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Comins Tea With Purpose : Our New Approach to Partnership


We have been travelling the world sourcing tea for over 10 years now - a journey that has seen us experience first hand many of the challenges that sit behind producing a quality, sustainable cup of tea.  Our Tea Houses & online store are spaces for people to explore the wide range of teas we source and serve and the stories behind them.  Here we have the chance to interact with tea drinkers to and share our story and passion for tea face to face.
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Beyond our Tea Houses people  can enjoy our tea at home by buying online but one part of our business we have always wanted to expand is our partnership offering : and by that we mean the way we work with people & places who want to serve and sell Comins Tea.    We have offered tea to a few trusted partners beyond our spaces but have held back on expanding this - intent on ensuring this side of our business would have a clear purpose - one that enables tea drinkers in cafes, hotels, restaurants to access information on where their tea is from and how, with every cup they can positively impact the tea world.  Tea presented in this way offers an experience, something to look forward to, a true moment of connection [& our life in tea has shown just how ready tea drinkers and tea growers are to have a more in depth relationship - one focused on quality & transparency]
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With this aim and after a long period of careful consideration and planning we have chosen to work together with 7 of our most trusted tea partners from India, Nepal, Taiwan, Japan, China & Malawi, all shining lights in their field, to develop a true partnership tea offering : We call it Comins Tea With Purpose.  The range is currently 7 teas, all produced by purpose driven growers looking to educate beyond their tea gardens, that reward consumers with an excellent profile in the cup. Here's a little more about them all.  If you visit a place offering these teas and order or buy a packet of this tea, this is what you are supporting through your purchase
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ALL ABOUT THE 7 TEAS IN THE PARTNERSHIP PROJECT

PUER FOR PRESERVATION OF THE ANCIENT TEA FORESTS
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On the SW border area of Yunnan sits the world heritage Jingmai Mountain, home to a mix of the Dai, Blang, Hani & Wa communities.
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This puer, from Bulang elder Mr Nans community is grown naturally following the rules of his ancestors. He explains  ‘The Puer tea market is in chaos-individual sellers are pushing the price of puer ever higher, people bringing in tea and mixing it with our ancient leaves, piling it and saying it is puer. I cannot manage the market - I only know that our life is shorter than the life of a tea tree so to protect it is a huge responsibility. Our duty is to operate with respect, integrity & honesty’ 
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Supporting this community through your purchase helps preserve the ancient tea forests planted over 1800 years ago by Mr Nans ancestors, secures livelihoods for younger generations and provides motivation to continue to nurture and pass on the skills & knowledge acquired through lives intertwined with the ancient tea trees & forests
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SHINING BRIGHT MALAWIAN WHITE 
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In Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, transparency & diversification lie at the heart of a brighter tea future.
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The 198 independent farmers of the Msuwadzi Small Holder Association, working together with the larger Satemwa organisation, are demonstrating just how this can be achieved through their YAMBA brand. Their approach supports small holders to grow and pluck high quality leaves which are then processed into fully traceable orthodox teas sold at a premium through the Satemwa network. A model in stark contrast to the high volume low value commodity market. 
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Profits from these sales pass back to the association as either income or in the form of agricultural training meaning that your support directly benefits smallholders & the environment, shining light on a modern pioneering model in a part of the world so reliant upon tea.
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THE GREENEST GREEN
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Originally a fruit and vegetable farmer - a bout of ill health led Toshiro to discover the health giving qualities of green tea.  
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This set him on a path to produce the healthiest green tea he could from his 2 hectare plot in Fukuoka prefecture, Kyushu Island, Japan.
He is now on a mission to transform the whole of his home town of Kuroki-cho into an organic-only town - a challenging goal given the declining domestic market for green tea. Right now, Irie san and his team are teaching a small group of young motivated producers how to farm organically. 
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To create sustainable change he needs to prove demand something he can do with your support ‘This type of farming will not spread in Japan unless producers in the countryside want to grow without pesticides. It goes without saying that if there are good sales more farmers will cooperate’
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OOLONG FOR AN ORGANIC FUTURE
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Tea production in Taiwan is highly collaborative with the numerous steps involved contracted out to a number of small businesses. This oolong is the result of a collaboration between two young brothers - the Tsai brothers - with an ambition to gain organic certification for their family tea garden - and a facility and Master Baker Yu Wen [where this oolong is baked] with a visionary plan to move to carbon neutral/negative in the next two years. 
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In this highly networked tea system, their work, supported by your purchase & the guarantee of regular orders and a fair price, has the potential to inspire others to take the same path. In a business that needs to attract and retain more young people the hope is that this pioneering approach will demonstrate first hand how exciting a positive & sustainable future in Taiwanese tea can be.
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EARL GREY FOR ELEPHANTS 
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Diverted from their traditional migration route through the Terai-Dooars belt by a 17 km long fence along the border at the Mechi river - an increasing number of elephants are finding their way onto farmland & Sonia Jabbars tea estate
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The threat of human-elephant conflict is very real but on the1200 acre Nuxalbari tea estate they receive a warm welcome.  This is no ordinary tea estate- in a black tea market beset with high yield low value teas Sonia is focused on quality : honouring the soil, tea bushes, trees and community : a community that includes elephants. Sonia explains ‘The elephants know how to move in between rows of tea. Had it not been so, my estate wouldn't have survived’
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With so little forest cover left in the area this approach is critical to their future. 
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Your support contributes to the education of guards, workers and community, ambitious rewilding projects, the provision of nature clubs for children and pilot crop insurance projects
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UPLIFTING DARJEELING
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The livelihood of around 180 farmers runs through Bhawesh’s tea factory in the village of Chotta Poobong Darjeeling - an initiative that has created dozens of local jobs since its creation by his father in 2015.
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‘Our cooperative & independent tea processing facility offers our employees and farming partners two to three times the average tea garden rate in Darjeeling while also providing people with purpose, livelihoods & hope for the future at a time when many young people are leaving Darjeeling’s farming villages for the city’ To get this far has taken a lot of investment.
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Supporting this project through your purchase will enable it to become profitable and then allocate these profits to important local social causes of womens empowerment, education & entrepreneurship.
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A STRONG & EMPOWERED NEPALI BREAKFAST
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At the foothills of biodiverse Kanchanjangha and the world heritage wetland site Mai Pokhari Bhushan & Twistina lead a pioneering cooperative aiming to be the first in Nepal to create complete transparency in the tea supply chain & set a new standard for Nepal Tea
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 As a trainer on the Nepali Tea Board Bhushan provides the technical, financial and agricultural support needed to ensure the cooperatives prosperity. Regular contact between factory, farmers and tea board allows complete visibility on every batch of tea produced. Premium pricing for quality leaf grown here delivers generous incentives for farmers in pay, training, counselling, childrens education & women empowerment. 
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Your support makes this vision possible as Bhushan explains ‘Sustainability for us will only be possible with Market acceptance. For us to produce quality teas in a holistic way tea drinkers must provide sustained support by accepting and paying for its worth’
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ALL ABOUT THE PACKAGING 

