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Coffee From Where Elephants Roam

We are hugely looking forward to some coffee work that we are about to do with a group of Indian Coffee producers and a brand of coffee called Aane Kaapi. We have worked with the Thekaekara family since the late 1990s when we first started on a project called the ‘Just Change Network’.

Their eldest son, Tarsh, has founded a project whereby farmers and elephants can coexist and we have offered to roast and pack this coffee for the UK and donate 50% of the profits from this venture to their cause. We will likely receive 2 tonnes which we will be selling both online and to our many wholesale customers. We can use this 2 tonnes of coffee in about 6 weeks and we are hoping to be able to bring in larger amounts as time progresses. Find out more about the project here.

Aana Kaapi - Elephant coffee

Another step on our journey to carbon neutrality

Northern Tea Merchants has taken another step on our journey to carbon neutrality. We have identified a sustainable energy project with which we will be able to offset 500 tonnes of carbon emissions which covers all of our scope 1, 2 & 3 emissions for the year.

Scope 1 emissions cover:

  • The gas that we use at Northern Tea Merchants to heat our premises and roast your coffee.
  • Plus the fuel that we use in our company vehicles for all our activities.

Scope 2 emissions cover:

  • The electricity we have used throughout the premises, lighting, IT and running our blending machines for example.

 

Scope 3 emissions cover all:

  • Logistics to bring tea, coffee and cocoa into our premises and any haulier’s we use.
  • Our packaging (this is includes recyclable, biodegradable and non-recyclable).
  • Northern Tea Merchants tea, coffee and cocoa supplies – a surprising amount of carbon dioxide is created in the nurture and growth of all of the products we sell.
  • Our staffs daily commute to and from work.
  • Any business travel we have done (for example trips to shows or exhibitions or to origin to visit producers etc).
  • The waste that we generate and all of the water we use.

 

At the time of writing we have made the investment and will have paperwork and full details of the project to be able to share with you next month. This is in addition to our current offset scheme where for every web order that is placed we plant a Mangrove tree in Madagascar.

 

Update: In June 2022 we received our Qualifying Explanatory Statement for our Carbon Emissions Offset and are delighted that we have now officially offset all of our Scope 1, 2 and 3 Carbon emissions for the period January to December 2021. Please see the full document and certification here.

May Savings on Tea and Coffee

The nights are drawing out and we’re seeing some sunshine, giving us chance to get outdoors and reward our exertions with a satisfying cuppa! Our relief at the arrival of warmer weather however is somewhat overshadowed by the increase in the cost of living. I’m sure many of us have felt the ‘pinch’ as prices of gas, electricity, fuel, as well as many of our household staple items rise in price. Therefore, I would like to take this opportunity to offer all website customers 10% off every order placed online until the end May using the code May22. This code can be used in conjunction with any other codes you may have.

I was delighted to see the following post from our friends and colleagues at the UK Tea and Infusions Association. Although I have worked in the tea-trade for 35 years now, I was still surprised to learn that the boiling of the kettle equates to approximately 50% of the cost of a cup of tea consumed at home. Smart boil is something we take very seriously here at Northern Tea Merchants and all hot-water boilers have a Eco mode which reduces their energy consumption by 25%. This ties in very well with our Environmental Impact Policy which can be found here, along with other policies that govern the way we operate.

I would like to thank all our customers for their continued support – we value every order placed with us.

Carbon Calculations

During the last month quite a few of the projects that we started during lockdown have come to fruition.

We have further improved our stockrooms for packed goods, passed our pre-audit for a new hygiene standard we are bringing in, taken delivery of a new van and become a registered exporter of coffee to China. But, by far the most interesting, is the finalising of the data for our carbon footprint calculations.

The report shows the amounts of CO2 produced throughout our ENTIRE supply chain from the cultivation of the bushes that bear our tea leaves and coffee beans, through to delivery of our finished, packed products by our vans or haulier, literally to the doorstep or warehouse of our customers. You could imagine preparing all this data was an enormous task and I would like to thank in particular two members of the team, Kate and Louise, who approached this data collation with intelligence, good mathematics and tireless dedication.

We have now received the finished report from C-free and are now looking at the various options open to us to offset the CO2 our activities have generated. Our investments will most likely be made in the following sectors:

  • Sustainable farming practices
  • Renewable and sustainable energy generation
  • Looking at our purchasing model and including low-carbon or carbon neutral / negative tea and coffee estates (Daterra coffee estate is proud of its carbon negativity)
  • Reforestation schemes

We are in the process of seeking advice on what schemes are available in these various areas and will share our decisions once we have had all the data provided that we need.

