Certified Organic Teas
Organic farms raise their produce without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. To be certified Organic, the farm is inspected by an independent agency, which also tests both the farm and produce from the farm for chemical and pesticide residues. Organic certification can also be applied to, shippers, importers, wholesalers, and retail stores. Technically, to carry an organic certification at the retail level, every step the product took from farm to store must be certified. This why it is more common to see produce labeled “organically grown” rather than “certified organic”.
When we select a tea, it must first of all be an excellent tea. If it is also organically grown, that is an added benefit. When the price is also good, that’s outstanding!
The Bio-dynamic farm concept goes far beyond the organic certification idea. A Bio-dynamic farm is by definition also organic, but the Bio-dynamic concept for certification extends into everything done on or by the farm. For example, compost used for fertilizer must be made on the farm, and everything used to make the compost must be grown on the farm. Likewise, animals used on the farm must be fed from farm produce. The concept also extends to the farm workers. The Bio-dynamic standards require levels of employee involvement in management, benefit and wage standards, and even housing and living standards. In short a Bio-dynamic farm must be sustainable and beneficial both environmentally and socially.
When we select a tea, it must first of all be an excellent tea. When we find such a tea produced by a Bio-dynamic certified farm, that’s exciting!
While this “certification” is more prominent on coffee, it is starting to appear on tea also, primarily from major brands. Though the goals are similar in many respects to Bio-dynamic Certification, the outcome is not quite what the average consumer believes it to be. Fair Trade is often promoted as protecting the small farmers by ensuring they get a fair price. However, the organization in fact forces small farmers to join cooperatives in order to be certified. (A single farm, whether small or large, cannot be certified.) In so doing, the farmer gives up control over when and at what price his coffee is sold, making it uncertain whether he will be paid the price he needs for a successful season.
Rain Forest Alliance
This organization is more accessible to small farmers that Fair Trade, and is looking for many of the same goals as Bio-Dynamic certification. The downside is that a product can carry the Rain Forest Alliance label even though as little as 30% of the product came from a certified farm.