Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rishi Tea - Fair Trade

I just made and exciting new discovery. I am a very avid tea drinker (along with Zak). I usually have about two pots a day - and it has to be loose leaf tea. That is the only way to drink it. It just tastes sooo much better. It can be like having a dessert. No need of sugar or milk - just enjoy the tea. It's like drinking wine. Every batch tastes slightly different.

To my dismay, I have only been able to locate three kinds of Fair Trade tea in Edmonton - Green Tea, Earl Grey Tea and Ceylon tea. Too bad they're all caffinated. I have issues with caffine, one pot of tea can make me dizzy and a little sick. So today I searched the net and discovered a brand called "Rishi Tea". They deal with premium tea and work directly with the tea growers and the creators of the tea flavours. They have ventured into Organic flavours and now they are starting to make Fair Trade varieties. They realized that an important part of working with the tea producers is sustaining the communities that grow the tea.

There is a community in south-western China that they work with. It is a very remote community and their whole community relies on the production of tea. It is a tradition that has been passed on in their community for over a 1000 years. The tea they grow is also deeply intertwined with their religion and every aspect of their lives. Here is a picture of one of the Fairly paid workers harvesting the tea on the organic farm.

The Rishi site gives detailed "Travelogues" of where they go to find the teas they sell. In a description of this Chinese community they describe the benefits of paying this community fair trade prices:

Social premiums generated by Rishi Tea sales of Jingmai Mangjing's tea have helped the local people to establish a library, a Bulang cultural center, an agricultural training program for villagers, road improvements and water purification. Recent Fair Trade premiums generated by Rishi's Ancient Tree Teas have supported the first two students from Mangjing Village to attend university, as well as the development of an herbal tea processing initiative to diversify cash crop biodiversity. Rishi's Fair Trade Ancient Tree Tea program encourages the conservation of the old tea trees by supporting the local hill tribes who are their natural protectors.

Fair Trade has enabled this community to survive and also to preserve their culture. Now that's some tea that I can feel good about drinking. Here is a picture of the cultural centre that the fair trade premiums helped them to build.

I will definitely be making most of my tea purchases from this company. Maybe one day I'll even start my own Fair Trade tea shop with them!!

Check out their website! They give a lot of information that's really interesting.


shareen said...

There's actually a store in Lethbridge that sells Rishi tea (too bad I didn't tell you this BEFORE Julie went down and came back, eh?), it's such good quality tea. I have a few kinds. IF you're ever on the west coast there's a wide array of fair trade and organic food stores to shop in with a massive selection. The coffee shop I work in sells Salt Spring Coffee products (including their teas) which are all fair trade as well as organic (they have loose teas but only sell the bagged tea online). You can check out their website at Also there's another store out here with fabulous teas (all loose) called Silk Road and they use all organics but I'll have to do some more research to see if they're fair trade

Avery said...

Hey Shareen!

Thanks for the info! I'm glad to see that more tea places are focusing on loose leaf tea as that's the real way to drink tea. I looked into Silk Road Tea - they seem focus on direct relationships with the producers and ensure that the employees are treated well. Some companies just don't go for the Fair Trade Certification because it costs money on top of the Organic certification. I wish that there was some way to know the practices of each company if they don't go for Fair Trade Certification. Ah well. I"m finding more Fair trade tea in Edmonton here, but a lot of it is still in tea bags - boo. Ahh well. I'm going to make a Rishi order sometime soon when i start working;)

Thanks again for the info.


Dr.Gray said...

The pictures are a little fuzzy there. Cant really tell what loose leaf tea it is. As far as fair trade goes. There are only a few countries that actually need fair trade (africa, china and india) all come to mind. Industrialized nations do not require that. Also do you know the exact requirements to be a fair trade company? And who does the cirtification?