tea leaf tips

Buying Fair Trade Tea

A word about 'Fair Trade'

Fairtrade farmer

I'm not trying to be opaque when I say I strongly believe in fairly traded tea, I do. As a consumer I spent many years buying "fair trade" goods because I wanted to give a bit back and "do the right thing".

To become fair trade certified, larger scale operators such as a plantation with its own factory will have the means to register with 'fair trade' directly and will receive a premium for the leaf that goes back to the company. How that money is spent is usually decided by committee and may well go towards the building of a community centre or school. What it does not do is go back into the pockets of the workers.

Small farmers usually can't afford to register directly with fair trade and most wouldn't be able to cope with the paperwork so they register with a middle man who does the paperwork monitors the tea growers. We sold our leaf to a fair trade and organic buyer who did pay us a premium for our leaf BUT each month only ever paid for 80% of our leaf saying that 20% was poor quality. This meant we could earn exactly the same if we just sold our leaf to the local guy. To be sustainable we needed to find ways for value addition, which led us to build our micro tea factory and start producing our own teas.

You may also have heard of "farmer buy back schemes". We were offered a buy back scheme if we planted lemongrass and promised Rs40 per kilo. When the time came to sell the lemongrass we were told that they had asked too many farmers to plant the stuff and now didn't really need it and were offered Rs7.50 per kilo instead....take it or leave it. I left it and spent months developing a fine lemongrass tisane that is now sold worldwide for a much better premium.

Bev's Tea either buy tea directly from small producers or from people I know personally in the tea trade who import ethically.

Fair trade growing