You’ve probably heard organic tea is healthier for you and better for the environment. But the benefits don’t stop there. Buying organic tea helps producers and their communities – and it usually tastes better too.
We’re approaching peak sourcing season and you’re about to see some new organic teas take their place alongside the 2021 versions of our bestsellers. I think that makes now a good time to show you why we are committed to buying organic teas wherever we can – and to helping you do the same.
All in, we’ve got four big reasons…
ORGANIC IS GOOD FOR THE PLANET
A lot of tea lovers tell us they already know this, so I can keep this one short. Organic farming balances ecosystems by protecting biodiversity and promoting healthy soils – and balanced ecosystems are good for wildlife and plant life. That plant life includes crops, which become more resilient to unusual or extreme weather events. If crops are better protected, then so are the livelihoods of tea farming communities (more on that below). Healthier soils also produce more carbon to fuel the fight against climate change. You can always dive a bit deeper into all of this with the Soil Association
ORGANIC IS GOOD FOR YOU
This is probably the other familiar one. Drinking organic means drinking fewer – in fact, no – synthetic pesticide or herbicide residues.
ORGANIC TASTES BETTER
I touched on it above. Organic tea gives you the purest drinking experience. It’s just the leaves and the land they’ve grown in. No chemicals. Working with the environment in this way produces the most distinctive and characterful tea – so long as there’s a skilled tea master to ensure the picked leaves are also treated properly during processing.
But don’t just take it from us. This is Subroto Sen, our Darjeeling producer whose garden in north-east India was certified organic in 2012:
“I can’t put it into words but, after tasting our tea twice a day every day of the season for 16 years, I know it’s there. There’s more flavour and the liquor is clearer. I suppose I can say it tastes cleaner.”
And Yong Luo makes our Phoenix Honey Orchid oolong in China’s coastal Guangdong province:
“My tea feels full of life. Organic is the only way to capture the taste of Shuang Ji Niang mountain with its wet days, lush forest and volcanic history. I don’t want them to taste something generic produced with pesticides and fertilisers; I want them to taste Shuang Ji Niang mountain.”
ORGANIC HELPS PRODUCERS
A lot of the producers we work with say they are going organic for the health of their families and workers. Mr Yamaguchi produces our organic Japanese green tea in Kagoshima:
“I’ve seen too many of my father’s and uncle’s generation succumb to illnesses after years of working with chemicals in the fields.”
Over in Taiwan, the Chens report another benefit. In the famous tea producing region of Ali Shan, they were the first to take their garden organic. Their plants are now more resilient to the effects of climate change. While others are out applying chemical pesticides and fertilisers in winter, the Chens are indoors. “We rest while our bushes rest,” they told me recently.
With all of these benefits, you might wonder why all tea producers aren’t organic. It’s because going organic can be costly – and risky. Subroto has told us:
“We lost more than 40% of the yield by switching and our cost of production is much higher now, but it’s hard to measure what we’ve gained.”
Making the switch also means learning new techniques. It takes dedication and ambition, as Yong Luo has explained:
“Being a farmer is a tough job. You work regardless of the weather and depend on the weather to earn a living. It’s rewarding, though. Working organically with my plants allows me to experience the unyielding spirit strength of what can happen when humans and plants work together. I feel a great sense of achievement whenever I see them growing vigorously and thriving.”
Because of all the benefits I’ve mentioned, we are happy to pay more for organic tea to help producers adjust to its lower, ‘natural’ yields. And remember a small increase in the price per kilo of tea translates to just a few pence per cup.
Tea that’s produced for quantity not quality is never going to deliver the pure and distinct taste of single garden tea. But it’s also damaging the environment and the communities who make it. Those problems aren’t going away – if anything, they’re getting more urgent.
We believe switching to quality driven, organic tea is the best thing we can do as consumers. This won’t only help the planet and the tea producers dotted all over it. The tea will taste better and it’ll be better for you. I think that makes it a no brainer.