August 2, 2006 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Quality from the Himalayas. Amid continuing civil violence, Nepal has just made a big push to escape poverty through your local Starbucks. Working with Winrock International, Nepal's tea growers are finalizing a Code of Conduct that would eliminate pesticides banned by the EU and commit tea growers to replenishing the soil, using organic fertilizers whenever and wherever possible, and using fair labor and wage practices -- making Nepal Orthodox Tea more environmentally- and worker-friendly than its better-known rival Darjeeling. In the process, they hope to create a gourmet niche product (pdf; go to p. 8) that appeals to the taste and sensibilities of socially-conscious Westerners through a partnership with Tazo (Starbucks' main tea supplier), as well as to modernize the local industry to create greater international awareness of its products.
posted by occhiblu (17 comments total)
they hope to create a gourmet niche product... through a partnership with Tazo

Someone stop them before they make this hideous mistake!
posted by gurple at 11:43 AM on August 2, 2006

I don't want to sound too skeptical, but Nepal will need to sell a lot more tea to lift the country out of poverty. According to the table at the end of the first link, in 2004/2005 Nepalese tea exports amounted to a little over a $1 million-- a tiny amount even by the scale of Nepal's weak economy.
posted by justkevin at 11:44 AM on August 2, 2006

I think what I find interesting is that they seem to be trying to market the product as an expensive niche product, and so are using slightly upscale production methods that will resonate with rich Westerners, rather than solely increasing production in a rape-and-pillage the land mentality. The "logical" thing would seem to be increase production at any environmental cost -- isn't this what we say about China? That the pollution will decrease once the money is coming in? -- but they're going about it from the top-down, in some ways.
posted by occhiblu at 12:15 PM on August 2, 2006

I like Tazo tea just fine. What's the problem with it? Or am I just not hip enough to realize I shouldn't be drinking it?
posted by Ynoxas at 12:37 PM on August 2, 2006

Dont know much about the tea (not a big tea drinker) even though I drank a ton when I spent three months on a trekking vacation there a while back. I will say this though, they export the best damn Basmati rice in the freakin world, and their coffee (which they dont export far as I know) is pretty incredible too - helluva lot better than the crap Starbucks serves up.
posted by elendil71 at 12:55 PM on August 2, 2006

I think Starbucks owns Tazo. The margins on coffee are insane and they're trying to do the same for tea by appealing to the organic loving fools that patronize starbucks and think that they're actually doing "good." In the end, it might help Nepal a bit, but it will surely fill the Starf*cks coffers.

Tea suggestions in the green. Also.

Nice post, occhiblu.
posted by shoepal at 2:06 PM on August 2, 2006

Tazo isn't just Starbucks' main tea supplier - it's a fully owned subidiary of Starbucks.
posted by O9scar at 2:12 PM on August 2, 2006

Tazo isn't just Starbucks' main tea supplier - it's a fully owned subidiary of Starbucks.

Really? I'm glad I didn't link to them, then. Though I probably would have found that out had I spent more time on their site, but the insane Flash navigation drove me to distraction.

Nepal's farmers and distributors are looking to work with other companies, as well. I didn't mean to leave the impression that the only place one could purchase Nepali tea was at Starbucks.
posted by occhiblu at 2:18 PM on August 2, 2006

I'm sure they'll do what they do best - taking a challenging product and dumbing it down to a level where the largest number of people can enjoy it without thinking, while retaining just a whiff of its sophisticated origins.

I'm sure whatever tea they're developing will bear the same relationship to the real thing as the pints of beige milk they serve do to the cappucinos that Italians drink.
posted by rhymer at 2:25 PM on August 2, 2006

My experiemce in a Starbuck's near Columbia University, circa 2001:
Me: I'd like a tea.
Starbuck's Counter Person: We have Strawberry, Mate Apple, Darjeeling Chocolate, Chai, Moroccan Mint Zinger....
Me: Do you have green tea?
Starbuck's: We have Green Zen Wallabugga, Buddhist Berry Green Sleep tea, Green Mazoretic Bean Tea......

(I run to my Japanese Girlfrined and tell her what they have...)

Me: Do you have black tea?
Starbuck's: We have Earl Grey Apple, Darjeeling Peach, Black Mountain Wonder, Early Morning Zinger...
Me: No, do you have any proper tea. Like Tetley's. Or Lipton. Plain black tea.
Starbuck's: No sir, we don't have anything like that.

I shit you not. This is true.
posted by zaelic at 4:42 PM on August 2, 2006

Amusing story, zaelic. My favorite is that a Chai Latte (which they keep in a pitcher in the fridge and simply heat up with the steamer) costs like $4, but you can buy a bag of Tazo "Chai" flavoured loose black tea with a large cup of hot water for like $1 and then simply add some of the free milk (or soy) and sugar and make your own Chai Latte that actually tastes better.
posted by shoepal at 4:52 PM on August 2, 2006

Karl Marx said it best: Proper tea is theft.
posted by zaelic at 4:54 PM on August 2, 2006

If opinons are needed: Rize tea from the eastern black sea area of Turkey is possibly the best tea to cool you down - sweet, sour, and spicey - especially on a hot day.
posted by zaelic at 5:08 PM on August 2, 2006

If Nepal wants to improve their economy, they should do something about their absurd postal / shipping system. Yes, I realize they're somewhat isolated, but $25 in shipping costs on a few-ounces packet of hollow silver amulets (that themselves cost about $2) is ridiculous.

I was considering having some of my designs knit there -- there are lots of women's collectives who produce handknits to spec -- but after seeing how much the shipping costs, maybe not...

(It would probably be worth it to hire someone to drive the items to India and mail them from there!)
posted by at 5:14 PM on August 2, 2006

"I'm sure they'll do what they do best - taking a challenging product and dumbing it down to a level where the largest number of people can enjoy it without thinking, while retaining just a whiff of its sophisticated origins.

Yeah, it sucks when you invest your identity into a thing, then that thing becomes mainstream and suddenly you're not a special snowflake any more. :-)

Gutenberg was the worst thing to ever happen to books. It's all been downhill since then.
posted by -harlequin- at 5:26 PM on August 2, 2006

I like tea. I never drink it anymore, as I'm never home, and like zaelic's said, you can't actually order normal tea anymore. I live a few blocks from an "urban teahouse" (seriously, that's what they call it, and they're doing very well) that has, I don't know, 200 kinds of tea, and I never know what to do there.
I get chai — they have amazing chai. I might try (one of) their (ridiculous number of varieties of) matcha. But the place that has the best tea seems to be my mom's kitchen.
I really want some tea now.
posted by blacklite at 5:44 PM on August 2, 2006

-harlequin-, bit late in the day, but I'd just like to say that it's always a pleasure to argue the toss with someone who likens Starbucks to the Gutenberg printing press.

In the meantime, using your irrefutable logic, I'll do all my shopping at WalMart, eat out only at McDonald's and buy coffee exclusively from Starbucks. As they are all the biggest sellers in their respective fields they must be the best.
posted by rhymer at 1:11 PM on August 3, 2006

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