A nice cup of tea isn't always as simple as it seems. In fact, a lot goes into cultivating tea plants and harvesting their leaves. The unfortunate truth is that some tea companies use unethical farming and labor practices, which can harm people and the environment. For example, harsh pesticides used on tea crops can cause health concerns for tea-drinkers, as well as farm employees. If workers aren't paid a living wage, then the difficult work they do, in order to harvest tea leaves, is exploited and they and their families can suffer.
But there are companies that hold themselves to a higher standard, ensuring that workers at every step of the tea-making process are paid a living wage, and that the tea is grown in ways that do no lasting harm to the environment. If you're searching for a cup of tea you can feel good about, then try one of these six brands that make delicious, ethically-grown teas.
1. The Republic of Tea
This Fair Trade tea company has been producing ethically-grown black, oolong, green, and herbal teas for 25 years. The Republic of Tea partners with several nonprofit groups, including the Dr. Marnie Rose Foundation, which supports brain cancer research and Homeward Bound, which focuses on ending homelessness. Sales from The Republic of Tea's "Non-Profit" tea line benefits these groups. The Republic of Tea is also committed to minimal pesticide use.
The Republic of tea is perhaps best known for its unique tea blends, which include flavor combinations such as blackberry sage and cranberry blood orange. Try a cup here.
2. Upton Tea Imports
This Massachusetts-based tea company has been around since 1989 and is completely committed to ethical tea production. The company sells only loose leaf tea, and many varieties are certified Fair Trade, which means that the tea was produced without harming workers or the environment. Upton Tea Imports has been selling tea in this manner since 1989, long before most companies were willing to jump on the eco-friendly bandwagon. Teas are available in black, green, white, oolong, and Pu-Erh varieties.
Have a sip here.
3. Honest Tea
Unlike many tea companies, Honest Tea is known entirely for its iced tea. But the company does more than produce healthy, refreshing beverages perfect for summer. It does so in an ethical and environmentally-friendly manner. In 2015, Honest Tea's tea leaves and other ingredients are certified organic, and its business is certified Fair Trade, as well. This means that Honest Tea's products are made without unnecessary pesticides or synthetic chemicals, and workers are paid a living wage at every step of the production process.
Honest Tea is a well-known brand, so chances are good that you can pick up some of their iced tea at your local supermarket. Or you can order a refreshing bottle here.
Zhena's sells its Fair Trade tea in recyclable stainless steel tins. The tea is sold both loose leef or in sachlets--teabag alternatives made from eco-friendly hemp paper. Few companies can match Zhena's commitment to sustainability. As their company website explains, "Our manufacturing facilities are spread across the country to promote fuel-efficient transportation with less gas usage. At our main office, we provide employees with plates and silverware that we wash to reduce the use of paper and plastic utensils." From the bottom up, Zhena's is clearly serious about the environment and its workers.
Tea varities include unique floral blends as well as black, green, and chai teas. Grab your own tin here.
Rishi has been certified organic since 2002, and is also a Fair Trade company. What makes them unique is their policy of importing all of their teas from China, Japan, Vietnam, and other locations in Asia, and relying on ancient Asian flavor combinations, such as emerald lily green tea, rather than trying to reinvent tea in a modern way. According to the company's website, all Rishi tea is grown "according to ancient artisan practices using organic cultivation techniques."
Try a sampling of these historic flavors, available loose leaf or in teabags, here.
6. Arbor Teas
This well-known tea brand is vocal about its commitment to health and the environment, offering certified organic teas in compostable packaging. Though not all of its teas are Fair Trade certified, Arbor Teas does offer a wide variety of Fair Trade teas on its website, available in loose leaf form. Arbor Teas is also committed to sustainability, using low-water-intensive crops and bio-dynamic farming techniques whenever possible.
Check out all of Arbor Tea's offering here.