Working Collaboratively to Improve the Sustainability of the Tea Sector

By Sarah Roberts, Executive Director, Ethical Tea Partnership

Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) is a membership organisation of more than 40 international tea companies and retailers. We exist to improve the sustainability of the tea sector, the lives and livelihoods of tea workers and farmers, and the environment in which tea is produced.

It’s a fact that the tea industry faces many challenges. While global poverty, according to the World Bank, has declined sharply over the last couple of decades, it does endure in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – many of the places where tea is grown. Poverty so often comes hand-in-hand with a range of other issues such as poor health and well-being, malnourishment, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, low quality housing, unsafe migration, and limited access to education to name a few.

So where does ETP fit into all of this? For a number of years we’ve been running projects and programmes that address issues that are holding back the sustainability of the sector. We also know how important it is to have sensible (sometimes tricky) conversations with the right people (Governments, NGOs, and development agencies etc.) in order to create the systemic and structural change required to improve the livelihoods of the people that grow and produce tea.

Much of our thinking at ETP is aligned to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which aim to end poverty, fight inequality, and tackle climate change by 2030. Of the seventeen goals, ten are pertinent to tea (see image).


Since I don’t have the space to cover all the ways in which ETP is contributing towards achieving the SDGs, I will limit myself to two examples:

In Malawi, we’re part of a coalition of stakeholders from across the entire tea value chain working to create a competitive Malawian tea industry where workers earn a living wage and smallholders are thriving. The Malawi 2020 Tea Revitalisation Programme aims to deliver six key outcomes.

The second project I want to briefly cover is our partnership with UNICEF. Together with the support of the Indian tea industry, the programme is working across more than 100 tea estates to equip more than 25,000 girls with the necessary knowledge and skills that will help them secure a better future and reduce their vulnerability to violence, abuse, and exploitation including trafficking and unsafe migration.

I’m looking forward to speaking at the North American Tea Conference where I’ll provide further insight into these programmes and others, look at how the sustainability landscape and ETP have changed, and why it’s important for the industry to work collaboratively through organisations like ETP in order to make the tea industry truly sustainable.

etp-teamup16-0213Sarah Roberts has been the Executive Director of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP) since 2009. The ETP works on behalf of 40+ international tea companies and retailers to improve the sustainability of tea production, the lives and livelihoods of tea workers and farmers, and the environment in which tea is produced. Sarah started her career at the International Institute for Environment and Development and has held a number of senior sustainability and CSR roles.

Fall Schedule: TEA SOMMELIER® Program at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute, Niagara College

We are excited to share that the Canadian Food & Wine Institute at Niagara College will be holding two new sessions of TEA 101 & 102 this Fall!

color-15564_1920These courses will take students on a journey through the history of tea, tea types and production methods, tea grading and of course how to taste tea. Along with learning how to taste tea students of course will be “cupping” teas from all over the world, from the ancient roots in China to the mountains of Darjeeling, hills of Japan, Kenya and so many more. This all takes place at the Glendale Campus sensory lab, located right in the heart of [what is informally known as] the “gastro-haven” of Ontario.


Shabnam Weber will be the instructor for these two courses and will bring her wealth of industry experience to every class. Shabnam is the head instructor and author of the TEA SOMMELIER® Program and also sits on the Board of Directors of the Tea Association of Canada.She looks forward to meeting with Niagara area tea lovers to help them begin their journey with tea.

Shabnam Weber Pic

TEA 101: Introduction to Tea
Monday, September 12, 19, 26, October 3
11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m

TEA 102: Regions of the World
Monday, September 12, 19, 26, October 3, 17, 24 (excluding October 10 for Thanksgiving)
3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

For more details and to register visit:


Consumer Demand for Health and Wellness Foods Continues to Drive Consumption of Tea

By Louise Pollock, President, Pollock Communications

Consumers have an unquenchable thirst for healthy foods and beverages that taste great.  Tea is the beverage of choice for many consumers as they search for ways to better their health by eating and drinking heathy foods and beverages.  Millennials (18 to 34) are more likely than Gen-Xers, Boomers or Traditionalists to drink tea to do something good for their body (47% vs. 41%).

While black tea is still the most consumed tea in the United States, a recent survey of 450 registered dietitians conducted by Today’s Dietitian and Pollock communications predicted that green tea was among the foods that will be trending upward in 2016.  Green tea has a strong connection to a healthy lifestyle and is often preferred by the Millennial generation.  Millennials are also more likely than older generation tea drinkers to consume green tea on the go (34% vs. 19%), on their commute (23% vs. 10%), at an event (19% vs. 10%), in nature (19% vs. 10%) or at a spa (12% vs. 7%).

Marketing and innovation in the industry continue to drive tea consumption. As consumer demand has grown, frequent innovation and the marketing of new products have helped keep tea top-of-mind for consumers, especially Millennials. New versions of tea-infused alcoholic beverage specialties, such as microbrews and cocktails that incorporate tea, have opened an entirely new, young market.  These new innovations ensure tea will have a place with younger generations of consumers and a solid future for the industry.

Join me at the North American Tea Conference, September 20-22 to learn more about tea consumption growth as a health food.

louise pollock pic.PNGLouise Pollock has more than 25 years of experience in the public relations profession helping clients develop and implement strategic marketing programs.  Throughout her career, Louise has concentrated on building partnerships between the private and public sectors.  She helps clients translate science into understandable messages for key target audiences and decision makers.  Louise has counseled a host of Fortune 500 companies and has worked extensively in issues management, crisis communications, media relations, media training and association member relations.



