FAQS

What does "Fear Free tea" mean?

"Fear Free tea" is a term used by Typhoo to acknowledge and address the issue of sexual violence and exploitation faced by women on tea plantations. Many of these women are afraid to report such incidents due to the real risk of losing their jobs or facing retribution. Typhoo's “Fear Free” initiative represents our commitment to creating a safer future where women can work on tea plantations without fear of sexual violence.

What prompted Typhoo to focus on the issue of sexual violence in the tea industry?

In 2023, a joint investigation between BBC Africa Eye and Panorama exposed the prevalence of sexual violence against female tea workers on one of Kenya's top tea plantations. We quickly realised this could also be happening elsewhere and we refused to produce Typhoo at the expense of women’s exploitation. Typhoo's commitment to this cause was sparked by a change in ownership. Our new owner, recognising the importance of ethical sourcing, hired a pioneer in ethical practices (Mike Brehme), to spearhead our mission and lead this change. We started by addressing our supply chain, changing our entire model to ensure we work closely with a handful of tea plantations, aligned with our goal of eradicating sexual violence in the tea industry.

Is this just a Typhoo Tea problem?

Sadly not. Up to 3 in 4 women who work on tea plantations industry-wide are subject to sexual violence. Typhoo is the first tea brand to dismantle its enabling systems and rebuild them with the prevention of sexual violence at the core of every business decision.

How is Typhoo addressing the issue of sexual violence in the tea industry?

Typhoo is leading the way in addressing sexual violence in the tea industry. We are the first tea brand to tackle this issue by overhauling our system to prioritise the prevention of sexual violence. Instead of working with hundreds of Rainforest Alliance Certified gardens, Typhoo now partners with a select few tea plantations that actively prevent and address violence and abuse. Our approach focuses on three key areas:

1. Ending sexual violence on tea plantations: women's safety is at the heart of all our business decisions. We founded the Fear Free Council to ensure we stay true to this commitment. A key part of this is working closely with the tea growers to identify safeguarding measures and provide support.

2. Revolutionising our supply chain: we identified a handful of trusted growers and are partnering closely with three tea plantations in East Africa that have the best practices in protecting women workers.

3. Funding women's safety: we pay higher prices to growers for raw tea, to ensure the sustainability of the plantations that are trying to stop violence against women. The Fear Free Council also funds initiatives and projects on tea plantations that empower women and work to eradicate the sexual violence many have experienced.

How much of Typhoo's profit goes towards this cause?

The funds that we dedicate to the issue of sexual violence in the tea industry are even more significant than a share of profits. They are a running cost of our business model - we pay $0.25 per kilo on top of higher tea prices. This means that Typhoo could potentially not make a profit in a given year, but our contribution to the cause would remain the same.

Does Typhoo own tea plantations?

Typhoo does not own any tea plantations, but instead carefully selects the best plantations to source its tea. Despite not owning the plantations directly, Typhoo has committed to a long-term partnership, actively supporting these growers in their efforts to address sexual violence on the ground.

For the sake of transparency, can you share your list of suppliers?

We are committed to transparency and are happy to share our list of tier 1 suppliers. However, at the request of our tea plantations, we will not disclose the exact locations where our tea is grown. Our suppliers wish to remain anonymous due to a history of British brands cutting ties with suppliers that uncovered violence while working to improve their practices. They recognise that there are still cases of sexual violence that need to be addressed, but they fear that other tea growers who are not actively trying to identify and resolve these issues will appear to have no problems at all. As a result, our three suppliers do not feel safe being publicly named at this time. We will change this policy as soon as our suppliers feel secure enough to consent to this.

If you would like a list of our tier 1 suppliers, please get in touch with the Fear Free Council by emailing rocio@typhoo.com.

Will there be any changes to Typhoo's supply chain?

We have already made significant changes to create a more responsible supply chain, but we recognise this is an ongoing process. We are committed to continuously identifying areas for improvement, such as our tea’s transportation, and implementing necessary changes. It’s important to understand that the issue of sexual violence on tea plantations is not solely a supply chain problem, but rather a result of the power imbalance between men and women working in these environments. Typhoo is actively working to address this issue by making substantial changes to the way we operate, directly tackling the root causes of sexual violence in our supply chain.

