October is fair-trade month.  Fair trade works to provide a living wage for farmers and artisans in the global market.  Since tea is an important fair-trade crop, I decided to explore the history and benefits of buying fair-trade tea.

Fair-trade certification is a fairly recent movement that started in the United States in the late 1990’s with coffee and has grown to include many crops, such as cocoa, fruit, sugar, rice, vanilla, flowers, honey, wine, herbs, and tea.  Fair trade is also branching out to include low-income artisans who produce crafts, clothing, jewelry, and accessories.

Fair trade not only ensures fair prices for farmers and improved labor conditions for farm workers, but it also facilitates community development and environmental sustainability.  Many communities, which have been historically plagued with crushing poverty, are now able to build schools, community centers, and medical clinics with the money generated through fair-trade practices.  Furthermore, approximately 60% of fair-trade crops are also certified organic and all are concerned with environmental sustainability since every participant has a vested interest in his / her crop.

Fair trade is an important global movement.  As tea drinkers, we have a role as consumers.  If we buy and drink fair-trade tea, the world becomes a tiny more equitable.  Fair-trade tea is easily available at many chain stores including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and Sam’s Club, with many excellent small tea purveyors offering fair-trade options.  While enjoying a nice cup of tea, please consider drinking fair trade.  Our choices matter and we can make a difference in the world.