All of our teas and herbs are fairly traded - bought directly from our partner farms around the world, for the price they set. A simple idea, but one that disrupts the status quo, where tea is usually bought and traded by brokers as a commodity for the lowest price - at the expense of the people who grow and craft it.
For generations, tea has been a very exploitative industry with the value staying in the hands of giant agri-businesses and not reaching tea communities. Life expectancy can be as low as the 40s among the people who grow and craft household-name teas, even ones with certificates on the box. But with your help, we can do things differently.
Fair trade vs. Fairtrade
Before Rare Charity, we used to work with the Fairtrade Foundation – but over time we realised the bulk of the money we generated went to the foundation rather than the farmer.
We believe, above all, in loose leaf, fairly traded tea. We work very hard to build direct, responsible, ethical relationships with our partner farms and co-operatives. We pay our farmers direct, at prices they set - rather than brokers or at auction.
Fair trade loose leaf tea is not just a symbol on packaging. We pay x7, x10, x20, even x80 more than commodity tea prices for the best loose leaf tea we can find - direct to farmers who grow and craft it. And to support the wider tea community, we set up Rare Charity with a direct percentage of sales going to support educational scholarships on our partner farms.
A box of tea bags on a supermarket shelf may be adorned with certification labels, but the best green tea or English breakfast tea is not necessarily the one with the most stickers. Too often, these teas are low-grade CTC teabags that require plenty of milk and sugar to mask their bitter taste.
Types of fair trade tea
Whether it's earl grey tea, white, oolong or rooibos, our full range of loose leaf teas and herbal infusions are all fairly traded, bought for quality over price direct from the farmer. You can be sure that the Rare Tea leaves in your pot are good for you and good for tea farmers.
Where does fair trade tea come from?
Our fairly traded teas and herbs come from all over the world. No matter where tea grows, the people who make it are entitled to be paid fairly for their work and craft.
Working conditions and pay are (on the whole) better in some countries, such as China and Japan, but the majority of the tea we drink in the UK comes from India, Sri Lanka and East Africa. Usually, black industrial tea that supermarkets want to pay as little as they can for - putting the burden on the farmers. If we can make people appreciate all tea and its value, no matter whether Indian, African or Japanese, we can help tea communities across the globe to thrive. We believe our loose leaf teas from the Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi are some of the best in the world.
How does fair trade impact local tea growing communities?
By choosing tea for quality over price we are supporting skilled men and women in marginalised rural communities and getting better flavour. Better tea brings more and better jobs. Better prices bring better wages. We work alongside our farms – investing in infrastructure and guaranteeing harvests and prices.
What is our opinion on the Fairtrade certification?
Fairtrade certification is not bad and may be a good option for some products (we can't talk on behalf of coffee or chocolate), but when it comes to tea, we believe we can go beyond this to directly support our tea-growing communities.
The certification bodies are profit-making businesses, not charities, and the cost is extremely high, both in terms of money and time. Not every farmer in remote mountain locations has the resources, skills or technology to go through the process.
A Fairtrade certification aims to give customers peace of mind that what they are buying has been made without exploitation, the very least you might expect from any socially sustainable business. Farmers gain a premium on top of the price paid for the tea. How the premium is spent is overseen by the foundation. Whilst it's no bad thing that farmers can earn a Fairtrade premium for their produce, we believe they should be paid a fair price in the first place, with no need for a premium. We want to change the system to ensure farmers are paid what they need for their craft from the start, ensuring they don't just survive but thrive.
Rather than hand-outs we believe in giving tea communities the agency to achieve social and economic success on their own terms in their own way.
No one should suffer for a cup of tea.
Is fair trade tea eco-friendly?
We are wary of the term 'eco-friendly' to describe our tea because the term doesn't explain how it's eco-friendly. It's a phrase often thrown around to greenwash consumers. Our teas don't do any harm to the environment. And they go beyond that - they come from tea gardens actively trying to improve and nurture their natural environments. From non-intervention agriculture to sustainable forestry, we work with farms that are reinvesting in the soil and the people who are responsible for such incredible teas. This is only possible for the farm if they can get a fair price for their tea. That's true sustainability - environmental, social and economic.
Is this tea organically grown?
We only work with tea gardens committed to organic and sustainable farming principles, but many of them do not have organic certification. We work with small producers, in marginalised rural communities, who don't have the money or personnel necessary for the complex and costly process of organic certification. These gardens don't use pesticides or herbicides on their land. Using traditional farming practices and increasingly investing in regenerative agriculture, they ensure they preserve this land for future generations. We test our teas systematically through a third party laboratory to verify this.
Is your tea grown with child labour?
We only work with tea gardens who take care of their workforce - from recognising basic human rights (this includes no child labour) to going above and beyond to support their community thrive. As a direct trade tea company we visit the farms we work with, and make sure we can see this firsthand.