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How to Choose a More Sustainable Tea

How to Choose a More Sustainable Tea

I am a lifelong tea drinker. I credit both of my grandmothers for this habit since tea was their beverage of choice. Even as I grew up, I never really got into coffee (with the exception of the highly-flavored drinks like mochas and lattes).

Even when I’m the only tea drinker in the group, I have stuck with it. I have always thought that I was in the minority not just among my peers, but in general, and that more people drink coffee.

Part of my tea pot collection

It might be because we hear a lot about coffee. It is everywhere. There are special “houses” for coffee — one on nearly every corner. But corner tea rooms, not so much. So, you might be as surprised as I was to learn that tea is the number two beverage in the world, second only to water. And in the United States, Americans consume over three billion gallons of tea annually. Tea purchases have increased for 20 consecutive years, and nearly one-half of the American population drinks tea on any given day (Tea Association of the USA).

Partly fueling this trend is the fact that large beverage companies have moved into the market due to the backlash against their sugary drinks. Products such as ready-to-drink teas and iced tea mixes have increased the number of tea drinkers.

But, where does all that tea come from and will there be enough for all of these new fans? As I have gotten older and as fair trade and sustainability have become a higher priority for me, I have wondered about my favorite brew: how sustainable is it? How is it grown? Who grows it?

With that in mind, I try to buy a tea that is grown using sustainable methods that consider the growers, the community, and the environment. How so?  Those that consider growers and the community work to improve the income and general living conditions of those who work the tea plantations. And sustainable companies that consider protecting both the environment and wildlife do more than just grow sustainably, they think about things like packaging and waste and are addressing issues of climate change and land use.

But how do you find a sustainable tea when tea is not grown where you live?  Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Buy a tea that is fair trade certified by a reputable, fair trade organization such as Rainforest Alliance Certified or Fair Trade USA, both of which list companies that have been fair trade certified.

Make your voice heard. You have a chance to help shape the future of tea by participating in a global initiative that is working to create a more sustainable tea industry. Tea 2030 is exploring “what a sustainable tea sector could look like in the future. The project will use future scenarios to drive collaboration and innovation across the whole tea value chain (from farms to leftover teabags).” They are asking that you share your ideas with them. Tea 2030, is a project of Forum for the Future, a nonprofit that works on issues of global sustainability. Other participants include the Ethical Tea Partnership, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, Rainforest Alliance and Fairtrade International.

Buy brands from companies that are already members of one of Tea 2030 sustainable tea organizations. While fair trade is an important issue, several of these organizations are working on all of the issues of sustainability and some of the world’s biggest companies are actually joining them. Some of these companies include Tazo, Twinings, Bigelow, Republic of Tea, PG Tips and even Lipton.

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Judi Gerber

Judi Gerber is a University of California Master Gardener with a certificate in Horticultural Therapy. She writes about sustainable farming, local foods, and organic gardening for multiple magazines. Her book Farming in Torrance and the South Bay was released in September 2008.


+ add your own
12:50PM PDT on Jun 25, 2015

thanks for sharing

7:45PM PDT on Sep 15, 2014

Don't want all this fluoride. Yikes

5:35PM PDT on Sep 9, 2014

I prefer tea to coffee but tend to drink coffee because it is there.

8:40PM PDT on Sep 4, 2014

It always helps to find sustainable tea. Interesting to read about how many Americans are drinking tea these days. Sustainable coffee is also a good idea as well.

10:40AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

Donna I order my tea just right at the source in India,...the best quality, for a good price

9:59AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

my goodness i live in a fluoride free area, and now i find my favourite tea is loaded with it, i'm gutted, and there r only 2 brands here that is in the uk, that isnt laced with fluoride, :-(

6:03AM PDT on Sep 2, 2014

For our future

1:08PM PDT on Jun 16, 2014

Thank you :)

12:15AM PDT on Jun 1, 2014

I've started to drink more tea :-)

6:26AM PDT on May 30, 2014

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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