We are very pleased to see many of our customers back fully-re-open and busy again. Our sales and the amounts of enquires we are receiving are increasing which, after the ‘wilderness years’ of lockdown and the pandemic, are very encouraging.

Happy New Year and here’s to a good 2022

I’d like to wish all of you a very happy and prosperous 2022. I’m a great believer in looking forwards rather than looking back and I am very enthusiastic about some of the projects we have in the pipeline for the coming year. The first (and largest) project we have is our continuing journey towards carbon neutrality, sustainability and recyclable packaging, which is moving apace.

We’ve undertaken an audit of every single one of our expenses to see what effects this expense has on our CO2 emissions. These data will be collated by c-free and an amount will be calculated that we invest in environmental projects in the UK and in our producer nations. We are aiming to have this financial aspect completed by the end of March.

Working with our new recyclable materials has required some additional investment and in early November I purchased two high capacity belt sealers that were designed to work with the new materials we are having to handle and to produce a strong seal to protect the valuable contents.

All our retail and wholesale bean and ground coffee bags in 250g, 500g and 1kg sizes are now made of LLDPE and are full recyclable, including the valve please put the empty packs into your recycling bin.

Looking forward to 2022 making it better than the last couple of years!! Thank you as always for your continued support.

Beginning our carbon neutral journey one click at a time

At Northern Tea Merchants we are passionate about having good relations with suppliers and understanding the country specific environments that all our products are grown in. This is integral to enable us to offer good quality and equitable teas, coffees and cocoa.

It is through this travel that Northern Tea Merchants’ Director James Pogson has seen first-hand the devastating effect of deforestation. This has prompted him to begin Northern Tea Merchants’ journey to becoming carbon neutral.

As part of the journey, we activated a plug-in on this website on Friday 11 June that plants a tree for every order placed. In only a week, website orders meant that we were able to plant 144 trees and help offset our carbon footprint. Thank you!

Here, James explains what the long-term journey to become carbon neutral looks like for Northern Tea Merchants, our suppliers and our customers…

“Over the last 10 years in particular, I have experienced on my travels and seen first-hand the effects of climate change and also, sadly some of the causes of climate change. Whilst in places such as Peru, Kenya and Colombia I have witnessed deforestation projects literally at the edge of some of my suppliers’ land. I have seen vast areas of trees demolished and witnessed empty lakes, which are a very, very grave sight to see.

I have also (completely coincidentally) spoken to various politicians, particularly in Peru, who have expressed their frustrations at trying to balance population growth, housing shortage and commerce, with the environmental aspirations of their countries.

 We are all, as a species, changing the face of the planet on which we live. Therefore, to coincide with our efforts to rationalise and make our packaging environmentally friendly, I am pleased to say that Northern Tea Merchants is now taking its first steps as a business to become carbon neutral.

 There are many businesses that offer assistance towards carbon-neutrality and, after a couple of months of research, we came across a company called C Free.  C Free allows you to truly understand your carbon footprint, learn how to reduce it, and offset the rest!

We have now entered into an agreement with C Free.

The first part of our agreement involves Northern Tea Merchants donating 20p from each web order received to plant trees in Madagascar, Nepal, Kenya and Indonesia. Further details about each site can be found here.

The next stage is data gathering. We are about to start gathering data on Northern Tea Merchants’ energy usage, our delivery vehicles, the logistics of bringing our raw materials into stock, the carbon footprint of the production of these raw materials, business travel, all our internal spending (for instance IT, cleaning products, office stationery and packaging). These calculations will be carried out in conjunction with C Free.

The final step will be to offset our employees’ individual carbon emissions, including their commute to work.

There is much to consider but once we have assessed the amount of CO2 created by all our actions, then we will calculate the cost of planting enough trees and investing in enough of the right types of projects to offset the total amount of CO2 we produce as a business.

In the short term we have activated a plug-in on the website that plants a tree for every order placed. So, please be reassured that every order you now place with us will result in a tree being planted to offset carbon emissions.”

If you are interested in calculating your own carbon emissions, please use the carbon calculator from C Free here.

If you’d like to know more about our journey to using sustainable packaging, you can read about that here

Recyclable vs. biodegradable packaging

Unfortunately change doesn’t happen overnight, particularly when it comes to sustainability and going ‘green’ in business…but it’s a journey which is well under way.

In the tea and coffee industry, achieving true sustainability with packaging is a lot more than saying we have introduced plastic free tea bags. If only it were that simple (which it isn’t!) In fact it is something that has taken up a great deal of my time and thought, particularly over the last 12 months.