Will Typhoo provide training for tea plantation workers?

Typhoo contributes funds to our partner tea estates who craft and plan the curriculums as well as provide training for tea plantation workers. While the Fear Free Council is involved in a supportive fashion, we believe that the people on the ground are best placed to decide exactly how to solve these issues. We will not interfere with the incredible progress that our partner tea estates are making by unnecessarily interfering with their work.

How will Typhoo engage with tea plantation owners?

Typhoo will directly engage with tea plantation owners through one-on-one conversations. These owners have faced difficulties in finding partners who align with their values. They appreciate that Typhoo, a heritage brand, is investing time to collaborate closely with them to eliminate sexual violence within the tea industry.

Can Typhoo guarentee its tea is Fear Free?

Our partner plantations are working hard to ensure the safety of women workers. Yet, the problems in tea and agriculture are so pervasive that even the best will still have cases. The record of incidents shows that the deeply rooted problem of sexual violence is being hidden (especially as victims are scared to come forward). Cases usually arise in two different ways: because a person is reporting their own issue, or because the workers of the farm realise that something is wrong. At this point, investigations take place and, depending on the level of abuse, the case is handled internally (e.g. for harassment) or reported to the police (e.g. for rape). The victim-survivor is taken to the hospital, given legal advice and receives counselling. There is an assessment of her working and living conditions and safety. Then, there is another assessment of why this happened and systemic changes are made so that it does not happen to anyone else (e.g. ensuring factory workers live next to the factory). In the meantime, the alleged perpetrator is suspended and withdrawn from the plantation until proven guilty. The alleged perpetrator is dismissed and convicted if guilty, or reinstated if innocent. Finally, the social workers of the farm ensure that there is no retaliation against the victim.

Why is the focus on sexual violence against women?

Research suggests that women are especially vulnerable to sexual abuse, harassment, and exploitation, on tea plantations and anywhere else. On top of this, sexual abuse often remains hidden and is more challenging to identify and track compared to other forms of violence. Implementing changes in farms and tea communities to prevent and address sexual violence also facilitates the prevention and remediation of other types of violence. For instance, independent lawyers managing complaints about human rights issues in tea communities have offices, mailboxes, and telephone lines accessible to everyone, regardless of the nature of the problem. To date, most human rights cases filed have been related to sexual violence, with men as perpetrators and women as victims. As grievance mechanisms continue to collect complaints, it will become clearer whether focusing solely on women is the most appropriate approach.

Why does Typhoo not participate in IDH's working group committed to closing the living wage gap on tea plantations?

Typhoo's approach to addressing issues on tea plantations focuses on combating sexual violence rather than participating in IDH's working group to close the living wage gap. Although tea workers in Kenya and Malawi face a significant living wage gap of 20-40%, they earn about three times more than those in similar jobs outside the plantations. This economic disparity creates power imbalances that enable sexual abuse. Perpetrators, such as field captains, supervisors, or even fellow tea pickers, exploit the desperation of job applicants and workers who fear losing their relatively well-paid positions. High unemployment and poverty levels in these areas make people more likely to endure abuse without reporting it, as they prioritise economic stability over their well-being. Typhoo allocates additional funds to address systemic issues in tea plantations by promoting good hiring practices, awareness programs, and trust-building in reporting mechanisms. The company aims to create an environment where sexual and gender-based violence and harassment (SGBVH) can be effectively eliminated by ensuring no retaliation against those who report abuse.

Does Typhoo have a charity partner?

We don't have a core charity partner yet, however, we do belong to the Ethical Trading Initiative. We aim to work with organisations already dedicated to remediating violence against women on tea plantations. In the meantime, the core of our funds dedicated to stopping violence and harassment are for projects that our partner growers have in place. These contribute to and support the great work farms are already doing in preventing sexual violence.

