Organic & Fair Trade Tea


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Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Holmes » Oct 21st, '12, 20:11

Greetings! I'm relatively new here, but have been enjoying tea for years. I've tried searching through some old posts, but wasn't coming up with much. I wasn't sure where to post this, so I hope this is the proper place. I am looking for a vendor who sells organic & fair trade loose tea. I've purchased from Arbor Teas in the past. I haven't found much mentioned here about them and was wondering what other people think of them. They seem to offer a nice selection of teas, not to mention a lot of it being organic and fair trade.

Any thoughts and/or suggestions are much appreciated!
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Chip » Oct 21st, '12, 20:50

Welcome to TeaChat, Holmes.

Rishi usually has organic/fairtrade.

There are many vendors who offer certified organics, less who offer fairtrade certified.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Holmes » Oct 21st, '12, 21:49

Hey Chip, thanks for the warm welcome and help!

I've checked out Rishi's site in the past, but haven't ordered from them before. I've seen some vendors that offer organic tea but am looking for fair trade as well. I haven't found many out there yet, but am hoping for some suggestions since there seems to be a lot of knowledgeable people on this site.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Poohblah » Oct 21st, '12, 23:05

Rishi has good teas. I think they're the best grocery store brand there is, if you are lucky enough to have a grocery store that carries Rishi (usually you can find it at Whole Foods or similar).
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Chip » Oct 21st, '12, 23:25

Poohblah wrote:Rishi has good teas. I think they're the best grocery store brand there is, if you are lucky enough to have a grocery store that carries Rishi (usually you can find it at Whole Foods or similar).

... likely true. But their online teas are usually better, fresher.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Poohblah » Oct 21st, '12, 23:32

Chip wrote:
Poohblah wrote:Rishi has good teas. I think they're the best grocery store brand there is, if you are lucky enough to have a grocery store that carries Rishi (usually you can find it at Whole Foods or similar).

... likely true. But their online teas are usually better, fresher.

I didn't realize their offerings online were different. I haven't purchased from them online.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Chip » Oct 21st, '12, 23:36

Poohblah wrote:
Chip wrote:
Poohblah wrote:Rishi has good teas. I think they're the best grocery store brand there is, if you are lucky enough to have a grocery store that carries Rishi (usually you can find it at Whole Foods or similar).

... likely true. But their online teas are usually better, fresher.

I didn't realize their offerings online were different. I haven't purchased from them online.

I think the main difference is logistical. You can get it virtually direct online versus going through X + Y + Z = T til it gets to the supermarkets. This might not make a huge difference for some teas, but it does for others.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Holmes » Oct 22nd, '12, 12:33

On Rishi's "About Us" page the first sentence of the first paragraph is: "Rishi Tea offers the highest quality organic and Fair Trade Certified loose leaf teas, fresh each season and direct from tea gardens around the world."

Fresh each season... Who knows how old the stock is in the markets.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby gingkoseto » Oct 22nd, '12, 18:01

Holmes, since you,re in NY, maybe there is wegmans near you? Wegmans usually has rishi and some non mainstream grocery tea.
Wegmans is my favorite grocery and too bad we don't have it in MA!
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby wyardley » Oct 22nd, '12, 18:09

My suggestion when this thread comes up is that you may want to consider supporting smaller vendors who work with small farmers, even if they don't have organic certifications.

Unfortunately, getting organic certification is difficult enough and expensive enough, that many small farmers can't go through the process. In addition, in many tea-producing countries, the certification process isn't really super trustworthy (unless the tea is certified by USDA or a similar authority, which is definitely less common and more difficult).

Of course, even if the vendor claims the tea was produced without synthetic fertilizers / synthetic pesticides, it may not always be the case (and environmental pollution is definitely a problem too, especially in Mainland China), but I think you will rarely find tea that's better than "just Ok" which has any kind of official organic certification.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Poohblah » Oct 22nd, '12, 18:41

Even in the US, a USDA "organic" label may not mean all that you think it means. There is a revolving door between food industry executive positions and USDA regulatory positions, which causes restrictions to be rather loose and contain many loopholes. For instance, meat and eggs from "organic" chickens still come from big indoor factory farms with crowded, unsanitary conditions. It really depends on the product, some "organic" things are certainly produced more "naturally" or "traditionally" or "family-farm" style than others. I don't know about tea, but I'm guessing the USDA does not certify many tea producers, since tea comes mostly from China, Japan, India, and Kenya.

As far as fair trade goes... I don't know anything about that.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby wyardley » Oct 22nd, '12, 20:42

Poohblah wrote:Even in the US, a USDA "organic" label may not mean all that you think it means. There is a revolving door between food industry executive positions and USDA regulatory positions, which causes restrictions to be rather loose and contain many loopholes. For instance, meat and eggs from "organic" chickens still come from big indoor factory farms with crowded, unsanitary conditions. It really depends on the product, some "organic" things are certainly produced more "naturally" or "traditionally" or "family-farm" style than others.