As part of my research, I have been drawing on expertise and advice from Chesterfield Borough Council and Derbyshire County Council, our various packaging manufacturers and Nottingham University (all of whom I wish to extend my thanks).

After extensive research, I have identified our first goal of becoming more sustainable starts with the packaging we use at Northern Tea Merchants; any potential replacements if necessary and to keep updated on the science that I need to make informed business decisions.

The first of these decisions was recyclable vs. biodegradable.

As a ‘rule of thumb’, oil-based plastics are not biodegradable, bioplastics are. A bioplastic is made using vegetable-based polymers, but these can cause issues with the longevity of the barrier it provides to its contents. To give you an example, the acidity of the Bergamot oil used to flavour Northern Tea Merchant’s Earl Grey Tea will slightly degrade bioplastic. This results in the packaging splitting or becoming weak. Not something that we want at all!

Also, Bioplastics do not perform as well when they are being printed/coloured and for the first time ever the food industry is having to deal with packaging that only has a slightly longer shelf-life than the food it is designed to contain.

Bioplastics also require specialist industrial composting as the temperatures achieved in a domestic compost heap are simply not high enough to start the biodegradation process. This means you must dispose of them using a supermarket waste recycling scheme (not your green bin at home).

During my research I was horrified to find out that if one were to put a compostable bioplastic bag into a domestic plastic recycling bin, this would severely contaminate the whole recyclable plastic waste stream for that bin. Another fact people are often surprised to learn is that any type of black ‘technically recyclable’ plastic cannot actually be recycled.

Despite this issue with plastic, we are making considerable progress on our journey to being a business with 100% sustainable packaging.

We have already made the switch on our tea bag paper and sealing tape and sourced alternatives for coffee bean and ground coffee packaging (that contains a gas equalising valve which must also be recyclable) so we can switch quickly to more sustainable packaging once existing stocks are used up.

We are also in the process of making other changes as you can see from the table below which shows where we are today with our packaging, broken down by product type:

Recycling information for Northern Tea Merchants products (March 2020)

We will update the table as we change our remaining laminate packaging (namely our coffee pouches and leaf tea packaging). We have quite large stocks of leaf tea packaging that will likely last us some considerable time, but we have already decided what we will replace these with. One thing we will not do is to send them to landfill!

It seems that, on occasion, sustainability aspirations are further ahead than the actual science and physical logistics of recycling.  Finding a way forwards for a small business with a finite budget does not put us in a position to be innovators. To counter this, Northern Tea Merchants has embraced the Waste and Resources Action Programme (WRAP) guidelines as have many large organisations. WRAP is the national agreement from the recycling industry on what can and cannot be collected for recycling from householders and how those materials should be presented for collection.

To see how these guidelines are put into practice with suppliers, I have attached Tesco’s guidance to their suppliers in how to deal best with their packaging choices based on existing recycling infrastructure.

Find the TESCO Guidance here.

With all this to take on board, I believe the country’s journey towards 100% sustainability will take longer than many people, possibly including government, think.

Our first step is to recycle as much of our waste packaging as we can, until the science of packaging manufacture AND packaging disposal by biodegradation catches up. Waste sorting technology is also crucial to progress. There is plenty still to be done but we can all play our part.

Click and Collect Now Available at Northern Tea Merchants

Northern Tea Merchants is delighted to share the launch of a new click and collect service available on www.northern-tea.com.

This new service aims to not only enable you safer access to your essential tea and coffee during the pandemic but will also help you save time when collecting any future orders.

You can choose from all of the products listed on our website. Once a Click and Collect order is placed, goods will be ready to collect as early as the next day.

“We are confident that this investment in our website will allow an even more convenient and efficient way to shop with us,” James Pogson, Director said.

“The new Click and Collect service will limit the time customers spend in the shop as their order will be ready to collect upon arrival. We know this will give peace of mind to many of our customers during the pandemic.

“We pride ourselves on putting our customer care at the heart of what we do, so we are delighted to offer this service FREE of charge and with no minimum spend.”

Click and Collect orders can be place via our website, simply visit the website at www.northern-tea.com and at check-out, select the option to Click and Collect (full terms and conditions can be found here).

This new service is in addition to the local delivery option already in operation which serves customers living in Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire. To use our FREE delivery service simply telephone to place your order.

