We realise that many people play a vital role in making this product special; from the growers and farmers who carefully cultivate the tea plants to produce the healthiest leaves, to the pickers who have developed a sharp eye and delicate touch in collecting the freshest and finest leaves and buds to the producers who then carefully dry, heat, shape or steam the leaves with the love and attention of a craftsman and the suppliers who pack and transport the tea to markets to proudly display all the time, care, love and attention that has gone into each tea.
Therefore, we make every effort to source all our teas ethically and without exploitation. We pay what the farmers and suppliers ask for, and no less.
It is important to mention that the Chinese people relate to the teas in a different way to us here. Tea is a health tonic, it is seen as a gift from nature used to prevent illness and keep the people well. The way the teas we sell are farmed would be considered quite an art form, hand-picked, hand-rolled, there is a reverence to creating these teas that cannot really be fully comprehended here (with our cheap dusty teabags!)
Our supplier visits all the farms often to check the quality of the teas and the conditions. Unlike India where most tea is grown on large plantations, the teas we import are still all hand-picked and hand-crafted so grown on small family run farms. Our supplier has very solid experience from running his tea business for many years on knowing the best farms and the best quality teas and he assures us that in China, tea is about health and people are very aware of that, so they will not buy teas where pesticides have been used and the small farms avoid using them (very expensive and unnecessary). Every year, our supplier has all the teas pesticide checked and the Chinese government have very tight controls on this to keep the teas safe to drink.
Organic and fair-trade:
There are only very few certified Fairtrade tea farms in China, so although the farms we use are not yet certified, we do our best to ensure our teas are “fairly traded” without exploitation, through contact with our buyer in China, and the supplier she works with.
The organic status regarding tea is quite complicated in China, as most tea is still harvested on small plots, as opposed to large plantations found in India, and villages often pool their teas together for grading and sorting. This makes the process of certifying tea very difficult. (As a side note, this is also why Chinese teas are often classed by region, not estate).
Our teas are not certified organic, but our main selection criteria for tea is based on its taste and quality. However, our fundamental belief is that tea is a natural product, and should be enjoyed as such (another reason why we only deal in loose leaf, handcrafted tea). We feel that too much interference inevitably affects the quality of the tea, a belief that is also shared by many Chinese tea growers. The term “Chinese organic” has been used amongst the tea industry, referring to the fact that the vast majority of teas in China are grown pesticide-free, as they are very expensive to small growers and would only be used if thought totally necessary.
DIRECT TRANSCRIPT FROM OUR SUPPLIER;
Q. When buying tea, how do you ensure that the people who grow and create the wonderful tea in the farms you buy from are looked after and paid properly for their work? In many countries they have a certification called 'fair trade' to check this but I don't think it exists yet in China?
A. I visit the farms frequently to check the quality of the tea. If people are not paid properly, they will not continue to work. this certification does not exist in China
Q. How do you check the quality of the teas? Do you know best quality by taste or by cost or by knowing which farms are the best?
A. I have run tea business for so many years, have solid experience to check the quality of the teas. I know best quality by taste, by cost, by knowing which farms are the best, all combine together.
Q. Are the teas we import all free from using pesticides or do some of the farms use them but you do yearly tests to make sure they are not dangerous levels?
Q. Has the idea of 'organic' certification come up for tea farms in China and are any of the farms you use getting certified?
A. Not really have organic tea in China market now, might very little organic tea export to Japan and USA, but very expensive and how can you really tell it's organic or fake organic. Organic certification might have come up in the future, but assume it needs to take quite long time. I heard some organic food now, but not yet hear organic tea now.