Fair Trade Tea
People in the United Kingdom drink about 3 and a half cups of tea each day. They consume over 1.7 million cups of fair trade tea, cocoa and coffee combined each day. Tea drinking has also increased in popularity in the United States in recent years, making tea one of the most valuable crops on the market. Premium organic green tea, a healthy and refreshing drink both hot and cold, is enjoying remarkable popularity, especially in the United States.
However, the majority of the profits from tea do not go to the farmer who grows it or to the workers in the fields. Most tea is grown on very large plantations and not on small individual holdings. The large plantations have their own processing facilities on the plantation which turn the green tea leaves into the black or brown dried tea that is more familiar to the consumer. The small farmers who grow tea do not have their own processing facilities and must sell their tea unprocessed. The farmers who do not work with a fair trade association receive a minimal profit for their crops, making it impossible for the large plantations to pay their workers a fair living wage and impossible, also, for the small farmer to earn a living wage for his crops.
Because of the differences in the way the large farmer and the small farmer produce their crops, fair trade associations address two sets of standards when working with tea growers; one for the small farmer and one for the workers on the large plantations and in the processing facilities.
Fair trade organizations help small farm holders organize into cooperatives to pool their resources and their crops in order to obtain the best price for their crops.
The major concerns with the large plantations are working conditions and wages. The field workers are mainly women, who must also care for their families and home. After spending all day in the fields picking tea, these women carry 10 to 15 kilos of the freshly picked tea three quarters of a mile or more to the processing plant, all for less than a dollar a day on plantations who are not affiliated with a fair trade association. Plantations that work with a fair trade association must have an organization that represents the workers’ interests. The workers’ organizations make sure the workers are paid a fair wage and help with the workers’ quality of life.
Fair Trade Making a Difference
Here is an example of Fair Trade in action … On one plantation, the workers did not have electricity in their homes and could not afford to have it installed. With the help of the workers organization, they were given a grant from the plantation, they pooled their own money and they took out loans to make up the balance needed to have electricity installed in their homes, greatly improving the quality of the lives of the workers and their families.
Fair trade organizations make sure that the people who grow and process the tea we drink are treated fairly and are able to make a living wage from their labors. This should be an important consideration for consumers when choosing a product. Fair trade organizations also promote environmentally sound farming and business practices.
Fair trade teas, grown by workers who have an improved quality of life and in an environmentally friendly manner, are also delicious. There are a wide variety of fair trade teas, including the familiar black and brown teas, Japanese teas, and premium fair trade organic green tea, herbal teas, such as Chamomile, teas flavored with fruit, a very interesting twig tea made from the twigs and stems of organically grown tea plants, and many, many more.
By choosing a tea with the Fair Trade Certified label, you help improve the environment and the lives of people all around the world.