How can I trust Typhoo's claims?

We have taken concrete actions to address the issue of sexual violence in the tea industry: As the first tea brand to dismantle our old system and rebuild it with a focus on sexual violence prevention, we are pioneering meaningful change in the industry. We have completely overhauled our sourcing, transitioning from hundreds of tea plantations to a select few that proactively address sexual violence. We have established the Fear Free Council to hold us accountable. This team ensures we continue working with producers to actively prevent and address violence, sustain funding for initiatives, and thoroughly measure the impact of our efforts.

How will Typhoo measure the impact of its initiatives?

We will measure the impact of our initiatives through transparent partnerships with producers. Our partners provide comprehensive records, including training sessions, reported cases, audit reports, internal assessments, and financial accounts. This transparency allows us to accurately assess the effectiveness of our efforts. To keep consumers informed, we will also compile and share key metrics from our partners on our website and in publicly available reports. These metrics will include the number of people educated about harassment, reporting procedures, the efficacy of reporting mechanisms, gender equality in management positions, and other relevant data.

How many cases of sexual violence have been reported on Typhoo tea plantations?

We do not have data on reported cases of sexual exploitation on our partner plantations this year, as most cases go unreported. The Fear Free Council is collaborating with these plantations to implement measures that encourage reporting of all incidents of sexual violence and ensure appropriate actions are taken in response.

You now only work with a handful of 'trusted growers'. Does this mean the previous 'hundreds' were untrustworthy/had issues of sexual violence on their plantations?

It's highly likely. Sexual violence is a problem in every country and every society, so all brands and products in the market could be subject to their workers experiencing it unless preventative measures are in place to prevent it. We have not stopped working with suppliers because they had issues of sexual violence, but because they were not doing as much to surface and stop it as our current partners, whom we were already buying tea from. Our partner plantations have dismantled their enabling systems and rebuilt them with the prevention of sexual violence at the core of every business decision - just like Typhoo.

Will the tea workers at the plantations you previously worked with now lose their jobs?

As we were sourcing smaller amounts from hundreds of plantations, our exit won't impact their volumes or employment needs.

Will Typhoo expand its efforts beyond tea plantations?

The problem is greater than Typhoo, or tea. While we're fully committed to making tea right, we know the issue of sexual violence against women in agriculture is a systemic problem that no single company can solve alone. Through the Fear Free Forum, our collaborative thought leadership program, we will bring together growers, brands, retailers, and NGOs to drive positive change across the tea industry and beyond.

Can consumers provide feedback or suggestions?

Of course! Please get in touch by contacting us at fearfreecouncil@typhoo.com if you have any suggestions or feedback.

What protocols are in place if an incident of sexual violence occurs?

Protocols for addressing sexual violence incidents on our partner plantations include:

1. Reporting: Either the victim-survivor reports the incident or farm workers to identify signs of abuse.

2. Investigation: Internal handling of harassment cases. Police involvement in violent abuse, such as rape.

3. Victim-survivor support: Hospital care, legal advice, counselling, assessment of working and living conditions for safety.

4. Systemic changes: Evaluation of the incident's cause and implementation of preventive measures (e.g., relocating workers closer to the factory).

5. Next steps for the alleged perpetrator: Suspension and removal from the plantation pending investigation, dismissal and conviction if guilty or reinstatement if found innocent.

6. Follow-up: Farm social workers ensure no retaliation against the victim-survivor.

How can I get support if I have experienced sexual violence or harassment?

If you have experienced sexual assault or harassment, help is available. Consider reaching out to the following resources: Police Your GP surgery Help after rape and sexual assault resources (NHS service) Find your closest Rape and Sexual Assault Referral Centres (NHS service) Workplace Bullying and Harassment (Gov.uk website) There are also organisations such as rapecrisis.org with live chat and a hotline to provide remote support.

What's the best way to confront and resolve workplace harassment?

If you're experiencing harassment in your workplace, there are steps you can take inside and outside of the organisation.

1. Understand your company's reporting process: Familiarise yourself with your workplace's harassment reporting mechanisms and assess the potential for retaliation.

