A common question among newcomers to the tea industry is the issue of fair trade. This movement is defined as the support for payment of a higher price to the actual producers of a product as well as advocating higher social standards among the producer’s community.
It should come as no real surprise that the movement got its start in the more corrupt developing countries, where working conditions of citizens are generally not top priority to a ruthless dictator. Many of these countries were found in either Africa or South America, regions where coffee is a huge crop.
Therefore, buying Fair Trade coffee became an important issue to socially responsible consumers. The next logical step for the general populous (as well as down most supermarket aisles) was to look for Fair Trade teas as well.
A quick glance at the tea section in most supermarkets, however, will give the shoppers feeling that the tea industry does not have the same sense of compassion as their caffeinated cousin – compared to coffee, most tea companies are not Fair Trade certified. This is not because tea manufacturers enjoy tormenting their workers, though, rather that most have had this structure in place for quite a while now.
Probably one of the best examples of the power of the workers in the tea industry can be seen in the news right now: there is a strike among tea workers in the Darjeeling region of India, who are demanding a raise in wages. Until a compromise is reached, they say, no tea will be shipped from their gardens.
This is of great significance, as it just so happens to come right as the First Flush Darjeelings, among the most anticipated teas of the year for practically the entire tea industry, are being produced.
In a nutshell, the entire tea world is being held at bay by a few hundred workers from about 81 different gardens.
If that doesn’t show the power of the tea worker, nothing will!