Tea is the second most consumed drink in the world, second only to water. Through the ages, mythic powers have been attributed to regular tea consumption. Resiliency must be near the top of that list for New Orleans native George Constance. Hurricane Katrina washed out Constance’s Indonique Tea & Chai business, but undaunted, the socially-minded entrepreneur relocated north to rebuild his business in Connecticut.
Indonique sells over 95 different teas and accoutrements directly to consumers via their website, directly to retail shops, and now to wholesalers which is the fastest growing area of their business. Their specialty Chai was named “best around” in New Orleans’ Gambit Magazine, and Constance is hoping to achieve the same recognition as he restarts in Connecticut. He’s also retained the strong social mission at the core of his business. Indonique donates 10% of every sale to the communities where their tea is picked through their Program T42.
The supply chains for the food and drink we consume are long. Profits tend to be higher at the retail end of the chain, often in developed countries. Unfortunately, producers, such as tea pickers in developing countries, see little benefit from the more profitable retail end of the business they feed. Consider the average daily pay is about $1.28 for a tea plucker in Darjeeling, one of the lowest wage rates in the formal economy, according to the Indian Labor Bureau.
To address this inequity, Indonique makes giving back part of their daily business through their Program T42: 10% of every sale they make is donated directly to fund programs in the communities where their teas are picked. Donations flow through NGOs like Mercy Corps, an international non profit that engages in humanitarian aid and development activities. Indonique’s contributions are based on total sales and come right off the top, not as a percentage of profits.
Indonique World Tea Party
You can further the work of Mercy Corps by hosting an Indonique World Tea Party. Indonique holds these events periodically (the last one was in February) and invites fans to host their own parties with their families and friends. If you purchase and serve Indonique tea, you’ve already supported Mercy Corps through the regular donations made by Indonique. If not, you can encourage everyone to donate at least $1 to Mercy Corps to further the work they do in India. You can connect with other World Tea Party groups on the Facebook group Program T42.
Social Mission Intact and Growing
Constance was born and raised in New Orleans, and escaping floods evidently runs in his family: his father’s Cajun ancestors were forced from Acadiana (South-Central Louisiana) by the great Mississippi River floods of 1926. He’s optimistic about his chances to rebuild, while keeping his social mission intact. Sales look promising, suggesting that quality tea is one of those luxuries that people cannot live without, even during a recession.
While many businesses may look at cutting back on charitable giving during a rebuilding process, Constance has plans to expand Indonique’s social mission. They have just started assisting organizations fighting human trafficking, and looking at ways to donate an additional 5% of each Internet sale to the organizations Born 2 Fly and Not 4 Sale who are working in this area.
If you’re a tea lover like me, now you can support a good cause with every sip. To get connected with Indonique, follow them on Twitter, and join their Facebook group Program T42. You can also read more about Mercy Corps programs at tea estates in India.