2. Report the harassment: If you feel safe using your company's reporting system, do so. Remember that reporting harassment is a courageous act that can prevent others from experiencing the same treatment and contribute to changing workplace culture.

3. Seek external support: If reporting within your workplace doesn't feel safe, consider reaching out to government or charity services, such as:
Police

Your GP surgery Help after rape and sexual assault resources (NHS service)

Find your closest Rape and Sexual Assault Referral Centres (NHS service)

Workplace Bullying and Harassment (Gov.uk website)

Organisations such as rapecrisis.org with live chat and a hotline to provide remote support.

Will your whole range of tea products be made from the handful of trusted suppliers you outlined?

Yes, all of our tea will come from the handful of trusted growers once we have finalised the transition from the former Typhoo product to the new one.

What steps will Typhoo take if incidents occur?

Our partner plantations are working hard to ensure the safety of women workers. Yet, the problems in tea and agriculture are so pervasive that even the best will still have cases. The record of incidents shows that the deeply rooted problem of sexual violence is being hidden. Cases usually arise in two different ways: because a person is reporting their own issue, or because the workers of the farm realise that something is wrong. At this point, investigations take place and, depending on the level of abuse, the case is handled internally (e.g. for harassment) or reported to the police (e.g. for rape). The victim-survivor is taken to the hospital, given legal advice and receives counselling. There is an assessment of her working and living conditions and safety. Then, there is another assessment of why this happened and systemic changes are made so that it does not happen to anyone else (e.g., ensuring factory workers live next to the factory). In the meantime, the alleged perpetrator is suspended and withdrawn from the plantation until proven guilty. The alleged perpetrator is dismissed and convicted if guilty, or reinstated if innocent. Finally, the social workers of the farm ensure that there is no retaliation against the victim.

What makes Typhoo tea stronger and more flavourful?

We’ve added 10% more tea to each Typhoo tea bag!

Tea strength isn’t all about steeping time. In fact, steeping a tea bag with less tea for an extended time can release oils and create a bitter taste. Our tea bags now contain more tea than many other brands, allowing you to enjoy a stronger, fuller flavour every time.

Where does Typhoo tea come from?

Typhoo tea is sourced from three plantations in Kenya and Malawi. The old blend of Typhoo was sourced from hundreds of plantations in 11 different countries: Argentina, Burundi, China, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Uganda. Many British tea brands continue to blend teas from these locations to maintain consistent flavour while minimising costs. However, Typhoo has now streamlined its sourcing to work with plantations aligned with our mission to end sexual violence in the tea industry.

How is Typhoo tea made?

1. Skilled tea pickers harvest green leaves daily from well-maintained tea bushes.

2. The freshly picked green leaves are transported to a nearby tea factory.

3. At the factory, the leaves undergo a meticulous crush, tear, and curl process, transforming them into small black leaves suitable for tea bags. The quality of the tea bushes and leaves is crucial, but an excellent processing system is essential to extract the desired flavours and colours from the leaves.

4. Tea from three partner farms is blended according to an expert recipe to achieve the precise Typhoo flavor and color that you enjoy at home.

5. The loose black tea is packed into tea bags, each weighing 3.125 grams.

Is Typhoo tea made in the UK?

Tea can only grow in countries near the equator. Typhoo tea is blended and packaged in the UK using tea leaves grown in Kenya and Malawi.

My tea tastes different. Why have you changed it?

We've now added 10% more tea to the Typhoo tea bag to make sure our brew has a stronger and more satisfying taste.

How prevalent is sexual violence on tea plantations?

Sexual violence on tea plantations is a significant problem, although the exact prevalence is unknown due to underreporting and a lack of comprehensive studies across tea-producing regions.

However, evidence from academic research, expert reports, court cases, and a recent documentary produced by BBC Africa Eye and Panorama suggests that sexual violence against women agricultural workers is pervasive in the tea industry. The BBC documentary, "Sex for Work: the True Cost of Our Tea," aired in 2023, found that 3 out of 4 women interviewed across several locations reported being abused by their managers or employment contractors. This alarming statistic, based on interviews with 100 women tea workers, highlights the widespread nature of the issue.

