One might think that coffee is more popular than tea since it seems there are coffee houses everywhere and few tea rooms. The most popular beverage worldwide is water, but the second choice is tea. Over three billion gallons of tea are consumed in the United States each year and, according to the Tea Association of the USA, almost 50 percent of Americans drink tea on any day.
View the list to see how to improve your tea choices in becoming more sustainable, considering not only factors like land use and packaging for the environment and climate change, but also the growers, their living conditions, and communities, especially if tea does not grow where you live. Of course, the number one sustainable tea would be one grown in the United States and surprise! There are some.
Tea grown in the US
The most sustainable tea is local tea. You can grow herbal teas yourself and save on transporting goods across the planet. But if you must have caffeine, there are teas grown in the United States that contain it.
One example is the Charleston Tea Plantation’s American Classic Tea which is now owned by Bigelow and produced from the green leaf of the Camellia Sinensis plants grown on the grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation. It is the only Bigelow tea grown on the plantation and only the American Classic loose tea tins are packaged on-site in the Factory at the Charleston Tea Plantation. The plantation holds the First Flush FesTEAval in May each year as the harvest begins.
Another example is this Yaupon Asi Tea which was a Native American tea of the Timucua Indians introduced to Spanish colonists in 1513. It was a sacred beverage to the Timucuans that they made by roasting Yaupon Holly leaves and stems. They called it “Asi”, or “the purifier, ” and it “was a powerful elixir of caffeine and antioxidants.”
Yaupon Asi Tea , L.L.C. has brought Yaupon back to consumers today from the Florida-native Yaupon with more caffeine than any other North American plant and cousin to the South American Yerba Mate.
Visit the website for details such as its benefits:
- 100 percent Florida sourced
- sustainably wild harvested
- naturally caffeinated
- high in antioxidants
- 100 percent wild/organic
- 10 percent of proceeds go to a charity.
Fair trade tea
Buy a fair trade certified tea bearing the symbol of a reputable organization like Rainforest Alliance or Fair Trade USA.
This Makaibari tea garden in the Darjeeling hills of Northeastern India is one of the oldest Indian tea gardens continually operating since 1859 and home to 610 tea workers and families. They adopted a permaculture system back in 1971 and became 100 percent organic and biodynamic in 1991. Makaibari teas are consistently ranked in the best of all Darjeeling teas.
Fair Trade USA helps tea farmers and workers get capital, set prices, and make democratic decisions on the best way to improve business, tea and their community. Their strict environmental standards “include:
- Banning use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Protecting water resources and natural vegetation areas
- Promoting agricultural diversification, erosion control, and no slash and burn
- Restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers
- Requiring proper management of waste, water and energy.”
Look for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic seal on tea products to be sure they were grown and processed to National Organic Standards.
Synthetic chemicals destroy the soil used to grow the tea, the surrounding ecosystem, and the health of the farm workers. According to the Soil Association, the “typical organic field has five times as many wild plants, 57 percent more animal species, and 44 percent more birds than a conventionally cultivated farm.” Tea estate pesticide spraying is often the job of untrained, often illiterate, and frequently child workers, barefoot and in shorts with no protective gear, who can’t read the warnings on use. The sprayings occur 15 to 20 times a year depending on pest occurrences and many of the chemicals have been banned in western countries.
Choice Organic Teas, maker of this English Breakfast tea and other organic teas, has been promoting organics and fighting against existing conventional methods since 1989.
Tell tea growers that you want safe, environmentally friendly teas. Take part in Forum for the Future’s Tea 2030 global project that is determining how a sustainable tea sector should be across the spectrum from farms to recycling teabags. Participants include the Ethical Tea Partnership, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, the Rainforest Alliance, and Fairtrade International. Buy brands of members of these groups. In addition to fair trade, they are working together on sustainability issues. Some companies involved are Tazo, Twinings, Bigelow, Republic of Tea, PG Tips, and Lipton.