A Snapshot of Sustainable Tea Growing
Tea was first discovered in China about 5,000 years ago and it comes second after water as the most consumed beverage. The U.S. Tea Association estimates that half the American population drinks tea on a daily basis! As the world becomes increasingly aware of how human activities, such as agriculture, are contributing to climate change, more effort is being directed towards sustainable farming. We discuss below some of the sustainability practices which are being implemented to produce tea in an eco-friendly and sustainable way.
Sustainable tea farming starts with soil management. Healthy soils yield rich harvests, and tea farmers in many parts of the world are making use of soil management practices like mulching, no till farming, terracing to control rates of erosion, and establishing drainage systems (like trenches) in flood-prone areas in order to forestall the damaging effects of flooding. These soil management techniques don’t only ensure soil health but also boost productivity, thereby improving the livelihoods of the farming communities.
Another key factor in sustainable tea farming is pest and disease management. The adverse effects on soil health and human health when synthetic pesticides and other chemicals are used heavily in farming have necessitated a switch to more sustainable practices like integrated pest management, the cultivation of pest/disease resistant tea varieties, and manual weeding in order to remove only the most harmful and invasive weeds while leaving softer weeds to enrich the soil.
You cannot talk about sustainable tea farming and not talk about the rights and welfare of farming communities. Sustainability is about people, and plenty of attention is being directed towards growing tea in a way that is pro-people, especially with regard to smallholder farming families which grow a big chunk of the tea consumed around the world. For example, many organizations, such as Rainforest Alliance, are partnering with farmers and processing teas sourced from a single geographical area so that the elimination of the middleman allows farmers to be paid better for their crop. Tea companies are gaining momentum in their effort to connect tea farmers to tea consumers and bigger corporations like Unilever have followed suit with their sustainable brands, such as Lipton Tea, in order to bring to reality a sustainable future for the tea industry.
Sustainable tea farming, like all forms of sustainable farming, is premised on the pillars of improving farm productivity, boosting farm resilience to climate change, and curbing emissions of greenhouse gases wherever possible. As a consumer, you owe it to yourself and future generations to question how sustainably the tea you enjoy was grown and processed. At Anisoptera Mercantile, we have a fine collection of sustainably sourced tea. Check out the options available and reach out if you have any questions!