When you hear Direct trade, what first comes to mind? We here at Loose Leaf Club believe in supporting and sourcing our tea from farms that believe in Direct trade tea. So, what is it? It is about empowerment and exchanging value (a fair price) with the tea farmer/producer so they can build a strong life and community for themselves. The farm to table phrase has been in people’s vocabulary for awhile, buyers are used to knowing where their heirloom tomatoes are grown they source at their local farmer’s market, even where their lettuce is grown locally. Now, that same idea is being embraced by tea farmers and connoisseurs. Those of us who embrace the Direct trade connection want to be able to tell you what farm grew your tea leaves, when the leaves were picked and the background of the family farmers running the operation. In Direct trade, the money designated for the crops goes directly to the farmer, with a larger percentage going to the independent farmer, not a cooperative. And, the farmers have immediate feedback on their crops which provides incentives to them to create better teas!
Okay, so why aren’t we sourcing Fair trade teas?
That has been a buzzword in many industries, most notably the chocolate and coffee industry. While Fair trade coffee does accomplish a more ethical system of buying and selling coffee, direct trading offers a few things to coffee and tea merchants that simple Fair trade does not. To be eligible for Fair trade certification, producers must meet certain requirements, apply for the program and pay a fee to be licensed as a Fair trade company. But perhaps most significantly to us tea snobs, Fair trade buyers are generally more concerned with quantity versus quality. While Fair trade guarantees farmers a minimum price for their coffee, they are not compensated for particularly great beans or motivated to constantly improve them. In this model, producers often make the same amount whether the product is at the passable level or of the highest quality.
Bottom line is Direct trade teas are a win/win for both farmer and consumer.
Who doesn’t want better tasting tea??
Founder/Chief Tea Taster
Loose Leaf Club