When Australian brothers Chris and Lawrence Seaton saw the national crisis engulfing Sri Lanka and wondered how they could help, they thought of one thing: tea.
The pair are the founders of Origin Tea: one of the five biggest Australian exporters of Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka, where the leaves amount to an enormous $1.8 billion industry.
But the island nation is in turmoil. Inflation is at a staggering 40%, petrol sales have been suspended for two weeks, and the lack of access to food and medicine has prompted a humanitarian red alert.
Now, tea — Sri Lanka’s largest export — is at risk as the country teeters on bankruptcy.
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The team at Origin Tea is working to keep hundreds of Sri Lankans in employment (and thousands more indirectly) by using diesel reserves to shuttle them to and from work, and to fuel generators at the Colombo factory.
The Seaton brothers wanted to do more, so they started a GoFundMe page to help Sri Lankans access basic necessities with $1200 raised so far (they’ll match the final amount raised).
But Origin Tea wanted to give customers a chance to get involved too, so this week #sipforSriLanka was launched. For every packet of their cult Sticky Chai sold at Coles and Woolworths in July, Origin Tea has pledged to “share a chai with Sri Lankans”.
“In Sri Lanka, chai time is a great way for families, friends and neighbours to pause and connect. The simple act of sipping tea is embedded in their culture and we want to ensure this small pleasure continues to bring a moment of joy despite the ongoing crisis,” Chris said.
It’s a personal issue for the pair who feel deeply connected to the workers and the ambrosian tea leaves, but was also a no-brainer for the brothers from a business point of view, Chris tells SmartCompany.
“As founders, leaders and entrepreneurs, it’s equally important to remember where you have come from and where you are going, and for us, Sri Lanka is at the heart of everything we do,” he said.
“Without them our business is not possible. Having a business is great, but to be able to do business and have social impact is even better. It drives purpose.”
During this turbulent time of unrest for Sri Lanka, Chris says “transparency is key” for the brothers.
“We will work with our team to ensure we fulfil our pledge of sharing chai with the local community and will make sure every dollar in the GoFundMe page gets into hands that need it,” he continues.
“We will keep our customers updated along the way and look forward to sharing some special moments as part of our #sipforSriLanka campaign.”