With 4 million people working on tea plantations out of the 13 million employed in the tea industry, and women constituting 30-60% of this workforce (depending on the country), it is estimated that between 1.2 and 2 million women working on tea plantations have experienced sexual violence.

How many women work on tea plantations?

Among the 13 million people employed in the tea industry, 4 million work on tea plantations, with women making up 30-60% of this workforce. Combining these figures, we have calculated that between 1.2 and 2 million women work on tea plantations globally.

What is the root cause of sexual exploitation in the tea industry?

In her TEDTalk, academic Marianne Cooper revealed that sexual violence is both a consequence and a cause of gender inequality and identified three organisational characteristics that create an environment conducive to sexual violence in the workplace:

1. Extreme hierarchies with significant power differences between levels, especially when the perpetrator controls the victim's future, finances, and safety.

2. Exclusion of women from senior positions, fostering a bystander culture.

3. Tolerance of bad behaviour, including victim-blaming, retaliation, and lack of consequences for perpetrators.

Traditionally, the tea industry has exhibited all three characteristics, with the first being the most challenging to address. Tea is often produced in regions with high levels of poverty and gender inequality, where slow economies, high unemployment, and low-paying jobs lead to power imbalances that ultimately contribute to the occurrence of sexual abuse.

Is my regular tea brand free from sexual violence?

Sadly, probably not. Sexual violence is a problem in every country and every society, so all brands and products in the market could be subject to their workers experiencing it unless preventative measures are in place to prevent it. Typhoo is the first tea brand to dismantle the old, enabling, systems and re-build them with the prevention of sexual violence at the core of every business decision.

Are there any tea brands should I boycott?

Many tea brands do not prioritise eradicating sexual violence in their supply chains. If this issue is as important to you as it is to us, we encourage you to consider choosing tea brands that are actively working to address and prevent sexual violence.

Can other tea companies adopt similar initiatives to Typhoo?

Other tea companies can adopt similar initiatives by following the basic principles of Typhoo’s approach: Partnering with trusted plantations who share the company's values, and offering fair commercial terms, including competitive prices and long-term commitments, to support and reward these partnerships.

While this strategy may require significant investment and effort, it can lead to successful, sustainable relationships within the tea industry.

Who picks tea? What is the process?

Anyone aged 18 or over can pick tea. The job market in the places we source from is not great, and the tea plantations we partner with pay some of the best wages in the region, so tea pluckers range from older men and women to young university graduates.

These days hand plucking is rare. Most of the tea consumed in the UK is plucked with sheers or harvester machines. The plucking system matters because the more mechanised, the bigger the quantity of leaves that a person collects in a day, and so the better the payment that they get. The minimum a plucker gets in a day, for the minimum daily wage (about 2GBP) is 50Kgs. Usually, it's around 70-90kgs/day, with people using harvester machines getting to 150kgs/day.

Once the green leaves have been plucked, they are transported to a tea factory nearby, where a very careful crush, tear, and curl process takes place. That's where those green leaves are turned into the small rolled black leaves we recognise as tea leaves that we know. The quality of the tea bushes and tea leaves is extremely important, but only if delicate handling and processing system gets the flavours and colours from the leaves.

There are a huge range of jobs, from very unskilled to extremely specialised, and all of them are done by both men and women (although women tend to be a minority in the more skilled jobs). Some of them are: Tea pluckers, field supervisors, field managers, factory workers, tea tasters, tea tasting assistants, engineers and so on). On top of these jobs, many of the people in the estate have a second responsibility as worker representatives in either the union or worker committees. There can be up to 80 committees per farm, by location or by function, covering things like women's progression in the workplace, management of cases of GBV, health and safety issues and more. These are very important functions as they help people complain about what's not right (from nursery facilities to serious cases of abuse) and escalate it to the right place so that help is provided.

