The Tea Trail

After reading my post about how I missed “The Tea Trail”, the BBC very kindly broadcasted a repeat! The programme looked at tea production in East Africa. Although tea was only introduced to Kenya in 1903, it is now third in the world in terms of production. The vast majority of Kenya’s tea is manufactured into CTC tea and most supermarket tea here and in the UK would use Kenyan teas in their blends. It wasn’t surprising then that this documentary focussed exclusively on East African CTC black teas.

BBC The Tea Trail

Image Source: BBC (link)

Reeve starts off in Mombasa where tea from 9 East African countries is sold at auction. From there he goes east to the central province near Nairobi through the Great Rift Valley to Kericho and on to Toro in Uganda.

Mostly looking at the social aspects of tea-growing, the documentary touched on the brutalities of colonisation, Kenya’s independence in 1963 and the current difficulties with tea production. Those difficulties include transport problems, poverty, prostitution, bandits, HIV, unemployment, working conditions, climate change and child labour. It sounds pretty grim and it was. There was no clear conclusion about what we as consumers should do in this over-commoditised situation. It seemed that supporting trans-national corporations would preserve the current work-practices but abandoning them would inflict even more poverty on the 5 million Kenyans that are employed in the tea industry. Fairtrade is offered as a possible hopeful route for Kenya and Uganda with the example of a school at Mabale Tea Factory.

But 90% of UK tea is not Fairtrade and when I hear now that the price of tea at the Mombasa auction dropped to a five-year low in December 2013 (a drop of 30% since July), it makes me worry about the knock-on effect to those involved as workers in the tea industry.

The Tea Trail with Simon Reeve

We’ve had no television since a storm killed our satellite dish in late December. I didn’t miss it at all until I saw this clip from The Tea Trail that was shown on BBC last Sunday. I can’t even watch it online because BBC iPlayer is restricted to the UK so here’s hoping they repeat it once our satellite is back in action.


Update: I still haven’t seen the programme but a good summary of it was written here in Fortitude Magazine.

Downton Abbey – Spoof

I saw an advertisement last night for Season 4 of Downton Abbey. It reminded me of these spoofs that BBC did for comic relief a few years ago. Part two of the spoof (second video below) is based around tea but it makes more sense if you see part one first. Both of them definitely make more sense if you’ve seen Downton Abbey. Enjoy!