Fair trade tea and coffee: changing the world one cup at a time

by Nancy Rankin, Choice Organic Teas/ Granum Inc.

This article was originally published in May 2001

Fair Trade certified logo

Fair trade certified tea

TransFair USA is recognizing PCC Greenlake for selling more fair-trade coffee (Equal Exchange brand) than any other grocery outlet in our area. Your choices make a difference. Thank you PCC members!

Look for the label. Proof your tea and coffee was traded responsibly.

In a move that “ups the ante” on socially responsible business practices, Seattle-based Choice Organic Teas is the first tea crafter in the United States to be Fair Trade Certified. A brand of Granum, Inc., Choice Organic Teas has been the leader in bringing exclusively certified organic teas and infusions to North America since 1989.

Not to be confused with “free trade,” fair trade certification translates into guaranteed fair wages, while providing an additional premium paid directly to tea estate workers — steps that provide genuine opportunities for improving the livelihood of tea growing communities. Certified by TransFair USA (www.transfairusa.org), a nonprofit monitoring organization that guarantees strict adherence to internationally accepted fair trade criteria, Choice Organic Teas meet stringent requirements to qualify for this socially pro-active status.

As a “fair trader,” Choice Organic Teas pays an additional premium per kilo directly to tea-growing communities. This premium is in addition to the fair wage paid to workers in the garden. This premium is used collectively in ways workers themselves deem beneficial, improving their opportunities to better housing, healthcare and education. An international fair trade network tracks how premiums are used.

Fair trade certification adds another degree of integrity and social responsibility to teas that already demonstrate environmental responsibility through organic certification. Choice Organic Teas, bearing the fair trade label, reflect concern for the environment as well as the people who inhabit it.

Important dates in May: International Labor Awareness Day (May 1) and Fair Trade Day (May 19). Look for all our Fair Trade Certified label teas at PCC stores starting in May. For more, see www.choiceorganicteas.com.

Fair trade coffee

by Nina Luttinger, TransFair USA

Gourmet coffee is booming. But there’s an untold story to this success: most small family farmers receive prices for their coffee that are below the costs of production, forcing them into a cycle of poverty and debt. With little or no income between harvests, farmers are often forced to sell their crop in advance to middlemen, who pay much less than the harvest’s value. Worse yet, the world market price is extremely volatile. Today, it’s the lowest in seven years, meaning thousands of farmers and their families are unable to meet even their most basic needs. Many are losing their farms entirely.

Fortunately, there’s an alternative that allows you to have your coffee and feel good about it, too! At PCC, consumers can choose Equal Exchange coffees, which are Fair Trade Certified by TransFair USA. Equal Exchange is a worker-owned cooperative offering coffee direct from small-scale farmer cooperatives in Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

Fair trade encourages family farmers in developing countries to organize, start their own export cooperatives and jump over middlemen, selling their coffee directly to importers here in the U.S. Through direct trade, fair prices, and access to credit, fair trade helps farming families improve their nutrition and healthcare, keep their kids in school, and re-invest in their farms. Fair trade is also good for the environment because it encourages farmers to use sustainable farming methods that are safer for communities and wildlife.

TransFair USA is the independent non-profit organization that certifies fair trade products in the U.S. The presence of TransFair’s certification label on a package of coffee or tea means that every step —from the crop to your cup — has been monitored and certified by a neutral third party certification agency to ensure growers received a fair price for their harvest.

Nationally, more than 80 coffee roasters offer Fair Trade Certified coffee. Seattle-based Choice Organic Teas offers Fair Trade Certified tea.

“By choosing Fair Trade Certified products,” says Paul Rice, TransFair’s Executive Director, “consumers are establishing a meaningful partnership with farmers and their families — empowering the growers socially and economically so they can substantially improve the quality of their lives.”

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