Click and Collect at Northern Tea Merchants

Sustainability and traceability at Northern Tea Merchants

Coffee is the 2nd most valuable export from developing countries and records describing its consumption date back as far as the 15th century. Today it is a truly international product that is produced in massive volumes by literally millions of smallholders. Many of these smallholders produce less than 500 kilos of what is called ‘parchment’ (‘farm gate coffee’). This parchment needs to be cleaned, graded, and sorted before it is ready to be packed in its familiar sack and this grading and cleaning can reduce the original weight of 500 kilos by as much as a third. Therefore individual producers of coffee tend to work together in the form of a co-operative, where resources are shared and the collective group has a much louder ‘voice’ than any one individual. Certain areas within a coffee growing country will produce slightly different profile or flavour of coffee bean and there are likely to be several different sub-varietals of coffea arabica within these crops. Unless a grower specifically requests for their coffee to be milled separately the general practice for large amounts of ‘generic’ coffee is to mix everything together, giving consistency and homogeneity and also vast quantities.

Many of our customers, particularly those who are reselling coffee that we have sourced are requesting traceability on these types of coffees where the specific producers can be identified. With many generic coffees, this is almost impossible and on occasion it is even difficult to identify the individual cooperatives who have contributed. Amongst the paperwork that is usual issued is simply a proof of origin document which states all the coffee within a particularly batch has come from the country that grew it. We have been purchasing green coffee beans and roasting coffee since 1968 and so we have had 52 years experience and some excellent long standing relationships with many individuals, cooperatives and exporters. As a result our ‘little black book’ is extensive and so when we were set the ‘mission’ of finding traceable generic coffees, we took on the task with gusto.

My first port of call was our favourite importer (DR Wakefield) who were able to give the detail of who was the ‘right size’ and I received contacts, some of whom we were already in contact with whose origins included, Brazil, Ethiopia, Africa, Colombia and Sumatra – all of which produce vast amounts of generic coffee. Depending on which coffees my retail customers choose we will be offering some new coffees which we can trace directly to their specific producers and whilst these coffees will not be single-estate, we will know which small farms specifically contribute to the batches of coffee we purchase. We already have some fine examples of single estate coffees for example Daterra, Jamaican Blue Mountain, Costa Rica Las Palomas and Papua New Guinea Sigri, and these new traceable coffees will sit very well with and complement our existing high quality single estate offering.

Keep an eye out for these new offerings in the coming months.

Combatting plastic use in our shop

Under our Covid-19 risk-assessment we deemed that it was inappropriate for customers to bring in their own containers for refilling with tea and coffee. Although our risk-assessment dictated such, it was not an outcome that any of us were ’happy’ with so as a workaround, we’ve purchased some brown paper bags to use instead.

We are happy to fill the new paper bags with your chosen leaf tea or coffee grounds / beans so that once home you can transfer the contents to a suitable container and minimise the use of plastic. We hope this is a suitable compromise for those customers who were saddened by our decision.

Help us to say ‘Thank You’ and ‘Cheers’ on International Tea Day

We are proud to be celebrating International Tea Day this year, as declared by the United Nations on Thursday 21st May.

This year’s theme is to say “thank you!” to all of the producers, growers and blenders…everyone that works hard to bring us our tea.

We thought it would be a great idea to get you all involved and that’s where we need your help! We want to create a video compilation of all of our wonderful customers, clients and fellow tea drinkers giving their thanks.

All we need you to do is record a short video (literally seconds) or take a photograph of you raising your cup or mug of tea in thanks.

We will compile them all and this will be utilised on our social media channels and also submitted to the UK Tea and Infusions Association to say thanks and spread a little joy in these testing times.

You have until the Saturday 9th May to submit – simply email your video or image across to us here and thank you!

FREE DELIVERY for all NHS staff and Key Workers

Special offer for our amazing NHS staff and all other key workers during these unprecedented times.

Free delivery is available until 30th April 2020*, to all NHS and key worker staff within the delivery area covered by our van drivers who would usually have been delivering to 100s of cafes, restaurants and hotels etc.

The areas covered includes the Chesterfield Borough, Derbyshire and South Yorkshire. Our drivers can leave your delivery, as instructed, in a safe place so that you can avoid contact with the driver to ensure social distancing.

To take advantage of this service you MUST call the shop on 01246 232 600 (Monday-Friday in office hours) to place your order and make payment over the telephone.

Obviously, our drivers can only deliver so far, however, if you live further afield we can still offer free delivery subject to a minimum order of £20. These orders will be delivered by usual courier service. Simply utilise the code: KEYWORKER20 via our website www.northern-tea.com.

* Terms & Conditions

  • Subject to availability
  • Details of key worker status will be required over the phone
  • Orders must be placed over the phone on 01246 232 600 and no orders placed online will qualify for this free local delivery service
  • 30th April end date may be extended