One thing that has become apparent to us over the years in tea is just how little say the dedicated tea farmers we work with have historically had in the way their tea is represented.  So for this project we asked each of our partners to design their own logo.  The pictures on the front are how they wish to be represented : from Toshiros family crest to the toy train of Darjeeling.  The words printed on the back of the packets are theirs.  We hope this approach brings tea drinker & tea grower closer than ever and that the background customers can access on these teas through the posters and card sets we provide partners starts a real conversation about the true origins and value of the tea we drink - something that all of us behind this initiative really believe in. 
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FINDING NEW PARTNERS 

So with great teas, clear purpose and striking packaging we now needed to find new partners.  Sincere thanks to a few people - the first - Phil of Caffeine Magazine who very kindly featured our new partnership programme in this legendary magazine.  The second are Jimmy & Aga of Sweven Coffee [Check it out at 12 North Street, Bristol BS3 1HT] who also feature in this article and were the first to take on some of the teas from the collective.  You can see and read the article below:-
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ARTICLE FROM CAFFEINE MAGAZINE
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It's time for Tea with purpose
Michelle & Rob Comins : Comins Tea
Jimmy Dimitrov : Sweven Coffee 

"Here in the UK we consume millions of cups of tea every day both in and out of home. With such a huge market it is fair to say that, approached in the right way, tea is a product that can positively impact the world.  The reality is that, on the whole, our relationship with tea is very one sided.  We turn to tea for daily nourishment but our obsession with cheap tea has led to a lack of quality & transparency & offered little nourishment for those who grow & process tea or the land it is grown on.  It doesn't have to be this way and our life in tea has shown just how ready tea drinkers and tea growers are to have a more in depth relationship - one focused on quality & transparency.  

