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Recently, I have seen many retailers stating they offer for sale Fair Trade Tea.  In addition to the “certified organic” label on tea, I have begun to see “Fair Trade” labels as well. Even articles in tea publications are talking about “Fair Trade Tea”. What is all the fuss about?

According to Wikipedia, Fair trade is an organized social movement and market-based approach to empowering developing country producers and promoting sustainability. The movement advocates the payment of a fair price as well as social and environmental standards in areas related to the production of a wide variety of goods. It focuses in particular on exports from developing countries to developed countries, most notably handicrafts, coffee, cocoa, sugar, tea, bananas, honey, cotton, wine, fresh fruit, chocolate and flowers.

Considering I only recently heard about the Fair Trade movement, I initially assumed – albeit erroneously, that the movement was fairly new. It just goes to show that when we think we know it all… we usually don’t. The  Fair Trade Movement began in the 1940′s and 1950′s with attempts to commercialize goods in Northern markets (Wikipedia Contributors, 2002).  Ten Thousand Villages, a non-governmental organization (NGO) within the Mennonite Central Committee (NCC) and SERRV International were the first to develop fair trade supply chains in developing countries (Wikipedia Contributors, 2002).  At that time the products were sold mostly in churches or fairs. However, the famous adage… “you’ve come a long way baby!” is most appropriately applied to the Fair Trade Movement of today. The 1960′s shaped the Movement into a political gesture against neo-imperialism with radical student movements targeting multinational corporations with concerns that traditional business models were flawed. You may remember the slogan that gained a great deal of popularity, “Trade not Aid”.

125px-transfairIn 1998, out of the rapid growth of the 1960′s emerged organizations like TransFair USA, “a unique business model that partners industry, farmers, and US consumers to promote equitable trade”.  But “Who is TransFair USA and what type of services do they provide?” As stated on their website, TransFair USA, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is one of twenty members of Fairtrade Labelling Organizations International (FLO), and the only third-party certifier of Fair Trade products in the United States.  That explains the “WHO”, but not the “WHAT?”  Further research revealed that the organization audits transactions between US companies offering Fair Trade Certified™ products and the international suppliers from whom they source, in order to guarantee that the farmers and farm workers behind Fair Trade Certified goods were paid a fair, above-market price.

I’m sure you are wondering, “how does this relate to tea?”  TransFair USA offers The Fair Trade Certified Tea and Herb Program which includes products derived from the Tea plant of the Camellia family (Camellia sinensis and/or Camellia assamica), Rooibos (Aspalathus linearis), Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla), Hibiscus (Hibiscus sabdariffa), and plants in the Mint genus (Mentha), including Peppermint (Mentha piperita) and Spearmint (Mentha spicata).  Fair Trade Certified tea was launched in 2001, rooibos in 2005, and chamomile, hibiscus and mint in 2006.  There are over 70 FLO-certified tea estates and small-scale producer groups in 11 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America. This and additional information can be found on their website. Or click HERE to find Fair Trade certified retailers.

Another such organization is the Fair Trade Federation.  “Founded in the late 1970′s, the Fair Trade Federation evolved when individual alternative trade organizations began holding yearly conferences for groups working in fair trade. In 1994, the group incorporated formally as the North American Alternative Trade Organization (NAATO); and, the following year, changed its named to the Fair Trade Federation. Since then, FTF has focused on supporting fully committed businesses in order to expand markets for artisans and farmers around the world.”

Within Fair Trade, there are two types of organizations: Product Certification –  TransFair USA and Organizational Evaluation – Fair Trade Federation. Fair Trade Federation is responsible for evaluating organizations for their full commitment to fair trade principles (no matter what kind of product they sell).

125px-ftomarkIf  you live outside of North America, fear not, you can get connected with Fair Trade producers, retailers, and organizations through The World Fair Trade Organization (WFTO).  According to their website, WFTO  is the global representative body of over 350 organisations committed to 100% Fair Trade.  The WFTO prides itself in being the “authentic voice of Fair Trade and a guardian of Fair Trade values”.

Upon further reading, I learned that WFTO operates in 70 countries across 5 regions, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, North American and the Pacific Rim. With elected global and regional boards, WFTO creates market access through policy, advocacy, campaigning, marketing and monitoring. “It is the only global network whose members represent the Fair Trade chain from production to sale.”

