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 highly flavored sweetened beverages like café mochas, lattes, and Frappuccino.
And, even when I often seem to be 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 than tea.
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.