For as long as I can remember, a cup of tea has never been too far from my hand. I absolutely love the stuff and just cannot start my morning without a beautiful rounded cup of organic Earl Grey – in a big mug, with a splash of almond milk and the unbleached tea bag left in. Oh yes please!
But you might well wonder why I would choose to drink organic tea, because unlike many swaps to organic, most of the time the taste of organic tea is virtually the same as a non-organic brand. This swap is much more than just the hope for a better tasting brew, but is a little swap to make every effort to drink a tea which is fair to the environment, its farmers and our health.
I hope this short post will give you a few pointers in how to make sure that your choice of tea is a positive choice for all.
What it means to choose an Organic Tea
As I mentioned above, choosing an organic tea doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re choosing a better tasting tea, although from my experience, I would never go back to my normal choice of supermarket blend and would always opt for a brew of Clipper or Pukka because I love their flavour and strength. But, the added benefits of choosing organic is that it often means that you are investing in a tea (and associated tea plantation or farm) which is striving for the best conditions for both the plants and its workers. These farms are often smaller, less commercialised businesses which have been started by people who have been bitten by the practices often seen on commercialised non-organic plantations. What you’ll often find with most organic teas is that they are also signed up to Fair Trade principles.
Fair to the Environment
From my reading around the subject for this post, I’ve come to realise that the process of keeping a tea plantation well and healthy requires copious amounts of pesticides and artificial fertilisers which means that the plants are always subjected to high levels of chemicals to fend of pests and diseases. This research from Greenpeace documents the levels of pesticides found in a sample of Chinese tea companies undertaken in 2011/2012.
The continuous effort to protect the tea plants from pests can lead to soil degradation, which in turn has a knock on effect on ecosystems nearby due to increased sediment in rivers, soil erosion and increased risk of flooding. And of course, the chemicals used on the plantation also have to go somewhere and more often than not, run into nearby streams and rivers, impacting drinking water and wildlife.
Although not always perfect, organic practices are far less harmful to the environment as the tea is produced using environmentally-friendly methods of cultivation. Organic tea farmers use traditional, natural methods of pest and weed control, rather than relying on harmful chemicals. As a result, the the plantation works with the surrounding ecosystem to produce healthy crops. This paper, ‘Restoring soil fertility and enhancing productivity in Indian tea plantations with earthworms and organic fertilizers‘ researched by a university in India is particularly interesting and discusses how the use of organic practices could help increase biodiversity in even the biggest tea plantation.
Fair to its Farmers
More often that not, organic teas are also signed up to Fairtrade Standards and this means that they help to support smaller tea farms, in addition to tea workers on large plantations. The Standards are designed to improve employment conditions and also support members of smallholder organisations in gaining more control within the tea supply chains. Without these Standards, increasing supply chain pressures reduce tea prices which are often passed onto small farms, reducing already-low incomes and increasing poverty.
In 2013-14, Fairtrade tea sales globally earned an estimated £3.6 million in Fairtrade Premiums for certified farmers and workers. This was invested in new infrastructure to support more efficient production and processing on farms and in housing, education and healthcare for plantation workers.
Fair to Our Health
And because of the above two points, choosing organic tea could be seen to be better for our overall health. Now, this doesn’t really relate to the health benefits a single cup of tea provides us but is more to do with longer term health. By choosing organic tea, we’re less likely to consume large amounts of residual chemicals and are also supporting more sustainable practices on the environment – which has got to be better for our health in the long term!!
Thinking of switching to organic? Why not try…
- My ‘go-to’ brew of Clipper’s Organic Earl Grey – these guys are signed up to the Soil Association and are Fairtrade. I bulk buy my boxes of tea from Amazon, from here which works out a lot cheaper than buying from the supermarket.
- Pukka herbal teas who are organic and signed up to Fairwild, these two are delicious: ‘Chamomile, Vanilla & Manuka Honey‘ and ‘Ginseng Matcha Green‘
- Any of the above and Solaris Tea English Breakfast Tea, all of which use unbleached teabags, meaning no chlorine or other nasties!