Some of the tea that the tea factories process (and Typhoo packs) comes from nearby smallholder farmers that sell their leaves to [30-40% leave intake] bigger farms with processing capacity. Those smallholder farmers range from a few with huge holdings that hire up to 40 people as external help, to many really small gardens, just an acre, which they are plucked with family help (many times children after school or in holidays)

What is life like on a tea plantation?

In some countries people live in villages near the tea estates, and work on the estates during the rainy months of the year when the tea bushes are growing. In other countries, people migrate to the tea estates to live in some housing provided by the farm, and rotate the gardens where they work and the place where they stay.

Healthcare is provided for workers by the grower, as well as schooling for their children. Hills and hills and hills of tea bushes are plucked daily by thousands of people, 8 hours a day in groups of 60 people or so.

The range of jobs that are necessary in this whole process is huge, from very unskilled to extremely specialised, and all of them are done by both men and women (although women tend to be a minority in the more skilled jobs). Some of them are: Tea pluckers, tea clerks, field supervisors, field managers, factory workers, tea tasters, tea tasting assistants, engineers and so on. On top of this, many on the estate are also representatives in either the union or worker committees. There can be up to 80 committees per farm, with by location or by function, covering things like women's progression in the workplace, management of cases of GBV, health and safety issues, assess and adress for grievances etc. These are important functions that help people complain about what's not right and escalate it to the right place so that help is provided.

Some of the tea that those tea factories process (and Typhoo packs) comes from nearby smallholder farmers that sell their leaves to bigger farms with processing capacity. Those smallholder farmers range from a few with huge holdings that hire up to 40 people as external help, to many really small gardens, which they are plucked with family help (many times children after school or in holidays).

How much does a tea picker typically earn?

Tea pickers' earnings vary based on the amount of tea leaves they harvest daily. The minimum wage for a picker is around 2 GBP per day, which requires them to collect at least 50 kg of tea leaves. On average, pickers gather 70-90 kg per day, while those using harvester machines can collect up to 150 kg daily.

Hand-picking has become less common, with most tea consumed in the UK being harvested using shears or machines. The level of mechanisation directly impacts a picker's daily collection and therefore their income.

How does paying more help women on tea plantations?

Paying higher prices for tea helps support tea plantations that prioritise human rights and protect workers, especially women, from violence and exploitation.

The global tea market is highly commoditised, meaning that prices are set without considering the operational costs of individual tea plantations. As a result, tea prices can fluctuate and are set at increasingly low prices, while production costs such as electricity, fuel, and fertiliser continue to rise. This financial strain, coupled with the increasing cost of living for workers, has led to the closure of many tea plantations worldwide, resulting in job losses for thousands of workers.

By paying higher prices to selected partner tea plantations, we ensure the sustainability of those who are making significant progress in preventing and addressing sexual violence. Implementing systems to prevent and remediate such violence can increase production costs by 10% or more, particularly in countries without a strong welfare system where plantations have a greater responsibility for their workers' well-being. Our financial support guarantees that these tea plantations can continue to provide better jobs and protection for workers in the communities from which we source our tea.

How do you know that Brits drink 100 million cups of tea a day?

You can find this statistic at https://www.tea.co.uk/tea-faqs

Why have you focussed on African tea estates?

Tea is mainly grown in Asia, Africa and South America. As it stands, the four biggest tea-producing countries are China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka. Together they represent 75% of the worlds tea production and Africa is the biggest supplier of British tea.

While we believe that tea platations across the globe are failing to protect their female staff from experiencing sexual violence, the BBC Africa documentary (broadcasted in February 2022), is the first of it's kind to openly document and share statistics about this specific issue. As the documentary exposed the issues experienced on African tea estates (mainly in Kenya and Malawi) we have referenced these locations to make sure the information we are sharing is accurate. As more information directly related to sexual violence on tea estates is uncovered across the globe, we will update our statistics, imagery and information to reflect this. Our illustrations, artwork and photography are therefore true to life, sensibly and thoughtfully curated,plus they help to maintain the anonymity of all of the women affected by this issue.

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