Tea: whether you brew a small pot of loose leaf tea or plop a teabag into a mug, the habit is familiar to you. In an era of rising sustainability and organic cultivation in our food production have you considered whether the tea you drink is organic tea? There are very important reasons why you should be asking yourself this question.
Tea is the Most Consumed Beverage in the World After Water
Vast swathes of land in Asia, India, and Africa are devoted to cultivating tea. Tea is a crop like any other, subjected to common farming practices. There is mass production to meet rising demands, and the use of agrochemicals such as herbicides and pesticides, and non-organic fertilizers to increase crop yield. It’s true that the practice of growing sustainable and organic tea is a rising trend in the tea industry. However, there are still many tea plantations which practice mass production farming and often this product finds its way into the most accessible form of tea culture: the teabag.
An ecosystem is a resilient thing but as we progress further into the twenty-first-century scientific research continues to prove just how precarious the balance of healthy ecosystems has become. Agrochemicals disrupt this delicate balance of an ecosystem creating a chain reaction which affects the environment. Natural life is affected and endangered by the non-organic fertilizers and pesticides used in tea and food farming.
When the environment is affected humanity is affected as we are part of it. We consume the crops dusted with pesticides. We drink the water from rivers which are contaminated by harmful pollutants. However, it is not only the environment and consumers that are affected but the farmers as well. Farmers are having to handle these agrochemicals which are hazardous to their health.
Your Part in the Movement for Sustainable and Organic Tea
Since the turn of the century, tea has been touted for its health-giving properties and is a component of health and wellbeing lifestyles. There is a good reason for this, tea is full of phytonutrients such as powerful antioxidants like catechins and amino acids like theanine. All of these health-giving properties are undermined, however, when the tea has been dusted with pesticides.
The importance of sustainable and organic tea is especially crucial in circumstances when the tea leaves are being consumed rather than just steeped. When drinking matcha green tea, a Japanese tea which grinds whole tea leaves into a fine powder, you are consuming the whole leaf. You can wash an apple before eating it, but what can you do for pesticide-dusted tea leaves which have already been ground into powder?
As transparency in the food industry becomes a standardized practice now more than ever is the time for this practice to filter into the tea industry. This won’t happen without consumer involvement. Most consumers want to know the particular health benefits of tea before they make a purchase. All tea is beneficial to your health; scientific research continues to prove this repeatedly. The question you should be asking when purchasing tea is whether it is sustainable and organic tea.
How You Can Transition to Sustainable and Organic Tea
When purchasing tea there three pivotal questions to ask a tea seller. Note: a good tea seller will take no offence to these questions.
- The first question to ask is the origin of the tea. The type of informative answer you’re looking for will include: country, province/county, and (ideally) the specific tea plantation. E.g., a Chinese Dragonwell green tea from a tea plantation in Longjing village, Zhejiang Province.
- The second question to ask is what season the tea was picked. This will greatly inform you as to whether or not the chances are high or low that pesticides were used. Teas picked in spring are less likely to contain pesticides. Teas picked in summer are more likely to contain them. This is why knowing the origin of your tea is important. The various tea growing regions will be affected differently by the changing seasons.
- The third question to ask is whether the tea is certified organic or whether a farmer uses organic tea agriculture methods if not certified. There are smaller tea gardens that use natural fertilizers and do not use agrochemicals that are not yet certified organic. This is largely because of the cost of certification. This is why it’s important to ask your tea seller about the farming practices of their suppliers. When in doubt, a certified organic label authorised by the American USDA or the European Soil Association will ensure you’re supporting and drinking organic tea.
The tea seller has a responsibility to the consumer to ensure their product is sustainable and organic tea. The consumer has the responsibility to hold the tea seller accountable for the same reasons. When the tea isn’t sustainable we are damaging the environment and threatening the future of tea cultivation. If the tea isn’t organic we are damaging the environment as well as affecting our health. In order to make the practice of sustainable and organic tea cultivation commonplace then there is a shared responsibility between tea seller and tea consumer. The more we request it the more of it we will see.