Small Farms & Organic Tea Farming
Small Farms Rule
In Pursuit of Tea directly sources looseleaf tea from small farms, not only because we want to support traditional farmers, but because their teas taste better. Large estate teas are often blends of machine-harvested and -processed leaves with a wide range of grades; in the cup, tea will taste only as good as its weakest component. When modern technology is introduced to tea-making, it generally serves to increase efficiency at the expense of flavor. Small farm teas, on the other hand, are carefully tended, with leaves handpicked and then crafted with great care and pride. Traditional tea producers, utilizing centuries-old techniques passed down by their ancestors, are devoted to the quality of their product.
In many areas of Asia, economic pressures are intense for small tea farmers. Traditional agriculture is a rapidly shifting industry, as younger generations depart for alternative employment in urban centers, and farmers are faced with increased effort and expense for processing. Combined with the trend of higher commercial yields, the ever-lowering prices for looseleaf tea can lead to an unsustainable business. At times, farmers may even have to leave tea to wilt on the bush when there's not enough people to pick the leaves. When you purchase tea from us, you are helping to directly support threatened tea farming traditions, and to provide a fair price for an artisanal agricultural product.
What's Up With Organic Tea?
We are very concerned about the increased use of dangerous chemical pesticides and fertilizers that are used to grow tea throughout the world.
When shopping for produce, it's now easy to find organically grown varieties or buy directly at local farmers' markets. That particular venue gives us the ability to talk to the producers and understand how our food is grown, and to ask any questions directly to the people growing it. With tea, it's a more complex process. While we always want tea that's grown cleanly, we also want to have the tea processed well. These factors are independent of each other. Ideally, we source organically grown and masterfully made tea. We find that many teas sold as organic use this designation primarily to market and sell the tea. In other words, consumers are increasingly seeking organic tea, and the growers respond by producing a high volume but low quality organic crop. Flavor and fragrance are not significant considerations.
The price and process for organic certification is financially impossible for many of the small producers that we work with. That's why both spending time with the farmers at origin and spot testing the teas is our strategy. Testing everything we source is cost prohibitive, so we spot test if there is any uncertainty about the purity of the tea.
Some of our teas do have organic certification, but as our warehouse is not an organic-certified facility, we do not label them as such. We rely on our close relationships with the farmers that we source from, and spend time with them on their farms and in their homes. We choose to work with producers who care for the land, their families and workers, and their tea plants. In addition, the methods for making traditional tea are hundreds to thousands of years old, so by nature these agricultural practices are already in line with the modern concept of organic.
Most tea produced today is commercially made: chemically grown, mechanically harvested and processed, and blended for a consistency. We prefer to draw from looseleaf tea's rich history, and seek out superb examples of traditional production. The taste is incomparable.