Sustainable tea farming around the world

Thanks to a partnership between Unilever and Rainforest Alliance, Pure Leaf® tea suppliers worldwide are just as focused on lessening the impact they have on the environment as they are on growing top-quality teas.

CNE Sustainable Tea Farming

Every time you pick up a bottle, box or bag of Pure Leaf® tea, it is the result of thousands of people working hard across the globe to create this delicious drink. Plus, Pure Leaf® teas are sourced from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ estates working in true partnership with farmers to grow some of the best tea on the planet. The certification ensures that production methods are protecting their farms’ soil and water sources while using other eco practices like hydro-electric power and planting native trees.

Pure Leaf™ teas come from multiple countries and make up many different varieties and flavors. Farmers in each region adapt to their specific landscapes, employing their own unique tactics for protecting the tea they are growing while also protecting the planet in return.

Argentine Terraced Teas

No matter which farmer in Argentina you ask, they’ll likely tell you they have the most beautiful land. But Pure Leaf® suppliers across the country are also keen to discuss how they preserve the environment.

Take Juan Walter Hintz, who runs a family tea farm in the far northeast province of Misiones Argentina.

Just four people work on about 27 acres of Juan’s plantation, which his parents started in the ‘50s. Thanks to their careful pruning care, many of the plants have been there since the start.

This preservation takes hard work. Juan takes his job quite personally, ensuring he’s putting in the work it takes to care for the land that provides his livelihood.

Juan takes other sustainable measures, too, like fertilizing with “tea dust” -- an organic waste produced in tea factories.

Another tea supplier in Argentina, Darío Shauer, speaks of his rich, red soil. He proudly says “Lo que se planta crece,” or “What is planted, grows.”

To protect this precious soil, Darío lines his carefully landscaped earth with native plants to deter erosion, and fertilizes fields with the plants’ own materials produced in pruning.

Towering Kenyan Forests

Kenyan farms represent another major source of Pure Leaf ® tea, and a whole different landscape altogether.

The Unilever Tea Plantation in Kenya is more than 6,000 feet above sea level and receives daily rains—ideal for tea growing.

The estates are more than 20,380 acres and covered by more than 2,000 acres of forests. This provides unique benefits, but also means there’s much more on the plantation to care for than the tea plants.

Thousands of trees support a wide array of life, from numerous birds down to the insects they consume, all to the benefit of the tea plants.

Some portions are considered biodiversity “islands,” meaning certain flora and fauna live only in this area; yet another reason the 12,500 permanent workers at Unilever Tea Kenya consciously preserve these forests.

In fact, these tea farmers have even added more than 1 million trees to the area since the year 2000 with the help of programs like Trees Forever. Strategically using the trees as buffers between bodies of water and crops help create important water catchment areas.

The farm’s sustainability efforts are in line with the Unilever Sustainable Agriculture Code (PDF | 2MB). This means they follow a set of practices to protect the environment, but also the social and economic well-being of workers. This long-standing dedication to a goal of sustainable agriculture is why the Unilever Tea Plantation in Kenya was actually the first Rainforest Alliance Certified tea growing company in the world in 2007.

Sri Lanka

Pure Leaf® tea also comes from the island nation of Sri Lanka in the Indian Ocean. There are multiple supplying farms there, all united in their care for the environment.

The Halgolle Tea Garden is 3,477 feet above sea level. Its highest peak was occupied by the British in World War II because of its panoramic view, but is now covered again with rich tea bushes and surrounding forest thanks to high annual rainfall.

To deal with this rain, the 1,200-plus workers there care for the fertile soil by using “lock and spill” draining to catch and manage water levels. They also practice shade planting (beneath larger trees), since this protection is important to prevent rains from washing the soil around their plants down the high hill.

When the Rainforest Alliance first started working in Sri Lanka in 1992, the Halgolle Tea Garden had no problems becoming certified, needing only to brush up on documenting the sustainable practices they were already employing.

No matter where Pure Leaf™ teas are coming from, these goals of sustainable practices in our supply chain mean the tea isn’t just delicious, but made with the utmost care and with future generations in mind.

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