Here Today And Tomorrow
Nina and Bharat Chudasama, founders of Hope & Glory Tea, believe you have to walk the talk when it comes to tea and sustainability. The future depends on it.
Anyone devoted to the success of a family business will often lie awake at night thinking about how to pass on the baton to the next generation. But when company fortunes are entwined with a natural product like tea, the issue of responsibility takes on a much wider meaning.
‘With Hope & Glory, we of course wanted to create a business that would provide our family with a steady income, although to us that could never be the end all and be all,’ says Hope & Glory CEO, Nina.
‘We wanted our company to operate in a way that reflected the values we held as individuals and as parents responsible for the future of three young children. It’s about the importance of family and integrity. But it’s also about having genuine respect for people and the environment we live in. The nature of our business is such that we’re bound to those who grow, pick, sell and distribute our tea. It’s the only way we’ll succeed in the long-term.’
Nina and Bharat are aware of the accusations of ‘virtue signalling’ levelled at companies that appear to jump on the sustainability bandwagon only for the sake of profit. In their case, nothing could be further from the truth (at home, they’ve always recycled up to 90% of their food waste). Even as a fledgling start-up buoyed by limited personal savings, the decision to put sustainability at the heart of their business model came naturally.
Three years later, Hope & Glory (which apart from Nina and Bharat now includes a growing team of professionals, all fellow devoteas) continues to source its high-grade, premium, organic, whole leaf teas only from tea estates and gardens that are part of the Ethical Tea Partnership (ETP), or recognised as ethically sourced via accreditations such as FairTrade. Many of these tea growers and producers are small holdings, with organisations like the FairTrade Foundation and ETP providing the much-needed support to raise standards, manage the environment, and access vital training and finance. Membership of these groups also means Bharat and Nina have the peace of mind that workers on those estates receive a decent wage and are treated fairly. Indeed, Hope & Glory is proud of its own FairTrade credentials.
Bharat, who apart from running the day to day operations, is also Hope & Glory’s Tea Master, says, ‘We will continue to support FairTrade because there is evidence and testimony to show that it’s not just a kite mark. We have seen with our own eyes the good work FairTrade can do and the difference they makes to local communities, helping to sustain livelihoods. Being a small company ourselves, we understand the importance of being socially responsible and acting in an ethical way’.
Besides FairTrade, Organic accreditations and membership of the ETP, Hope & Glory has sought other certifications, such as the Rainforest Alliance. The company continues to be on the lookout for other global Organic accreditations.
Sustainability is also critical to maintaining the quality of Hope & Glory’s teas, which today include varieties sourced from India, Sri Lanka and China. Bharat and Nina have recently added an extremely rare, Organic Jasmine Pearls to their stable of hand-picked, single-estate, single origin teas.
Bharat says, ‘It’s safe to say that going back in history, the teas first grown in China and much later cultivated in India were organic. Most tea lovers appreciate that the quality of tea depends first and foremost on the terroir – the quality of the soil, the climate, and the environment in which the tea plant is allowed to flourish. So, to be able to supply Hope & Glory Tea customers with the best possible organic tea money can buy means the conditions in which our teas are grown must be optimal as well.’
The company is currently developing a Well Tree programme with tea gardens to be launched later in 2019, which will see growers able to replant tea bushes.
But there is another dimension to sustainability that Bharat and Nina adhere to. ‘Sustainability to us also means helping to preserve the traditions in which tea was first produced and consumed, insofar as they add value to the tea experience’ says Nina.
‘All of our tea is handpicked, which means that our tea is not harvested in a mechanised or industrialised way, which sadly is true of a lot of the tea dustings you find in ordinary teabags found on supermarket shelves. The same goes for how our tea is processed, using artisanal, orthodox methods that go back centuries. Every step of the process, from pruning to plucking to withering and so forth is carefully attended by a person, using his or her own hands.’
‘And when it comes to drinking tea, we want to help people appreciate the steps and even the tea equipment you need to create the kind of civilised experience enjoyed during the glory days of tea drinking in Britain.’
As can be expected, sustainability and caring for the environment are also embedded in Hope & Glory’s supply chain. The company’s partner in Sri Lanka is the only facility of its kind in the country known to have a zero carbon footprint. Nina and Bharat insist on using sea freight whenever possible, to minimise Hope & Glory’s carbon footprint. In the future, they hope to move to an all-electric fleet service, ensure that all their deliveries and collections are efficiently organised to minimise fuel emissions and minimise traffic and congestion.
Nina and Bharat continue to research innovative ways to improve sustainability and enhance the environment, making it cleaner, safer and healthier for the next generation. Apart from the teas themselves, perhaps nothing comes closer to physical demonstrating Hope & Glory Tea’s commitment than its recently launched, brand new 100% sustainable packaging. ‘We are exploring new innovations almost weekly to see what else we can do to innovate,’ says Bharat.
Today, all Hope & Glory Teas are packed in elegant, recyclable envelopes, a tea industry first, with extra-long recyclable tags, all tucked into recyclable cartons and metal caddies swathed in recyclable paper sleeves. The company has even begun to explore working with PLASgran Ltd, one of Europe’s largest recycling businesses, to provide a closed loop solution for its clients and partners involving, among other things, the collection, separation and cleaning of tea materials.
Bharat says, ‘We’ve invested (a lot) in Hope & Glory Tea because we do believe it is the very best tea in the world and the time is now to revolutionise this 3000-year-old beverage and bring it into the modern era through quality, experiences and creating a meaningful brand and collection that all tea-drinkers can be proud to drink and support. The more successful we are, the greater our responsibility to the future. So now we’re also engaging in the debate, looking at issues such as GM and food education in schools. In the end, we know that it’s as much the small steps as the huge strides that will make a difference.’
Interview and article by Gina McAdam.