China is the cradle of tea and remains the largest tea producer in the world. China comes only after Kenya and Sri Lanka in tea export, ranking third in the world. China also has the largest tea grower population in the world, with about 80 million people working on tea farms. China provides more than one million tons of tea for both foreign and domestic markets each year.
Drinking tea has become part of life for many people. Only secondary to drinking water in the world, tea has become even more popular than coffee. However, most people have no idea of tea production process from processing, blending, packaging, transportation and sale, as well as the major players involved in this process that spans agriculture, industry and retail, let alone the impact of tea consumption and production upon the tea growers and workers' lives.
In this project, our primary focus is on the tea growers. In China, each tea growing household occupies 2 to 3 mu (1 mu=667 sq m) tea farm. Their average income is only half of average income of farmers. Low income has made tea growing lose its attraction. Younger generations prefer seeking employment in cities than staying home growing tea.
Similarly, we should also pay attention to conditions of tea workers. During the past several years, a wave of social audit has been sweeping the clothing and electronics industries in the Yangtze River Delta and Pearl River Delta to improve corporate social responsibility (CSR). Now this trend has also been observed in the tea industry. Our investigation reveals that some tea brand owners have started to require tea processing companies to meet human rights, labor and environmental standards. We have also discovered that there is a wide gap between working conditions of tea workers in China and international social responsibility standards.
Within this context, we launched this research project on Chinese tea supply chain in hope of promoting the sustainable development of tea industry through establishing the communication platform among different stakeholders.