The UK is known as a nation of tea drinkers, one Polish person once asked me if we drank tea at 3 oclock everyday as some sort of ritual! Most of us dont realise that this tea is often grown on tea plantations in the developing world where the crops are sprayed with many chemicals and pesticides and the workers that pick the leaves are not only exposed to this danger but are often paid a pittance of a wage as well.
Organic and Fairtrade tea, coffee and cocoa are growing in popularity as people realise the benefits of spending those extra pennies per box and the payback in both health and human terms.
Why buy organic tea, coffee or cocoa?
Consumers usually decide to buy because production is carried out using sustainable farming practices, specifically not allowing deforestation to occur as part of plantation farming techniques.
Some producers go down the Fairtrade route, which gives the consumer further altruistic benefit in terms of assurance that the workers on the tea or coffee plantations have been working under improved terms and conditions, giving them a better quality of life and reducing exploitation. You can now buy organic, Fairtrade tea which is not much more expensive then just organic tea. I buy Morrisons own branded organic, fairtrade tea bags as its cheaper than the branded products such as clipper teas.
What exactly is organic I hear you ask?
Tea or coffee qualifies as organic only when environment-friendly techniques are employed in its production. An organic unit should essentially be a self-sustaining one, designing the farm at the time of establishment of new organic tea or coffee plantation is crucial for optimum utilization of resources within the plantation itself.
In order to establish organic tea fields or coffee plantations, it is necessary to build up inherent nutrient levels and neutralise the chemical residues left in soils from past cultivation. This requires an interim period – called the conversion period. Based on the agro-ecological conditions, this period may vary from 3 to 5 years. If plantation is taken up before conversion period is over, chemical residues may show up in the product. These processing techniques are sufficient to make it highly unusual for any pesticides to be present in the end product.
Insect pest and disease management
Insect and disease management in organic farming systems rely on the inherent equilibrium in nature. This includes using natural enemies of pests to keep their numbers in check.
There are many varieties of organic herbal teas now available also. Some of these have the added benefit of possessing medicinal properties. For example, peppermint tea aids indigestion and chamomile can soothe and relax you.