Photo Credit: Kelly Rossiter From my trip to a tea plantation in Kenya
Growing tea is a tricky business. It is hugely labour intensive to collect the tea leaves, and having done a bit of tea plucking myself, I can tell you it is extremely hard work. Throughout the world tea plantation workers (mostly women) are overworked,underpaid, exposed to pesticides and herbicides daily, and suffer huge infant mortality rates. Once their plucking days are over, they generally become homeless. Zhena Muzyka of Zhena's Gypsy Tea has made it her mission to produce tea that is organic, fair trade and provides a good living for workers, as well as providing education and access to health care for the workers' families and a place to retire to.Ms. Muzyka uses a direct trade with her growers rather than through auction, allowing them to develop a relationship over the years that has proven to be advantageous to both producer and manufacturer. She gets the organic and fair trade tea she wants and they have stable prices that allow them to plan for the future.
You can watch a video here called Beyond Fair Trade to give you some more background on the business as well as her committment to providing healthier and happier lives for the working women. She comes across as an earnest and caring woman, who nevertheless seems to have an incredible amount of determination.