Like pretty much every other crop, it makes sense to grow — and buy — organic tea.
Tea is the most popular drink in the world. It sure is in my house! I drink at least three cups of tea every day: a good English Breakfast tea first thing in the morning, a cup of invigorating green tea in the early afternoon to keep me going, and then a mint or camomile or other caffeine-free variety in the evening before I go to sleep.
The more I learn about tea, the more convinced I become that buying organic tea is important. True tea comes from the Camellia sinensis bush; herbal teas are produced from a wide variety of herbs and plants. Camellia sinensis is usually planted in steep, remote tropical areas on terrain that tends to host a high – and vulnerable – concentration of animals and plants. Many tea plantations endanger the wildlife and natural landscape where they’re sited. Soil can be lost to erosion, especially on freshly planted tea “gardens.” Pesticides are often sprayed by untrained workers, including children and teenagers.
Growing tea organically:
• Improves soil fertility using compost and other natural organic matter, rather than pesticides and herbicides.
• Protects all kinds of creatures. A typical organic field hosts five times as many wild plants, 57% more animal species, and 44% more birds than a conventional one!
• Is safer for workers in the fields.
Fair Trade Tea
Like coffee, chocolate and other foods, tea can also be grown according to Fair Trade principles that ensure that workers are treated fairly and that children aren’t being exploited. Look for Fair Trade certification on the package when you shop for tea.
Organic, Fair Trade Teas
The Art of Tea
Assam Tea Company
Choice Organic Teas
New World Tea
Quintessential Tea (loose tea is sold in reuseable tins that provide a discount when you refill)
Skip the Bag – Buy a Ball
Most tea bags are filled with finely ground tea leaves that the industry calls “dust.” Prepackaged months in advance, tea in bags can sometimes be quite stale even before it reaches the store shelf. Thus, the inferior leaves found in tea bags create a strong, harsh drink that is a far cry from what the true flavor of the tea should be. When you buy loose leaves, you avoid both the tea bag and the extra foil package it may be wrapped in. A tea ball, stick or strainer lets you brew your own full-bodied beverage, then use the brewed leaves for compost or side dressings in the garden. If you do use tea bags, compost them with the rest of your kitchen scraps or yard waste.
Tea Pots, Tea Balls, and Other Accessories
Numi Tea www.numitea.com – Glass teapots, bamboo accessories, plus loose teas and “teasans,” and flowering teas
The Republic of Tea www.republicoftea.com Wide variety of teas and teapots, including classic styles as well as those with more design flare
Fantes Kitchen Ware Shop – Infusers and strainers that come in traditional balls and spoons as well as little bears, and ceramic mugs and travel tumblers that include their own tea strainer.
Teeli Brew Basket – A reusable filter with a lid that fits most tea cups; made of washable stainless steel mesh. Dishwasher safe.
Shift and Save
The price of Fair Trade organic tea runs about the same as other gourmet or specialty products. It is, however, more expensive than mass-produced, lower quality varieties. You can afford the “real deal” if you:
• Shop sales
• Buy at Trader Joe’s or similar stores that offer discounts
• Forego a purchase that’s a waste of money (like bottled water) so you have more cash for the higher quality organic, fair trade option.