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Discovering Legendary Teas
Should I only be buying organic tea, and if so, which are the best organic tea?
The thought of organic teas sure sounds better then non-organic tea but I’m not sure if all the teas I like are organic.
When we consider organic vs non-organic teas, it is helpful to see how the wine industry has dealt with the organic consideration.
Both organic and non-organic teas can vary in quality complicating the decision making process for the tea drinker. Looking at organic considerations there are actually three categories to consider, certified organic, organic compliant and non-organic.
Certification means that certain standards must be met to gain approval of a certifying body of some sort. For example, in the USA, this could be USDA. Other countries have certification standards as well.
An issue that tea lovers face when it comes to organic, is that there is not a universal global certifying body that controls all other certifying organizations, so we lack a uniform world-wide standard.
When looking at organic teas then it is helpful to know which certifying body has given the producer their organic certification.
Another issue develops when you consider cost, because as with all certification compliance comes the cost of establishing certification and the cost of continuing audits to insure organic standards continue to be met.
There is a barrier for smaller farmers and producers that may lack the funding and or technical skills to achieve certification compliance. Some are able to group together with others to obtain certification.
In some instances, farmers or co-ops may implement and maintain organic practices and can be considered by those that know them as organic compliant, but they have no certification to verify their product.
We also find regionally famous growing regions that may apply organic techniques but at some point in their past history have had chemical fertilizers or pesticides used so trace amounts remain in their soil preventing certification.
This becomes a great dilemma for the world of tea because it is from some of those very regions that many of the most renowned teas of excellence come. These teas have to be considered non-organic although they can be hand-crafted teas that produce sensational cups of tea. If we want authentic teas from famous growing regions, they may just not be available in an organic version.
Many times, in order to become organic certified, growers use the same technique as a famous region tea, but produce it in a different location where a tea garden was more recently built in virgin uncontaminated soil. This means the tea would come from somewhat different terroir.
My personal experience has been that some of the organic teas I’ve had have been outstanding, and other’s not so much. Sometimes they deliver that anticipated cup character one comes to expect from a certain growing region and other times when comparing organic vs non-organic grades, (even from the same grower with identical processing technique) sometimes the organic is not as vibrant and full in the cup character.
In these instances, it is difficult to replace the non-organic with an organic version because our tea drinkers, will definitely notice.
So, there is a lot to consider when choosing teas based on organic certification. We can evaluate the certifying body if there is one, the growing region, the characteristics of the leaves as well as the steeped beverage.
As purveyors that ate committed to bringing high quality teas at affordable prices what we do is choose Organics when they meet the cup characteristics, we feel we need to deliver to our customers, and if they fall below, we either do not select them or offer them in addition to the conventional tea allowing the customer to decide for themselves.
In the end, we can reference the approach we take to other organic products that we consume such as vegetables, dry goods, wines, meats poultry and dairy.
The final decision with tea will come down to your level of commitment to certified organic as compared to other products you consume, your belief in the accrediting body, the importance original unique terroir, your assessment of the quality in your cup.
In the world of tea today, so many options exist the organic decision should only be one more consideration, not the only one.
If you would like to see the best organic white tea, the best organic loose leaf green tea, the best organic loose leaf oolong tea, the best organic black tea, and the best organic Rooibos tea that we have been able to find so far, check on our Organic Collection here…