It is a simple act that happens 34,000 times every second all over the world. You put a teabag containing dried leaves into a cup and add hot water. A few minutes later, the tea, full of healthy ingredients, is ready to drink, although in some cases, it also comes with potential health risks.
After water, teas (including regular and herbal teas) are the world’s most consumed beverages. They are found in all cultures and in practically every household.
But the journey from the fresh leaves grown on the plantation to the dried filaments that will end up in a cup is fraught with risks. Perhaps the most worrying of all is contamination, particularly from bacteria such as salmonella or E-coli.
And it’s something farmers in Manchester, some 100 kilometers west of Jamaica’s capital, Kingston, know all about.
Most of Manchester’s 190,000 inhabitants depend on bauxite mining for their livelihood. But to the south, which is too mountainous for traditional sugar plantations, mint crops are more appropriate. In fact today, there are over 300 mint producers in the area.
“The mint was sometimes contaminated with E. coli and salmonella. When that happened, it was dumped and the farmers weren’t paid. It is difficult to produce only to lose [money],” says Doris Lewis, President of South Manchester Herbs and Spices Cooperative.
Conditions in this mountainous region are perfect for growing high quality crops as the intense aroma of the lemon grass, mint, ginger and cinnamon drying in the sun proves. Most of the crops planted here are exported to several different countries.
“Overseas sales have increased 150% over the past four months,” says Norman Wright, Director of Perishables Jamaica Limited, who buys the dried leaves and exports them to supermarkets in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and other Caribbean countries.
“This trend is expected to continue so we will always need the excellent products of South Manchester’s farmers,” says Wright.