Argentina and The Netherlands share more than a queen. They go way back in World Cup football. This will be the fifth time that both countries will battle for the ball. The Dutch have won twice, they have drawn twice, and in 1978 the Argentineans won the final. Can Lionel Messi stop the Naranja Mecánica, the Orange Machine?
The Dutch have always had a strong trade relationship with the South American country. Currently The Netherlands is the third biggest foreign investor and the 6th biggest trade partner of Argentina. Bio-energy, environmental and water technology, agribusiness, and tourism are the biggest sectors.
Mate not tea
But there is another relationship that is often overlooked: tea. Argentina exports almost 50 million kilograms of tea every year. Remarkable for a country whose national drink is mate, also made of dried leaves from a plant. There are hardly any bigger traditions in the country than sipping mate from the traditional bowl the bombilla.
Of course we associate the production of tea with China and other Asian countries but the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) is also grown commercially in many other places around the world. Places where rainfall is heavy and warm days and cool nights alternate, just like the highlands of northeastern Argentina. Tea farming began in the 1950s. In 2008, six different producer groups — representing 90 farms, nearly 200 small farmers and 16,000 acres (7895 hectares) of tea plantations in Argentina’s Misiones province – achieved Rainforest Alliance certification through our partner, Imaflora.
Certification means that farm workers are guaranteed access to safety training, medical care for themselves and their families and school for their children. And the environmental benefits are just as great. In addition to the reforestation of areas along streams and rivers, better management of soils and the implementation of waste reduction and recycling plans, the certifications help to avoid further deforestation of a critically endangered rainforest and improve the farming practices of these small producers.
One of the buyers of the Argentinean tea is multinational corporation Unilever, which was already purchasing the tea and encouraging producers to become certified. One of the tea brands of the corporation bearing the little green frog is Lipton, which has conquered a big part of the Dutch tea market. Together with Simon Lévelt and Republic of Tea it makes up the total number of Rainforest Alliance Certified tea in The Netherlands.
Fancy a cup?
And the Dutch do enjoy a cup of tea. Next to coffee and water, is it the most popular drink in this small West-European country. The average Dutchman drinks 2 cups a day, which comes down to 90 litres a year, and 722 grams of tea. With 88 percent of the population drinking it, the Dutch can make a difference in sustainability, when drinking tea from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. They prefer it black (55%) but green tea (11%) is a good alternative. However, today the Argentinean may well shrug his shoulders and grab his bombilla to take a sip of his mate. Let the match begin!