I don't think that's so much a problem with the label or the standard, but rather that people somehow have unrealistic expectations about the organic label. The label does not claim to prove that something is healthy or humane, or more sanitary -- just that it meets a certain set of conditions. There are all these misguided studies showing that (big surprise) organic food doesn't have more nutrients than conventional produce. While in some cases organic food might be more healthful or more humanely produced than conventional food, I don't think that's something that the label either states or implies.

Yes, plenty of "organically grown" food is produced by large farms. If supporting small farmers is your concern, it's obviously better to try to buy from CSAs and farmers markets, and to do your own due diligence to make sure that you're actually getting what you think you're getting. Some people are not concerned about eating produced produced using pesticides and chemical fertilizer, and those people should by all means continue buying and eating conventionally produced products.

But I think that overall, the USDA does a good job with its organic certification standards - there are probably some loopholes, but overall, you can be pretty certain that what you're getting meets their standards.

And, for folks who are concerned about humane treatment of animals, there are some new standards (some better than others) which help to provide a little more transparency into the relative treatment of animals in various conditions. However, there's obviously still a long way to go here.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Poohblah » Oct 22nd, '12, 22:55

wyardley wrote:I don't think that's so much a problem with the label or the standard, but rather that people somehow have unrealistic expectations about the organic label. The label does not claim to prove that something is healthy or humane, or more sanitary -- just that it meets a certain set of conditions.

I think the root of the issue (consumer views of what organic means vs what organic actually means) has a lot to do with the fact that consumers and industry have differing standards for what "organic" means. I get the feeling that consumers generally want organics held to a much higher standard than the industry does.
But I think that overall, the USDA does a good job with its organic certification standards - there are probably some loopholes, but overall, you can be pretty certain that what you're getting meets their standards.
See, this is the problem I was trying to point out - you're right, certified organic food meets the USDA's standards, which are often different from what consumers think "organic" actually means. Having worked in a grocery store that specializes in organic and natural foods (over 15% of produce sales is organic), I can tell you that there are a number of people who think that "organic" means family farm, mom & pop raising Bessie the cow on their idyllic pastureland with chickens and goats running around (in my experience, people have especially misguided views about the origins of organic eggs, for some reason). But that's usually not the case. Much of the certified organic food actually comes from the same suppliers that provide conventional food, i.e. large industrial farms. Yes, you're absolutely right. If you want to support mom & pop farms, CSA/farmer's market is the way to go.
And, for folks who are concerned about humane treatment of animals, there are some new standards (some better than others) which help to provide a little more transparency into the relative treatment of animals in various conditions. However, there's obviously still a long way to go here.
Yes, the meat industry has the farthest to go in terms of becoming humane. Chickens and hogs especially get the short end of the stick, even in certified organic facilities. But certified organic beef you can be pretty sure was pasture-raised, often by a family ranch with just a few hundred head of cattle. I know a family in Wyoming who supply organic beef to Whole Foods, for instance. I'm not much of a meat eater, but I would eat their beef in a heartbeat.
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby Josh m » Aug 8th, '13, 05:01

Reading the original question I was reminded of something I read a long while back. I wish I could remember the source but sorry..

It was in relation to japanese teas. The idea was that comparing fair trade tea to something like fair trade t-shirts was a bit irrelevant. Tea production in Japan might not be necessarily "fair trade" but it would be like asking for fair trade wine from Australia's wine country... People over here don't advertise wine as fair trade because wages and conditions are already good as a social standard..

I have no idea how accurate this is, does anyone have any information or further thoughts on this?
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Re: Organic & Fair Trade Tea

Postby gingkoseto » Aug 8th, '13, 21:21

I think if "organic" is just a word claimed and not certified by anybody, I would simply ignore it. Not that I don't care about it, but I would explore the tea quality of cultivation through other aspects instead of a word.

On the other hand, if it's *certified* organic, I would give it some credit depending on the credibility of the certification agencies and their policies.

I once wrote a blog post about organic certification
http://gingkobay.blogspot.com/2010/10/discussions-on-organic-tea-2-organic.html

It's English version of a Chinese article written for Tea Time magazine in China. Among them probably USDA and JAS (for Japanese teas) are the most relevant to US tea drinkers.

I agree with what Poohblah said that people could have different ways to define organic (just like "vegetarian" could be defined as not eating meat but eating seafood). When it' certified by some agency, at least we all know what the benchmark is.

When I lived in western Mass., I saw some small local farms that couldn't afford organic certification and got unofficial certification from agricultural program of U. Mass. Amherst, using the same standards as USDA. That would work for me too. If a farm doesn't have any kind of organic certification, I would still buy from them, but my purchase decision has nothing to do with their organic claims but rather based on their quality and pricing. But generally I do prefer to buy organic milk and chicken products (prefer to buy organic other stuff too but can't afford all of them).
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