The Fair Trade Organizations promote the growth, development, and fair treatment of developing countries around the world. Perhaps next time you make a tea purchase, you’ll be moved to select Certified Fair Trade products.

References:

1. Fair trade. (2009, March 22). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Fair_trade&oldid=278987675

2. Fair Trade Certified. (n.d.).  Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://www.transfairusa.org/

3. Fair Trade Federation. (n.d.).  Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://www.fairtradefederation.com/

4. World Fair Trade Organization. (2009, Feruary 9) Retrieved 00:15, March 24, 2009, from http://www.wfto.com/index.php

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Always on the prowl for something new and different, I decided to try Chrysanthemum tea. Let me preface this by saying the not only have I never tasted Chrysanthemum Tea… I have never even heard of it. The one thing I do know is that chrysanthemum is a flower, but that is the extent of my knowledge. Especially since I know nothing about gardening, flowers, or anything remotely related. So lets talk tea…

Composition: An herbal tea from China made from dried chrysanthemum flowers.

Dry Visual: I hate to be overly simplistic, but this tea looks just like dried flowers. Creamy yellow petals with a green bud trimmed in brown. Thanks Tavalon Tea for the awesome picture.

Dry Aroma: Dried flowers – a light almost calming scent.

Flavor: I would categorize Chrysanthemum as a very mild and naturally sweet herbal tea. Truly floral with no bitterness. Chrysanthemum is a simple unadulterated tea, enjoyable without the addition of sweetener. The addition of any sweetener would mask the natural flavor.

Liquor: Amazingly yellow – the color of  a newly opened highlighter stripe drawn on white paper. Neon!

Brewing Time: Recommended brewing time 5 minutes.  I brewed for the recommended 5 minutes. After tasting, I brewed for an additional minute.

Manufacturer: Tavalon Tea

Caffeine: No.

What is a chrysanthemum?

Chrysanthemums are a genus (Chrysanthemum) of about 30 species of perennial flowering plants in the family Asteraceae, native to Asia and northeastern Europe. Chrysanthemums were cultivated in China as a flowering herb as far back as the 15th century BC. An ancient Chinese city was named Ju-Xian, meaning “chrysanthemum city”. The flower was introduced into Japan probably in the 8th century AD, and the Emperor adopted the flower as his official seal. 

Chrysanthemum is a nice change of pace. As a purely herbal tea, it is perfect for those unable to tolerate caffeine or looking to enjoy a nice cuppa tea without the caffeine. If you too have shared the experience stop by and comment. Until then… Happy Tea Drinking!

References: Chrysanthemum. (2008, September 15). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 01:50, September 20, 2008, fromhttp://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Chrysanthemum&oldid=238578064

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In the mood for something new and refreshing, I decided to brew and sample Green Tea Tropical. I have been drinking so much white tea that I was in need of a change – fast! Nothing is more exciting than trying a new brew! Tea that is…

Composition: A Chinese green tea blend with pineapple, guava, and flowers.

Dry Visual: Green Tea Tropical is a loose tea in a silken tea bag. Check out the picture I pulled from the Mighty Leaf website – isn’t that teabag pretty cool looking! The visual was not as clear as I would like, but this tea was a burst of color – predominantly green with reds, blues, and yellows interspersed.

Dry Aroma: Absolutely delicious! If I could eat the dry tea leave whole I would if the taste equalled the smell…

Flavor: Stronger than I anticipated, Green Tea Tropical did not have the vegetal taste that accompanies many green teas. Very robust the tropical flavors of pineapple and guava are predominant in this brew with more subtle floral hints. Green Tea Tropical was accompanied by a tartness that required the addition of a sweetener to round out. My sweetener of choice was Sugar In The Raw – I did not want to alter the taste by using honey. Perhaps if brewed for slightly less time than the recommended time the tartness would be less pronounced. 

Liquor: A rich amber.

Brewing Time: Recommended brewing time is 3 minutes.  I brewed for the recommended 3 minutes.

Manufacturer: Mighty Leaf Tea

Caffeine: Yes

Minus the tartness, Green Tea Tropical is a fantastic summertime tea. I look forward to the opportunity to brew and drink as an iced tea. Possibly even serve with a slice of fresh pineapple floating in the glass. This would no doubt transport me to a tropical paradise.

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