Empowering refugees through tea: The story of Nemi

15 December 2017

The number of people displaced in the world is at a record high, with many refugees finding it hard to get employment and integrate into society. Launched in 2016, Nemi, a tea business with a twist, has chosen to tackle this problem by employing and empowering refugees to run tea stalls across London food markets, festivals, events and conferences.

Pranav Chopra had the idea to start Nemi after seeing an episode of BBC Hardtalk, featuring an Iraqi family who fled to Germany, but later returned to Iraq after failing to find work. 'The more I read, the more I saw that lack of integration and issues around language, education and employment are the key problems holding refugees back from successfully resettling,' says Chopra. 'That’s the problem that Nemi was born to solve.'

He went about trying to solve this integration issue by employing refugees to run tea stalls across London, giving them the opportunity to interact with locals, re-gain confidence, gain experience and improve their English skills.

Founder of Nemi, Pranav Chopra
Founder of Nemi, Pranav Chopra

Along with whole leaf tea blends, loose leaf and biodegradable, Nemi's range includes chai syrup for chai lattes, iced tea and chai cocktails.

'Business should only be used as a force for good', continues Chopra. 'We employ anyone and everyone who is looking to gain local UK work experience, especially those from the refugee communities. We have linked up with Refugee Council UK and Transitions London who refer refugees on to us for any potential job openings we have going. We meet the candidates and tell them what the work entails and they meet the entire Nemi team as well. We want them to feel comfortable before they start on their “Nemi journey"'.

But employment aside, Nemi is fundamentally a commercial business, selling high quality chai teas to restaurants and retailers, including English breakfast, Earl Grey, green tea and peppermint tea as well as specialist Indian tea blends including spicy chai and cardamom chai. 'The refugee story gives us a competitive edge in a market where it’s often difficult to differentiate yourself,' explains Chopra. 'But we tend to tell the “impact story” second  –  if people aren’t interested in good chai in the first place, there’s not much we can do.'

Business should only be used as a force for good

Supporting refugees is something Chopra wants more UK businesses to do. 'More work needs to be done in the UK to reduce the unemployment rate amongst the refugee communities which sits well above the 50% mark whereas the UK-wide unemployment rate is less than 5%!' he reveals.

So what's next for Nemi? Chopra and his team wants to implement a 'social franchise model', training refugees to run and eventually own the tea stalls. They're also hoping to break into the food service industry and employ at least 20 refugees within the business, at higher level roles.

We look forward to seeing what he does next.

£6.99/125g, Nemi, nemiteas.com

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