Sunday, April 8, 2012

Top 5 Countries Producing Fair Trade Certified Tea, According To RateTea

The issue of fair trade certification is complex, not only in the tea world, but across the board. Anyone who has read my article on fair trade tea on RateTea will know that I don't see fair trade as an instant solution to the problems associated with the large disparities of wealth between the industrialized countries like the U.S. and Japan and the historically poorer ones like China and India. That said, I think fair trade is a generally good idea, and I like to support it, such as by making RateTea's listings able to be searched and filtered by fair trade status, as well as supporting critiques that can potential strengthen the system of fair trade certification.

This post highlights some interesting observations about which countries have the most fair trade certified teas on the market in the West. These coarse observations are not exact, they come from RateTea's database, which may have various biases, but the difference is pronounced enough that I feel pretty confident with the order. Here are the leading countries producing fair trade certified tea:

  • India - India comes out a clear leader in this contest, with China coming in a noticeably-lagging second. This was intuitive to me; although China and India produce a roughly comparable amount of tea on the global market, and although China definitively leads India in terms of diversity of the teas it exports, China lags behind in terms of transparency, a key factor in fair trade certification.

  • China - Second place, as discussed above.

  • Sri Lanka - The only other country to produce an appreciable amount of fair trade certified tea, Sri Lanka produces fair trade certified teas in a number of regions, including Uva, Dimbula, and Nuwara Eliya.

  • Nepal - The only fair trade certified teas I know of come from Kenchajangha / Kangchenzodnga estate, but there are so few runners-up in fair trade tea after the big three that this one tea garden, whose teas are relatively widely available in the west, seems to be enough to put Nepal on the map.

  • Kenya - Kenya barely makes it onto this list; interestingly, all the fair trade certified Kenyan teas in RateTea's database are tea bags, sold by UK companies.

There's only one runner-up, Vietnam, with two fair trade certified teas. Every other country is a big zero.

Interestingly, the ordering in this list is the same regardless of whether or not you include flavored teas when compiling the ranking.

Do you have anything to add?

Do you have any interesting information that I have missed, possibly explaining this ranking? Are there any important fair trade certified teas that I've missed (and that would put other countries on this list, or possibly, even change the ranking of the countries, because the sample size is so small for the last ones?)

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