As you know we have been working for over a year now to remove ingredients from our teas that are the product of animals. This means no longer using marshmallows that contain gelatin or sprinkles that contain milk. We have also made sure we have options available for our in-store drinks that contain honey and used bases for our solid tea perfumes & lip butters that are not derived from animals.
We very much consider ourselves an ethical company that is striving to do business in a better way, stand up for what we believe in and be a role model for change in the world around us. This can often lead people to assume that we are various things by default that we associate with good ethics. Things like organic, Fairtrade and vegan-friendly. In fact, you may be surprised to hear, we are in fact none of those things and we would like to explain why.
Firstly, whilst we respect all, and share many, of the views of our vegan and vegetarian customers we do not consider ourselves to be a ‘vegan company’. We are aware that we hold views around honey and bee pollen that our vegan customers would not consider to be truly vegan which we respect completely. But we wanted to make it clear that we are not saying we are vegan and trying to get by with a loophole or technicality. We consider ourselves ‘vegan-friendly’ and are committed to making as much of our range as possible accessible to them (and everyone else for that matter too!).
There are three main reasons that we have chosen to remove milk and gelatine from our tea blends:
Many of our customers are vegan or vegetarian and one of our founding ethics is to be ‘accessible to all’ so we are striving to achieve that in all that we do.
Secondly, many of the sources for animal products are not ethical and do not treat animals with the respect or kindness that we believe they deserve.
Lastly but just as importantly to us, many of these same animal industries are also really really bad for the environment - another part of our founding ethics.
These are the same reason that we are plant milk only in our Brighton store (compounded by the fact that when we did have dairy milk as an option it didn’t sell as quickly and therefore we had wastage more often) and why we always have plant friendly options for all of our DIY recipes & offer all of our drinks with three types of plant milk in all of our stores.
But! We still use & sell honey in our stores, harvested from local beehives where we have met the farmer and can be sure of the ethics. We consider bees to be an absolutely fundamental part of our eco-systems and have a great desire to encourage all ethical activity surrounding bees and hives. Honey is also a wonderful product, much better for you than sugars (it is the only sweetener we offer in store) and we are very passionate about it as a product.
This does not mean that we do not care about bees, or that we do not consider them important enough to be classed as an animal. We completely respect all of our customer’s views, including those who choose not to consume honey or to live a vegan lifestyle but we have to stick by what we believe in.
Lastly, we have recently chosen to use bee pollen in a few of our teas. This is another ingredient that we are incredibly passionate about (its benefits are incredible) and we have really really loved researching and finding out more about what the vegan community thinks about it. As many things, it is not black and white for all.
Many of our customers tell us that they do consume honey and bee products so don’t have an issue with bee pollen either. Some of our customers understand that bees can be kept for two reasons: to harvest honey or wax, for human gain or in order to protect, develop and enhance habitats and local flora and fauna, something which only bees can do and is essential in the regeneration of some of our most endangered conservations areas. If pollen was collected around these hives, some of our vegan customers are happy with that. Some say that as the pollen is from flowers and the bees just carry it, they do not need it for food or anything else, it is a by product, then by consuming it they are actually able to benefit from all of the goodness that their diet may be lacking due to giving up animal products.
And some say absolutely not, there is no grey area and it is against what I believe in.
All of these views, and the many more viewpoints that we all hold are fine by us. We respect everyone's opinions and love hearing yours so we can learn more about these complex issues.
If you would like to learn more about why we choose not to wear the Fairtrade label please read our blog here.