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Meet Our Blender Pt. 3 – What about Fair Trade, Organic, Etc.?

An interview with our tea blender, Part 3.

Our tea blender has traveled the world to find the finest ingredients, paying close attention to the variables that define the quality and taste of tea (such as rainfall, elevation, subspecies, pruning, and harvesting methods) as well as organic practices and the general quality of living for growers and pickers.

Many of the relationships he has developed over time are with smaller growers and factories, which complicates the question of certification.

We asked him about it…

Fair Trade

Bruetta: Are Bruetta teas certified fair trade?

Blender: There’s a few problems with trying to source purely fair trade…

Firstly, there are not a lot of fair trade options—not a lot of growers are down with getting the certification. The tea farmers in the major growing regions of the world (India, China, Japan, and so forth) have been treated pretty fairly because harvesting tea is a labor-intensive process, and so if you don’t treat your labor fairly you’re not going to get the labor you need.

It just isn’t as big a problem as it is with other crops. At least not when I when I started visiting the growers. That was before I had kids, so it has been 10 years or so, but I don’t think that has changed much. It’s possible it’s a problem in other circles than my network but I just don’t think so.

Secondly, we do a lot of blending. There are generally several ingredients in there. So just because the tea might be certified fair trade, I can’t guarantee the flowers or flavors we put in there are fair trade.

Organic

Bruetta: Are Bruetta teas certified organic?

 

Blender: Organic certification can generally only occur if the garden that is growing the tea also manufactures the tea…meaning they dry it, process it, cut it and everything else so that it comes in the final form. It’s not like coffee where the green beans are consolidated there but then roasted here. There you have lots of different farmers with little plots of land all bringing the tea leaves in… so who’s organic and who’s not all gets thrown into one lot. The only real way to control it is if it is just one farm that as also the factory, and there are very few of those.

That being said, it is getting better. We’re getting to a tipping point where we are seeing more and more availability of organics. In 2008 when the market crashed the market for organics dried up. People wanted organics so long as they could afford them, and when it became cost prohibitive to do that, they stopped. So we faced this interesting conundrum… A lot of suppliers gave up on that certification—that’s something they could release. It wasn’t until 2013/2014 we started to see the demand for organics coming back.

Fair Trade

Bruetta: Are Bruetta teas certified fair trade?

Blender: There’s a few problems with trying to source purely fair trade…

Firstly, there are not a lot of fair trade options—not a lot of growers are down with getting the certification. The tea farmers in the major growing regions of the world (India, China, Japan, and so forth) have been treated pretty fairly because harvesting tea is a labor-intensive process, and so if you don’t treat your labor fairly you’re not going to get the labor you need.

It just isn’t as big a problem as it is with other crops. At least not when I when I started visiting the growers. That was before I had kids, so it has been 10 years or so, but I don’t think that has changed much. It’s possible it’s a problem in other circles than my network but I just don’t think so.

Secondly, we do a lot of blending. There are generally several ingredients in there. So just because the tea might be certified fair trade, I can’t guarantee the flowers or flavors we put in there are fair trade.

Organic

Bruetta: Are Bruetta teas certified organic?

Blender: Organic certification can generally only occur if the garden that is growing the tea also manufactures the tea…meaning they dry it, process it, cut it and everything else so that it comes in the final form. It’s not like coffee where the green beans are consolidated there but then roasted here. There you have lots of different farmers with little plots of land all bringing the tea leaves in… so who’s organic and who’s not all gets thrown into one lot. The only real way to control it is if it is just one farm that as also the factory, and there are very few of those.

That being said, it is getting better. We’re getting to a tipping point where we are seeing more and more availability of organics. In 2008 when the market crashed the market for organics dried up. People wanted organics so long as they could afford them, and when it became cost prohibitive to do that, they stopped. So we faced this interesting conundrum… A lot of suppliers gave up on that certification—that’s something they could release. It wasn’t until 2013/2014 we started to see the demand for organics coming back.

Certification

Bruetta: So is certification in general the problem?

