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Direct Trade Tea Means The Best Tea

The run-down:

  • Like many roasters now offer direct trade coffee, all of Big Heart Tea Co.'s tea leaves - including black teagreen tea, and matcha - are sourced from direct relationships with socially and environmentally responsible farmers.
  • Direct trade means a one or two-degree connection, in a mutually beneficial transparent trade agreement.
  • Big Heart Tea Co. has complete transparency on the treatment of workers and ecosystems, and has visited some of these farms personally.
  • Direct trade can mean a more sustainable supply chain: 
    • economically because farmers get a fair price for their goods and don’t have to compensate multiple brokers (or "middlemen") 
    • environmentally because showcasing and appropriately compensating farmers can enable sustainable agricultural practices
    • socially because when farmers are appropriately compensated, they can protect and pay their workers well

Big Heart Tea Co. is always working to do what we do better and in transparency. We’re making our best effort to do the right thing on a holistic level. This means being diligent in everything we do.

And when it comes to a rainforest crop like tea, that's extra important.


What does "direct trade" mean?

What is "ethical sourcing?"

Direct trade means a one- or two-degree connection to your farmer. Big Heart Tea Co. puts our values of empathy, sustainability, and transparency into action by creating relationships with socially and environmentally responsible tea farmers, cutting out the middlemen. 

Unlike a third-party certification such as Fair Trade or USDA Organic, direct trade agreements do not have a single set of qualifications or rules. Some buyers may prioritize freshness over labor practices, or certain sustainable practices over others.

At Big Heart Tea Co., we take each relationship case by case to ensure a holistic approach to sustainability that incorporates people and planet, meeting farmers where they are.

We only source from tea estates and collectives that:

  • Take care of people

    • Do farmers get fair wages? Health care? Education?
  • Take care of the land

      Why is direct trade tea more sustainable?

      People, planet, and economy can't be separated. Everything is connected.

      That’s important when it comes to tea, not only because Mama Earth needs protection and love, but also because the tea industry is rooted in bad practice (see section on Injustice in the Tea Industry below for more details).

      Everything we buy comes from somewhere. There are ecosystems and people behind all of it.

      Tea grows in especially precious ecosystems, and conventional tea farming not only douses the land and water in pesticides, but cuts away entire forests to replace them with a single species of plant.

      And when it comes to the human impact of tea, our Founder Lisa frames it this way:

      Take a minute to imagine the number of hands that touch your tea before it gets to your cup.  

      The hands that till the land, that plant the seed, that prune the plant, that harvest the leaves, that wither, roll, and dry the leaves, that package the tea, that move the package, that receive the package, that blend the tea, that sell the tea.

      Yeah. That’s a lot of humans. They deserve respect, happiness, and good health. And just like there's a link between environmental pollution and human health, it's also pretty well-studied that poverty is linked to environmental degradation.

      Our current direct trade partners:

      Assam Heritage Tea, India
       
      Yanki Tea, India
       
      Satemwa Tea Estate, Malawi
      Hattori Matcha, Japan
      Yoshiaki Hattori of Hattori Matcha, pesticide-free solar-powered matcha farm in Shizuoka, Japan
      We also sell additional direct trade oolong and green teas to our wholesale customers. So any time you find our teas in a cafe or coffeeshop, you can sip knowing we've taken the holistic approach.

      Injustice in the tea industry

      To understand a story, you have to go back to the beginning. And the story of today's tea is rooted in extractive colonial practices.

      In India, imperial British colonial importers created a cash crop industry based on cheap, overworked labor. Even now, hundreds of years later, a worker in an upper Assam tea garden makes less than $2 a day. More than half of them are women from marginalized backgrounds.

      Unjust major tea estates still control the market, churning out high-volume (and low-quality) tea without worker protections or decent wages — claiming they simply “can’t” afford to pay folks better, use less pesticide, or make sure their staff are safe from the chemicals they use.

      We’ve learned that small, land-owning farmers are at the mercy of corporate importers who leverage their massive buying power to control the price and buy at unsustainable rates.

      We reject these clandestine, exploitative trade practices, and we know that anyone with a big heart would feel the same way.

      We invite you to enjoy our tea knowing it comes from a true place of health.

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