Segments in this Video

Working Conditions on Sri Lanka Tea Farms (02:43)


Tea pickers in Sri Lanka discuss the hardships of their jobs. They have no workers' compensation when they become ill, and they suffer continually from leech bites. They work long hours and carry heavy sacks.

Fair Trade International Support (02:42)

Worldwide, consumers are more aware of what they purchase. They are willing to pay more to improve working conditions for the poor. One of the most successful brands is the international Fair Trade organization Max Havelaar.

Malnourished Tea Workers (03:04)

I n Sri Lanka today, over 1 million Tamils live and work on tea estates. Over 50% of women tea pickers are undernourished. Most workers are impoverished, even on Fair Trade farms.

Tea Farms: Problems with Pesticides (05:35)

On traditional tea estates, toxic chemicals are freely used, and workers wear no protection against dangerous poisons. Farm owners are responsible for providing such gear. On fair trade organic tea farms, pesticides are not allowed.

Pesticides: Suicide and Death (02:12)

Pesticides pose high health risks in Sri Lanka. Each year 3000 people commit suicide by drinking pesticides. Without protective gear, workers live miserably and then die.

Kenya: World's Largest Tea Auction (04:15)

Though Kenya boasts the largest tea auction in the world, the country's tea workers are not permanently employed. Their wages are always based on the amount of tea they pick.

Fair Trade Certification: Corrupt Process? (05:47)

Even though Fair Trade regulating bodies claim that tea growers must pass a rigorous certification process, workers tell quite a story of their experiences. Inspections are always announced ahead.

Fair Trade Regulators Blind to Problems (05:04)

Fair Trade regulators do not see what tea growers hide prior to inspections. Many workers are kept out of view. When faced with criticisms, fair trade farm owners deny any wrongdoing.

Tea Workers: Poor Working Conditions (03:33)

Impoverished tea workers in Bangladesh take children to the fields with them. In so doing, the children cannot attend school. Unilever/Lipton is a major buyer of Finlay Tea, a company that denies its workers good working conditions.

Sri Lanka: Tea Factory Tragedy (03:36)

Film crews are not allowed in a Sri Lanka plant that makes Lipton's Ice Tea. With hidden cameras the film crew interviews workers who tell of a tragic accident in the plant.

Corrupt Fair Trade Farm Owners (03:54)

Disputes continue between tea estate owners and workers. Fair Trade premiums are to go to the benefit of worker welfare; instead owners use the money to boost their private investments.

Fair Trade Guarantees: Worthless? (04:20)

The EU's Max Havelaar Foundation guarantees that certified Fair Trade growers and manufacturers give premiums to the workers to manage. Workers deny having received any money from management.

Multinational Corporations Deny Non-Compliance with Fair Trade Ethics (01:30)

A Danish supermarket purchasing agent is disturbed to hear that tea workers have inadequate housing and health care. Unilever/Lipton answers Danish client questions about Fair Trade guarantees. They deny any problems.

Kenya: Fair Trade Farm (04:01)

Workers at the Eastern Produce Kenya (EPK) are reluctant to talk to visitors because they have been forbidden to do so. Workers are forced to up to 12 hours. Worker homes have neither water nor electricity.

Fair Trade Products? Are They Worth It? (03:59)

If Fair Trade does not live up to its name, there is no reason consumers should pay extra for the products. Consumers worldwide buy Fair Trade products because it seems like a positive step. But is it?

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The Bitter Taste of Tea: A Journey into the World of Fair Trade

DVD (Chaptered) Price: $179.95
DVD + 3-Year Streaming Price: $269.93
3-Year Streaming Price: $179.95



This program travels to tea estates in Sri Lanka, Kenya, India, and Bangladesh—some traditional, some fair trade—to expose unsafe work environments and labor exploitation. Finding little meaningful difference between fair trade and non–fair trade operations, questions arise: Are fair trade organizations such as the E.U.’s Max Havelaar Foundation being duped by tea growers? Or are growers doing the best they can in a brutal industry and a market that has yet to demand the quantities of fair trade tea that would create meaningful trickle-down profits for their workers? It is left to the viewer to weigh the arguments and decide. (Portions in other languages with English subtitles, 59 minutes)

Length: 59 minutes

Item#: BVL40351

ISBN: 978-1-60825-540-5

Copyright date: ©2008

Closed Captioned

Reviews & Awards

“Does an outstanding job of investigating safety in processing plants, and pressing hard questions to those who are responsible for this state of affairs. As one of the interviewees plainly states, ‘This is a true picture of tea production in Third World countries.’ ... This film is highly recommended for its composed but relentless inspection of tea production.”  —Educational Media Reviews Online

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Only available in USA and Canada.