Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea


Made from leaves that have not been oxidized.

Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby entropyembrace » Nov 18th, '11, 14:58

smallfarmersrock wrote:Sorry about that. Wasn't trying to be deceptive and didn't realize that I was violating the forum rules, but I should have properly identified my affiliation right off the bat.

There are a lot of misconceptions about what our company is trying to do in the tea world, as well as a lot of vague phrases like "direct trade" that companies throw around that don't necessarily mean what consumers think they mean.

My expertise is more in coffee than in tea, but I am familiar with our work on building small-farmer supply chains, and I'm happy to get direct answers from the experts if people have any questions.


I´ve never seen tea vendors throwing around the phrase direct trade, I´m the one that borrowed it from the coffee world to try and explain more clearly the purchasing model that I see many of the vendors I personally purchase from using.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby Smallfarmersroc... » Nov 18th, '11, 16:00

Is there a directory of companies that are buying directly from small farmer groups? The problems with this term in the coffee world are that there is no agreed upon definition (so it means whatever each company wants it to mean), and companies use it to refer to buying "directly" from both small farmer co-ops as well as plantations (usually referred to as "estates," but it's the same thing). Equal Exchange, was founded to empower small farmers through co-ops. We always buy directly from the co-ops themselves and never from brokers or plantations. We also abide by the global Fair Trade standards which set price floors (often misrepresented as price ceilings, which they are not -- it's just an amount we will never pay below, we will always pay above the global commodity price when it rises above the price floor), offer pre-harvest financing, and provide other support to the co-ops. If you look through the posts on "tea" on our blog, you'll see discussions about the struggles we've had developing small farmer co-op supply chains in tea, and how we fought allowing plantations to be certified fair trade (we lost that battle, but continue to follow our own higher standards ourselves).

As I said, the tea part of our business is not my area of expertise, but my understanding is that there are no other national tea brands that source directly (as fair trade or otherwise) exclusively from small farmer co-ops and producer associations. When I've asked independent tea shop owners how they source their tea, I've always been told that they buy from brokers. It's heartening to hear that there are dedicated folks out there working directly with farmers.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby AdamMY » Nov 18th, '11, 16:40

I do not know if such a list of tea companies exists. But a few off the top of my mind. Essence of Tea goes on a tea buying trip just about every year for the past couple of years. The blog he has(had?) actually outlines some of his experiences staying with the farmers while they process the tea he is buying form them.

I know Pedro at Dao tea, has visited many tea farmers in the past, although I am not quite sure what he does falls exactly under what you are describing, as he buys teas based on the teamaster (the person who actually processes the tea to produce the end result), but its all much smaller batch productions.

Then there is Imen at Tea Habitat, where again I am not sure if she is buying directly with farmers, and I have not had the chance to communicate with her one on one, but I do know she specializes in smaller amounts of tea, which I think is said to be direct from farmers.

I think there are more, but I can not think of them right now.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby Chip » Nov 18th, '11, 17:16

Lest we forget our host Adagio. I do not know what percentage of their teas are purchased direct from grower off hand though.

Of course many of the vendors of Japanese greens are direct buyers as well, though Japan does not fall into the classification that Equal Exchange focuses upon.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby edkrueger » Nov 19th, '11, 19:32

Teance, Hou de, Teamasters, Mandarin's Tea Room and Yuukicha, 7 cups, Floating leaves tea, amongst the ones already mentioned, the ones I forgot to mention and the ones I don't know about buy at least some of their teas directly and in person. Not to say all of those vendors offer they same quality. Some are much better than others.

Ippodo, Horaido, Denshiro (Den's), Koyama-en amongst others buy unfinished tea and finish it and directly sell it.

Direct trade is really not uncommon.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby iannon » Nov 19th, '11, 19:53

Pretty sure Rishi teas are mostly fair trade and sourced directly as well no?
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby Smallfarmersroc... » Nov 20th, '11, 00:03

Thanks. I'll check all of these out. As I said, "direct" and "Fair Trade" don't necessarily mean what consumers think they mean in the tea world. Often "direct" means buying directly from a broker in the producing country. Almost all FT certified tea in the US comes from plantations that only need to comply with very minimal regulations to earn the mark. What the tea folks at Equal Exchange have found is that it is very difficult to find small farmer tea growing co-operatives that have the capacity to export both the quantity and quality of tea that most companies selling nationally need. For us, it resembles how we found the co-operative coffee associations when we started 25 years ago. The situation is much changed today, but it took a great deal of investment and work on both the committed importers and the co-operative organizations to increase capacity and quality. It's not clear from a few of the websites of these tea companies that they are actually working with small farmer co-operatives. Doesn't mean that they aren't doing some very valuable work with individual artisinal tea growers, but it is a different goal than what we are trying to do at Equal Exchange.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby entropyembrace » Nov 20th, '11, 00:47

Most of the people on this forum, and most of the vendors mentioned that we purchase from deal in much smaller quantities and much higher quality than the kind of companies you are referring to.
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Re: Equal Exchange Organic Green Tea

Postby iannon » Nov 20th, '11, 01:10

smallfarmersrock wrote:Thanks. I'll check all of these out. As I said, "direct" and "Fair Trade" don't necessarily mean what consumers think they mean in the tea world.


Which is why i mentioned both FT and Direct in regards to Rishi. They do buy direct from the farmers and artisans. also buy lots of organics and are huge proponents of sustainability measures etc etc.
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