The second most popular beverage in the world, tea, has come a long way from its humble beginnings in Asia many centuries ago. Nowadays, every culture in the world counts tea as one of its principal mealtime consumables; and the humble, healthy drink continues to grow in popularity. Organic teas have begun to gain market share at a steady rate and stand to grow in popularity for at least the next five years.
What makes a tea “organic”? Certification of organic foods varies from nation to nation, but in general organic teas are grown without pesticides and chemical additives to their soils. Organically-grown matcha tea is considered one of the healthiest varieties because not only is it free of harmful pesticides but it is also extremely high in antioxidants and is a whole food (because the entire leaf is ground and dissolved in the final product).
Here are some of the advantages of organic tea, many of which go a long way toward explaining why modern consumers are compelled to choose teas that carry an organic certification on their labels.
- In most cases, organic teas contain fewer impurities than non-organic teas. Even though much of the pesticide and fertilizer residue is washed off in processing of regular teas, some of the “bad stuff” remains within the tea leaf, which absorbs all sorts of chemicals during the spraying process.
- The way organic tea is grown is healthier for the farmers, who are not at risk of getting pesticide poisoning. Many farms that have converted to organic tea growing have done so because the tea harvesters and farmers had bad experiences with pesticides and chemical fertilizers. On organic tea plantations, there’s no risk of that happening because no artificial ingredients are used to grow the plants.
- Organic farms tend to be smaller, have happier workers and use more ecological planning than the mega-plantations that work to squeeze out as much tea as possible from every square-inch of land, regardless of how much pesticide and chemical fertilizer is needed. In other words, organic tea cultivation is better for the workers who do the actual harvesting of the plants. Organic tea operations are usually much smaller than the corporate farms, and often are family-run enterprises.
- The tea plant does not respond well to fungicides, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers because the corporate agriculture industry has never come up with one that is specifically designed for tea plants. All the chemicals used during tea production are generic ones that were developed for other plants. This is the worst situation for the tea plant because the chemicals it gets sprayed with were not even mixed to kill the pests that typically attack the crop.
- Organic tea is good for the environment. When tea farmers use chemicals, even in small quantities, those substances are carried to nearby land via rainfall and infect other crops. In Asia, many tea plantations are at high elevation and are doubly dangerous because after a big rain, the chemicals simply travel down the mountainside and attach to other crops in the village and elsewhere.
- Teas that are “certified organic” in most Western nations are completely free of synthetic chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides), which helps maintain the purity of the soil and the entire ecosystem around the growing area.
- Organic tea production employs biodiversity and attempts to adapt to whatever the local conditions are in a specific region.
- Herbicides that are commonly used on tea in non-organic growing situations have been shown to lead to a host of physical problems, including various cancers, Parkinson’s disease, skin disorders, eye irritation, respiratory problems, as well as hormone disruption, birth defects and long-term damage to the human nervous system.
- Tea enthusiasts claim to be able to detect the taste of chemical additives in non-organic teas. In fact, some people attribute so-called “caffeine jitteriness” not to the caffeine in tea but to the pesticides and artificial substances that were used in the growing process.
- A much higher percentage of organically-grown tea tends to be of the Fair Trade variety, which means that farmers and workers are given a fair price for their products and are not in situations where they are exploited by land owners or local governments.
- Every tea in existence can be grown organically. Organic tea farming is an all-around better choice for local land owners because it adds nothing artificial to the ground water.
- Because so many consumers are choosing organic teas, the farmers who produce it are enjoying an economic upturn in terms of demand, price and long-term financial health. Even the large corporate chains have found something to like about organic tea; most of the large chains sell an organic variety of every tea on their menus. Consumer awareness and demand are doing good things for the organic tea market.
- In the U.S., the USDA National Organic Program is the official “certifier” of all things organic, and tea is no exception. Most European and Asian nations have similar government agencies that are in charge of organic food and beverage certification. Typically, these entities offer third-party inspection to make certain that all ingredients in a tea are organic.
- Even though non-organic tea farms have a much higher crop yield, organic farms tend to have a much more sustainable output, a cleaner crop, and do not harm nearby lands.
- Organic tea farming (and organic farming in general) does not destroy bird habitats or threaten endangered species. The entire ecosystem is taken into account when an organic farm draws up its production plan each season; the tea crop is not looked at as an isolated object but as one part of a complicated natural process.
Many of the finest tea shops in the world offer organic blends exclusively. In fact, some of the healthiest, best-tasting tea in the world is Japanese matcha tea that is certified “organic.” Other varieties like oolong, black, and white tea also are available in both organic and non-organic varieties. For reasons of environmental concern and personal health, consumers who opt for organic tea are making a wise selection.