At Comins we have spent the last 10 years travelling the world sourcing tea & the last 6 serving those teas to a growing audience at our Tea Houses.  We have offered tea to a few trusted partners beyond our spaces but have held back on expanding this - intent on ensuring this side of our business would have a clear purpose - one that enables tea drinkers in cafes, hotels, restaurants to access information on where their tea is from and how, with every cup they can positively impact the tea world.  Tea presented in this way offers an experience, something to look forward to, a true moment of connection"  
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"With this aim in mind and working together with 7 of our most trusted tea partners from India, Nepal, Taiwan, Japan, China & Malawi, all shining lights in their field, we have developed a true partnership tea offering : 7 teas, all produced by purpose driven growers looking to educate beyond their tea gardens, that reward consumers with an excellent profile in the cup.  Puer for preservation of the ancient tea forests, Earl grey that supports elephant corridors, Nepalese black & Indian Darjeeling that empower & uplift the communities who grow them, Taiwanese Oolong & Japanese Green from organic pioneers & Malawian White from one of the shining lights in the African tea market.  Packaging has been designed by each partner bring tea drinker & tea grower closer than ever & starting a new & the background customers can access on the teas start a real conversation about the true origins and value of the tea we drink.   The first to take on tea from this collective is Jimmy Dimitrov - Head of Education at Clifton Coffee Roasters and now branching out together with his wife at Bristol's Sweven Coffee [Check it out from Dec at 12 North Street, Bristol BS3 1HT]" :-
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"I have been working in the coffee industry for the past 10 years travelling visiting origins and I am fascinated about great coffee! Myself and my wife decided to take on our brand new venture and soon we are opening Sweven Coffee focusing on buying and brewing world’s most extraordinary coffees to the people of Bristol and beyond. Occasionally, along the way we have met tea professionals & it happens that we share very similar values in terms of product sourcing, preparation and tasting. We started looking for a tea partner that can source amazing teas for us so we can share them with our valuable customers & came across Comins.   We loved the people behind the brand and their company values and product and now cannot wait to start our journey together highlighting this project in the best possible way to our customers"
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Interested in joining our collective?  We'd love to hear from you
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Since the amazing support of Sweven Coffee we have been honoured to also partner up with Sof & his fab team at Story Coffee - they have just opened an incredible new store in Wandsworth [Ram Quarter] which Michelle visited a few weeks ago to share tea.  Sof is hugely passionate and knowledgable about tea.  It is a great pleasure to work together with another partner who is as committed to serving & sharing the story of tea with their customers as we are at Comins.
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Closer to home Sean [head of coffee] and the team at Rye Bakery [long term partners at Comins] have also taken on teas from the partnership.  The team here have created a really warm inclusive [& very popular as you can see below!] space - the perfect place to enjoy fine tea expertly prepared by the team.  As they say on the website  'As young parents that worked in food and drink we wanted to open a cafe and bakery that would be a relaxed environment, offering affordable products that we would want to eat and drink.  A cafe can be such a meaningful place for the community and will host a huge range of momentous occasions in peoples lives, creating a third space between home, the shops and work.'.  
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We are also really delighted to announce that the team at the legendary Acorn restaurant in Bath are supporting the project.  We were delighted to welcome their team to the Tea House for their training earlier this month so be assured your cup of tea is in excellent hands! 

SHARING OUR PASSION  

One of the driving forces behind all of this work is a desire to tell the real stories behind the tea we enjoy everyday.  With this in mind we have been delighted to be back on the road supporting our partners through talks and tastings.    These pictures were taken at  Sweven Coffee by Aga [a great photographer!] where Michelle really enjoyed meeting and sharing tea with their customers....
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We also enjoyed a great tasting at  Story Coffee where you can also purchase packets of tea from the range along with a host of other products the team have carefully selected.  We can't wait to spend more time visiting great spaces all over the UK and who knows, beyond.  If you would like us to visit you then please do get in touch!
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LOOKING TO THE FUTURE 

We have a number of amazing new partners coming on board -  for updates on where you will be able to enjoy Comins Tea With Purpose stay tuned to our dedicated Instagram page.  Every partnership matters to us and to our partners - it is important that we work with people who share the same values and are committed to making the best possible cup of tea whilst sharing the story behind it.  We are always open to new partnerships so please do get in touch if you would like to work with us or know someone else who would be a great partner.  
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We will continue to evolve the offering to partners with ideas for a newsletter in the pipeline which will offer updates from each partner to those buying and enjoying the teas in spaces outside of Comins.
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In event news we are also delighted to announce a really exciting upcoming tasting at the AMAZING MOTHER in London on the 25th March 'an evening of drinking + hearing stories about some of the best teas from around the globe, paired with delights from MOTHER's kitchen'  COME & JOIN US - the team at Mother, what they do, what they stand for, what they create are AMAZING!
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Tickets here >> https://bit.ly/39JerkG

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In short much to look forward to - thanks always to everyone for your love of tea and your ongoing & unwavering support.  We hope you have enjoyed this blog!
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WOULD YOU LIKE TO PARTNER WITH US? DO YOU KNOW SOMEWHERE YOU THINK WOULD LOVE TO PARTNER WITH US?  GET IN TOUCH! 



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