Steep competition: Driving growth in the tea category

By: Joel Gregoire, Senior Research Analyst Food & Drink at Mintel

Aside from water, there is no beverage that is more tied to human history than tea. It’s rooted in tradition with its popularity spanning across cultures. In Canada and the US, however, coffee is the predominant hot drink for consumers. The question is why, and what can tea do to leverage the success of coffee?

As is commonly understood, tea is strongly associated with health. When asked, nearly half of Canadian consumers agree that tea is healthier than coffee. By contrast, only one-in-25 agree that coffee is healthier than tea. Though findings point to health as being a key purchase driver across multiple categories, the benefit of tea’s superior health positioning appears to have limits.

With tea ‘owning’ health compared to coffee, opportunity exists to explore other areas of development and messaging in order to support category growth. It’s thus important for tea producers to identify easy opportunity areas when narrowing their focus. For instance, based on Mintel research, chilled ready-to-drink coffee holds stronger associations with being “innovative”, and while the tea category certainly boasts a broad innovation portfolio, by comparison it’s not an association consumers commonly make with tea. As such, rather than messaging against an association that chilled coffee “owns”, tea producers may find more success in investing in positioning around associations that neither category owns.

Ultimately, for tea to drive significant growth it will have to win share from other beverages with coffee being the obvious main competitor. That said, it’s not enough to just imitate coffee in an attempt to replicate the category’s success in recent years, rather tea must identify and exploit underdeveloped value propositions to innovate and message against.

Join me at the North American Tea Conference, September 20-22 to learn more about tea’s growth in the industry, and what it could mean for your company.

joel gregoire pic

Joel Gregoire researches and writes reports on the Canadian food and drink industry for Mintel. He comes to us after stops at NPD, Loblaw’s and OMD, where he amassed a breadth experience in the industry. Joel has a Bachelor’s Honours Co-op in Political Science and History from the University of Waterloo.



Tea-ing Up Trends for The Future

By: Marion Chan, Trend Spotter Consulting

Marketing to Millennials using just the key marketing principles of price, product, promotion and placement, also known as the four P’s, just doesn’t cut it any more.  Ensuring these four principles are well received is only the tip of the iceberg.  All consumer trends today stimulate one of the four new principles:  exclusivity, engagement, experience and emotion which is arguably the key element in any consumer marketing strategy. It is particularly crucial for commodity based products that are ubiquitous, in varying qualities and formats, to understand and ensure these four new marketing principles are included in their strategies.  This can become the basis of differentiation of one black tea bag from another.

tea minimalism

The only way to do this will be to know your consumer.  Knowing your consumer isn’t just about their gender, age and household demographics.  It’s the things that will make them happy?  Or make them cry?  What do they they aspire to?  Their hopes and dreams.  If you can tap into these emotional areas, you will create an image either for the category or a brand that will have people coming back for more.


In Tea-ing up Trends for the Future, I will touch on some high level areas that will provide you with some insight into the trends that will set the stage for further discussions.  The first step will be to understand what the four E’s are and why they are important. The second step will be to learn about the relevant trends that are associated with them and how they relate to tea.  Finally, and most importantly, what actions can the tea industry, as a collective, take away to be able to resonate with consumers, particularly the Millennials, that will lead to overall category growth.

Join me at the North American Tea Conference, September 20-22 to learn more about how you can work together as an industry to make the trends work for you.

Marion Chan PicMarion Chan is one of Canada’s leaders in watching consumer trends and analyzing the relevance of those trends to brands and retailing. She can tell you what’s happening and why it’s happening, but more importantly how it can impact your business and why you should care. Marion provides you with context so that you understand the real marketing challenge and can make the best, most informed decisions about how to marshal your resources.

Education Update: International Expansion of TAC Tea Sommelier® Program

Exciting news! The TAC Tea Sommelier® Certification Program will be offered in Italy starting fall 2016!

The Tea Association of Canada and Italy’s Protea Tea Association unveiled a Strategic Partnership to deploy the recognized TAC Tea Sommelier® Certification Program in Italy for both professionals and consumers!

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“Today’s announcement with Protea is a solid step in our journey to expand the TAC TEA SOMMELIER® Program internationally, giving us strong local capabilities for the first time in Europe. Protea is the perfect partner to help us fully realize the international expansion strategy in Europe in the long term.”

– Louise Roberge, President, Tea Association of Canada

Criteria for the Sustainability Awards Has Been Released!

The Tea Association of Canada and The Tea Association of the USA are delighted to introduce the first Annual Sustainability Awards for the tea sector.  These Awards are in recognition of all the hard work being put forth globally across the tea industry to further the goals of sustainability.


Purpose of the Sustainability Awards

The purpose of these new awards is to:

  • Celebrate good work
  • Bring such work to the attention of the tea industry more widely
  • Encourage others to replicate good practice

We want to recognize the holistic efforts of companies in addition to specific projects. We want to celebrate companies and projects that are helping accelerate tea towards becoming a crop that not only delivers a delicious cup of tea, but also does so in a way that is socially just and has a positive impact on the environment.

Award Categories

For this inaugural year, we are inviting entries in the following two categories

  1. Best Social initiative of the year. This will award an initiative designed to advance social sustainability within the tea sector. The initiative can be focused on social conditions such as empowering women, improving the quality of life, and increasing diversity.
  2. Best Environmental initiative of the year. This will award an initiative designed to advance environmental sustainability within the tea sector. It recognises a company that advocates environmental benefits that may include reduced carbon emissions, waste or pollution, protecting biodiversity and ecosystems.

 For full criteria and how to take part in the Sustainability Awards, click here