it, take the time to write a review wherever you feel comfortable: google, facebook, websites and local community groups. It all helps.
  8. Don’t be shy with opening your own networks up. If you have found a gem of a female-led tea business and you know of a connection that both parties may find mutually beneficial make an introduction happen!
  9. Offer a testimonial. If you loved it write a testimonial without being prompted. Better still create a video testimonial it will make her week!
  10. Connect as humans. With most female fronted ventures in tea we are small, likely just an owner behind the entire operation. We are all after authentic connections. There is nothing nicer than knowing exactly who it is receiving and buying the tea.

This image was taken by Jasmine — I will be forever grateful because it is one of my favourites. It shows me carrying my daughter whilst I was leading a tea tour to local Australian tea garden, Arakai Estate. Doing everything that brings me joy, family and tea! Breaking the conventional notions of work and motherhood and paving a future that allows her to walk her own path.

I first published this article on The Steepery Tea Co.’s Tealosophy blog. It has been modified for my readers here.

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Chief House Officer, Flavour Explorer & Tea Specialist. Making a new style of nitro iced tea @eastforged and sharing specialty pure leaf tea @thesteeperytea

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Kym Cooper

Kym Cooper

Chief House Officer, Flavour Explorer & Tea Specialist. Making a new style of nitro iced tea @eastforged and sharing specialty pure leaf tea @thesteeperytea

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