Blender: Tea grows in the cold at higher elevations in seasons where there’s lots and lots of rain (it needs 50-60 inches of rain per year) and these are just not environments that are exposed to heavy metals. And it has been harvested via the same practices that have been going on for hundreds of years and in some cases the same generations of people and bushes. I just can’t imagine a situation where heavy metals are a big problem.

People are also concerned with pesticide use. There are things that need to be put in and around the soil to keep pests away but generally it’s not a heavy spray situation. There are a few insects that like tea but it’s not like fruit where the birds and animals are getting at it so it’s a minimal issue. Our bigger concern is around soil maintenance and the use of good fertilizer on the soil, but those practices very widely.

Heavy Metals & Pesticides

Bruetta: Is there any concern about heavy metals in Bruetta tea?

Blender: Tea grows in the cold at higher elevations in seasons where there’s lots and lots of rain (it needs 50-60 inches of rain per year) and these are just not environments that are exposed to heavy metals. And it has been harvested via the same practices that have been going on for hundreds of years, and in some cases the same generations of people and bushes. I just can’t imagine a situation where heavy metals are a big problem.

People are also concerned with pesticide use. There are things that need to be put in and around the soil to keep pests away but generally it’s not a heavy spray situation. There are a few insects that like tea but it’s not like fruit where the birds and animals are getting at it so it’s a minimal issue. Our bigger concern is around soil maintenance and the use of good fertilizer on the soil, but those practices very widely.

Heavy Metals & Pesticides

Bruetta: Is there any concern about heavy metals in Bruetta tea?

Blender: Tea grows in the cold at higher elevations in seasons where there’s lots and lots of rain (it needs 50-60 inches of rain per year) and these are just not environments that are exposed to heavy metals. And it has been harvested via the same practices that have been going on for hundreds of years, and in some cases the same generations of people and bushes. I just can’t imagine a situation where heavy metals are a big problem.

People are also concerned with pesticide use. There are things that need to be put in and around the soil to keep pests away but generally it’s not a heavy spray situation. There are a few insects that like tea but it’s not like fruit where the birds and animals are getting at it so it’s a minimal issue. Our bigger concern is around soil maintenance and the use of good fertilizer on the soil, but those practices very widely.

OurTeaBlender-400-Sq

“The small farmers that supply the factories can’t afford certification. They are tiny. They don’t produce enough for that. The hassle, paperwork, and cost of certification wouldn’t get them anything more because domestically there’s very little demand for it, and that’s their biggest market, not exports. And for some growers the requirement smacks a little of colonialism. There’s that feeling of “Don’t tell me what to do.”

— Our Tea Blender

OurTeaBlender-400-Sq

“Fair trade just isn’t as big a problem as it is with other crops. At least not when I when I started visiting the growers. That was before I had kids, so it has been 10 years or so, but I don’t think that has changed much... harvesting tea is a labor-intensive process, and so if you don’t treat your labor fairly you’re not going to get the labor you need.”

— Our Tea Blender

OurTeaBlender-400-Sq

“Organic certification can generally only occur if the garden that is growing the tea also manufactures the tea…meaning they dry it, process it, cut it and everything else... and there are very few of those."

— Our Tea Blender

OurTeaBlender-400-Sq

“The small farmers that supply the factories can’t afford certification. They are tiny. They don’t produce enough for that. The hassle, paperwork, and cost of certification wouldn’t get them anything more because domestically there’s very little demand for it, and that’s their biggest market, not exports. And for some growers the requirement smacks a little of colonialism. There’s that feeling of “Don’t tell me what to do.”

— Our Tea Blender

OurTeaBlender-400-Sq

“Fair trade just isn’t as big a problem as it is with other crops. At least not when I when I started visiting the growers. That was before I had kids, so it has been 10 years or so, but I don’t think that has changed much... harvesting tea is a labor-intensive process, and so if you don’t treat your labor fairly you’re not going to get the labor you need.”

— Our Tea Blender

OurTeaBlender-400-Sq

“Organic certification can generally only occur if the garden that is growing the tea also manufactures the tea…meaning they dry it, process it, cut it and everything else... and there are very few of those."

— Our Tea Blender

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