We’re pretty big tea drinkers here. Generally we just buy the biggest box of Tetley’s we can find. But now that we’re a) trying to reduce our waste, b) onto the fair trade thing (coffee and chocolate), and c) trying to live lighter by buying organic, I figured I’d look into the issues around tea.
As far as waste goes, it’s not too bad, tea bags are compostable or green binnable (but less is more, so why bother with bags when it comes loose?) and the box is cardboard (recyclable) but it’s wrapped in plastic.
As for fair trade, this one’s a biggie: most of the world tea industry (from the plants to the bags) is controlled by 6 companies (Unilever, Hillsdown Holdings, Allied Lyons, the Co-operative Wholesale Society, James Finlay and Associated British Foods) which means they can manipulate the market (buying cheap and maximizing profits) and the plantation workers suffer.
And the organic issue is also a big one. DDT may be banned here in North America, but it isn’t everywhere, and it gets high usage in developing countries where tea is grown. Not great for the consumer, but much worse for the plantation workers who are exposed to it.
So, I have found us some fair trade certified organic loose leaf tea at the Ten Thousand Villages Danforth store. The packaging isn’t great, (I’ll keep searching), but the tea is fine!