Oh Delicious Tea

Day two of two weeks of fair trade product reviews

This morning I’m up early, enjoying a rich steaming cup of Numi Earl Grey Tea with just a touch of cream. Heavenly. I’m typically a coffee drinker in the morning, reserving my tea cravings for cold winter afternoons or evenings with a good book. I chose tea this morning because of my blog topic and I’m glad I did. This stuff is good.

Sri Lanka, India and a few African estates are leading the way in fair trade tea. Like coffee, Transfair certifies fair trade tea, ensuring that farmers receive living wages for their crops plus fair trade buyers of tea pay a premium to the community that is reinvested in community projects. Most of America’s tea comes from Argentina, China and Indonesia and very little tea from those countries is fair trade so far.

Also like coffee, the nature of harvesting tea leaves is time and labor-intensive and, as competition has risen, pressure to keep costs low has as well, requiring a low-wage labor force. By choosing fair trade tea over conventional we tea lovers can feel good about sipping.

A few years ago I did hear some complaints about fair trade tea being of a lower quality. I don’t believe that is the case any longer. This cup of Numi Earl Grey tea is perfectly rich and the bergamot flavor is fantastic. I’ve tried fair trade herbal teas from Choice teas and they brew quite well too. About 1% of tea in the U.S. is fair trade right now, so you may have a harder time finding it than fair trade coffee, at least for now. Look for Transfair’s certification label. Some fair trade brands to watch for include Numi, Choice, SLO Chai, and Alter Eco.

If you came to my trunk show Saturday, you went home with some free samples of fair trade tea. Has anyone tried them? What did you think? I’m including free samples of fair trade tea (as well as other products) with all online orders during the rest of Fair Trade Fortnight as well.

Tomorrow’s product review: Fair Trade chocolate chip cookies!

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5 Comments

  1. KarenP said,

    May 7, 2008 at 11:13 am

    I came home with a sample of Numi’s Rooibos Organic Red Mellow Bush Earthy Vanilla Healer (say that 10 times fast!). I sweetened it with a touch of local honey, and it was absolutely wonderful. I will say, though, I don’t see the Transfair logo anywhere on the box. Are all Numi’s teas fair trade, or just some? I checked the ones I have on hand and the Numi Honeybush does not have the fair trade logo, but the White Orange Spice does.

    As for quality, I’ve been buying Numi teas for just that reason, before the fair trade thing really hit my radar screen. I find them flavorful and unique, without being “weird,” which is what I find most of Tazo’s teas.

  2. anna hartman said,

    May 8, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Hi there Karen,
    I’m glad to hear yoy are a Numi fan. I hope I can better explain the Fair Trade situation.

    Fair Trade Certification (TM) is a registered trademark owned by Transfair USA. Transfair created a fair trade program for different categories such as tea, coffee, cacao and bananas. I believe they are now expanding into honey, flowers and possibly wine. In order for the teabox to have the FTC logo on it, it means that we have to buy the tea through Transfair and then they manage the funds into organized co-ops who then disperse the money as the community sees fit. Numi buys tea this way for about 13 of its teas. This process is very different than organic certification where you can certify any farm.

    Rooibos for example, Numi bought direct from a great rooibos farm for years. The workers and working conditions were wonderful and the rooibos tasted great. Since this rooibos farm was not part of Transfair’s co-op system, they could not put the FTC logo on the box. Then Numi switched to FTC rooibos – having to buy it through Transfair- and found that there were many consumer complaints as the taste and quality were not up to par. So now we have gone back to using the original rooibos farm for its taste and quality and I assure you that we are very confident in their ethical practices.

    Because of the limitations of FTC teas, and not being able to certify our bamboo packaging through Transfair, Numi will be the first company to be certified by the new American Standard for Fair Labor Practices. This is the first US standard for fair trade and will be a standard that you can certify against. This means that we can have 3rd party certifiers go to that Rooibos farm and certify it individually for meeting the standards. Much like Organic Certification. You should see this coming out on the shelves by the end of the year.

    please do not hesitate to get in touch with our consumer relations team for further clarification on anything.

    Happy Sipping!

    Anna Hartman – Clinical Nutritionist
    Public Relations Manager
    Numi Organic Tea
    Oakland, CA

  3. KarenP said,

    May 8, 2008 at 8:59 pm

    Wow, thanks, Anna, for a great, informative response! I appreciate hearing directly from you! Thanks for a great product and for caring for your producers as well as your consumers.

  4. KarenP said,

    May 8, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    So, today I tried the Alter Eco Chai Spice tea I brought home from your show, and I have to say… yuck. I couldn’t even drink it. I opened the paper wrapping for the bag and smelled…nothing. This is Chai Spice tea, for Pete’s sake. I’m used to opening my teas, especially something as complex as Chai Spice, and experiencing a potent bouquet before I ever even brew the tea. I poured in my boiling water, and, again, nothing. Let it steep, added my honey, took a sip, and, tasted a vaguely generic tea-like flavor. It kind of reminded me of the smell left over in a “clean” carafe at church. I poured it down the sink.

  5. Lindsay said,

    May 25, 2008 at 3:18 pm

    I tried the mint tea at the trunk sale and it was just as good as any other mint tea I’ve tried. (My taste in tea isn’t very sophisticated) I don’t see why not to change to it!


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