By Eddie Long, Genesis Hub
As summer approaches, we often look to the tea leaves to bring us cool refreshments. In the south we’re known for our sweet tea, which consists of 3 parts sugar and 2 parts black tea! But tea comes in almost as many variations as you can imagine, from black to green, from flowers to roots, and it’s great hot or iced. As we usually explore in these articles, tea isn’t sweet for everyone. That’s why it’s important to know where your tea comes from, and how people and planet are treated in the process.
First, let’s talk about bagged tea versus loose leaf tea. While convenience may make bagged tea seem like the go-to option, loose leaf tea is a more sustainable and high-quality option. When tea is collected and processed, they usually collect the high quality leaves for loose sales, and bagged tea often uses lower quality crushed up leaves and sometimes sticks or stems, not to mention the individual wrapping of each bag, plus the often bleached paper bags that end up in the landfill. Who wants that in their cup? Whereas loose leaf tea can be brewed multiple times and produces less waste, maybe even none if you go with a compostable packaged option!
Big corporations that dominate the conventional tea industry often prioritize profit over people, resulting in workers being paid very low wages and working in unsafe conditions. These workers are often from marginalized communities and are not given basic human rights. One of the most well known multinational tea companies, Lipton, has been accused of labor violations in India and Kenya, and workers at tea plantations owned by Unilever, the parent company of Lipton, have reported being paid as little as $2 per DAY.
By buying fair trade tea, you are supporting farmers and workers who are paid fairly for their labor and have safe working conditions, something people in developing countries often don’t have access to at all. This helps to break the cycle of poverty in tea-growing regions and ensures that workers are not exploited. According to Fairtrade International, the fair trade system benefits over 1.66 million farmers and workers in 73 countries. Another important aspect of fair trade and organic tea is that it often comes from small-scale farms rather than large corporations. This allows for the preservation of traditional farming practices that are better for the Earth, ecosystems, and supports local economies as well.
Buying organic tea also makes a big difference. Conventional tea production often involves the use of harmful pesticides and chemical fertilizers that can have devastating effects on local ecosystems and wildlife. Organic farming practices promote biodiversity and reduce the use of harmful pesticides and chemicals, reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions by up to 50%, according to the Organic Trade Association.
This means that organic tea is not only better for you but also for the environment. If you’re steeping whole leaf tea, and steeping it multiple times, it will be better for your pocketbook as well. More importantly, fair trade tea makes working fair and safe for everyone. I never want my cup of tea to support a company that suppresses and under pays hard-working families ever again. We all deserve to work freely, safely, and to be supported by the things we love. Let’s support small farmers everywhere when we purchase tea from now on. When you buy good, you also do good in the world.