Fair trade products are goods that are traded or sold under a non-traditional method of doing business that seeks to deal fairly with the producers of those products in terms of wages and their working conditions, and also paying a fair price for what they produce. Fair trade also has the main goal of ensuring that agricultural products are grown in ways that do not harm the environment. Fair trade teas are grown in this fashion, as is fair trade coffee. Types of fair trade teas include white, black, green, herbal and Darjeeling teas. Some purveyors further differentiate these types by their flavor notes, such as white peony, blackberry, blood orange, raspberry or a number of other flavors.
Tea came first from China, but it is now grown and exported from other countries as well, including Brazil, India, Argentina, Kenya, Indonesia, Japan and Sri Lanka. The tea is grown by small farms as well as large plantations, also referred to as estates, all year round. Many farmers are not earning as much from their crop as they previously did because prices have gone down as the supply of the product has gone up. The production and supply has increased as tea’s health benefits became widely touted, leading to increased demand. Earning certification for their products as fair trade teas helps farmers and the larger plantations improve the sustainability of their tea and their geographic region, and it also helps their workers make a decent wage to support themselves.
Except for herbal teas, every tea is made from the leaves of an evergreen plant, Camellia sinensis. The amount of oxidation the tea leaves undergo determines its taste and color. Green tea does not go through this chemical reaction at all, while oolong tea does. Black tea goes through even more than oolong, sometimes for as many as four hours. Green tea instead comes from leaves that have been steamed, and later permitted to dry out.
Organic teas and organic foods can be fair trade products, but not all fair trade teas and fair trade products are organic. Companies providing fair trade tea give their workers a living wage while the tea growers follow fair trade practices.