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Get Loose! Authenticity, Quality and Justice

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There are big advantages of being loosed from the bag! Teabags are filled with fannings and tea dust, the lowest grade of tea. Even the gourmet tea bags often contain a small amount of the good leaves. Too much cheap tea can end up in a dark brew that won’t get steeped enough, and too little good tea in a small space gets over-steeped or makes a weak-flavored water. Either way, it misses the true potential of the tea.

Leaves need to unfurl and move around to release all the phytochemicals that give us the wonderful aromas, tastes and nutrients we’re drinking for. This is known as the “agony.” Bags limit the whole leaf teas from agonizing into their full potential in the hot water.

Loose is better for the microeconomy, too! Tea bags often contain machine-manufactured tea sold by big companies for big profits. Loose tea, especially if direct trade or at least fair trade, demands a better premium that goes straight to the growers, sustaining their agricultural communities.

We are thrilled to offer Fair Trade Certified tea. Fair trade is a great solution for bringing business to marginalized growers who don’t have easy access to the open global market. It also establishes regulation and raises awareness about places where labor conditions are unacceptable. However, many small farms who lack organic and/or fair trade certification employ biodynamic, sustainable farming practices and have never used toxic agrochemicals. Many provide school and medical care for the workers and their families. In addition, the extra cost of certification is an expenditure that may instead be re-invested in their own communities.

For example, at some plantations in Japan, China and Taiwan, hand-crafted, artisan tea has been produced by natural methods for generations. It is honorable work that is given the utmost care! Their personal and traditional standards may even exceed what is required for organic or fair trade certifications.

Tea purveyors who go directly to the farmers or processors are negotiating purchases that directly profit the communities, without a middleman. They observe the source of their product firsthand in a transparent business relationship, assuring its authenticity. One challenge in developing countries is that small farms are easily outcompeted by corporate tea manufacturers. If tea from a small farm has surfaced in the open global market, such as in Chicago, through a direct importer, the best thing a conscientious consumer can do is buy that tea! The certifications make our shopping simple, but it may not always be the only solution to overcoming the greater issues affecting developing economies.

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