Traceability or Traceabilitea, that is the question

Today, I won’t speak to you the reader but to the companies who sell us tea and I will speak about traceability or the capacity to know where one thing comes from, where it went, how it was changed, how it was transported…
And for doing so, is there any better choice than Hamlet by Shakespeare to guide us on this path? Perhaps at the end, will you all tell me that this is Much Ado about Nothing.

It isn’t that I don’t trust you but there are many middlemen in the business and in the supply chain between the place of production and my cup of tea that one could easily be lost out there and some scandals in the last years in different industries (not only in the food ones) have shown us that big or small companies are not protected against bad behaviours.
I know that some people think that a product has to be good “per se” and that rather than having to write on bio/fair trade/sustainable… products that they are this way, only the bad/non bio/… (put here whatever you dislike) ones should have an indication written down that they are “bad” but I think it is not enough and there should be some traceability added to know more about what we drink.
As I said, I do trust you (to be honest, I do it most of the time but not always) but knowing where my cup of tea comes from is rather important to me for several reasons.

First, I want to be sure that I drink what is supposed to be in the pack. When you know that in spite of becoming a Geographical Indication, there is still year after year, more Darjeeling drank in the world as this area produces…
Second, behind each tea there is a man, a land, a “terroir”, something that makes it unique, that gives it its taste, the little something that set it apart from a generic tea from the same area or from any other area. Knowing where the tea you are drinking comes from and who made it seems logical. After all, tea is produced by land, air and people and we all know that like wine, “terroir” (in the more restricted geographical definition of this word) has a great importance for tea.
Third, behind each tea or each blend (even if it is I think more complex for this category and something else could be created for it (with a further differentiation between a blend of teas and a blend of teas with other things in)), there is a story and I am not talking here about the marketing one but rather about the real one. You know this story that really tells us where the idea from this tea comes from and why it was “created” or did someone decided to go in a certain direction and not in another and let’s be honest, it is far easier to do with some indications rather from ground zero.

I already hear the different companies complaining that it is too costly to look up for this information or to print it down.
I will start with the second one, since nowadays, this is no longer an excuse. Most of us have Internet, smartphones allowing us to scan codes and automatically get the info we need/want/think we need… Why not do that? And there are simple ways to do that at a rather low cost (be it in the store, on Internet, on the packages…).
There again, the first complain will be used as an excuse. However, and here I will talk to the “big” companies (big being perhaps a big word in the tea industry) but they should know where the product was bought, where it comes from and how it come to the store. If not, there is a problem.
If “big” companies do it, the information will be available for the smaller ones, for the sellers… and therefore for us, the drinkers.

Nowadays, there is a big word going around in the head of several politicians at different levels: Open Data. Everything has to be “Open Data” but what does it really mean? That those with information open this information and share it with other people, with foreigners, allowing for new products, new ideas to appear.
This is what should happen as today, customers are looking for information, are trying to become more literate, more knowledgeable and this is a way for them to reach this goal and for the companies to guide them on this path, a path that will lead some of the customers to look out for higher quality products with higher prices, giving in the end the tea companies that follow this path a reward for their dedication and creating for them and the customers a win-win situation.

And guess what? William Shakespeare had foreseen this quest for more knowledge:
“And seeing ignorance is the curse of God,
Knowledge the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”


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