Tag Archive for People

Tea 201 - Varietals - What's in a breed? (Camelia Sinensis)

Camelia Sinensis var Sinensis

Camelia Sinensis var Sinensis

Tea. Camellia sinensis. By now you should be well familiar with these words and how they are synonymous with each other.  This evergreen plant from the countries of hot climates with its delicate little white flowers and yellow stamens should be seared into your mind.  It is the mother of all tea.  But now, I think you are ready for some mind blowing news: there are actually two varietals of the Camellia sinensis! Gasp!

The first’s formal name is actually Camellia sinensis sinensis.  This varietal has smaller leaves and loves cool and high mountains like in central China and Japan.  This plant can reach a maximum height of 10 feet or so.  Little known fact: this plant is a bush unlike the other varietals which are trees.

The second varietal is known as Camellia sinensis assamica.  This plant thrives in lower elevations in more moist and tropical regions like in Northeast India and the Yunnan and Szechuan provinces of China.  This plant is much larger than its counterpart.  Potentially reaching up to 65 feet tall, this is not the varietal you would want growing in your back yard.

But wait! There’s one more varietal that I had forgotten to mention.  There is also the Camellia sinensis cambodiensis (also known as Camellia sinensis parvifolia) also known as the “java bush.”  This breed has been mainly cross bred to allow for certain traits, the Java bush is not usually used for commercial tea production.  It is considered a hybrid plant and is rarely cultivated on its own.  It is a multi-trunked tree (like the assamica) but shorter in height (like the sinensis).

Just when you thought that tea was as simple as one plant…

What do you think, dear readers? Every time you drink a cup of tea, I challenge you to question what varietal you’re drinking!

Tea 201 - Fair Trade - The Effects of Sustainable Investment in People

Fair. Trade.  You see these words thrown around in tea shops and coffee shops.  But what does it mean?  Why is it such a big deal?  Well, never fear my dear readers.  I am here to tell you!

To put it simply, fair trade is the economic model that literally cuts out the middle man between the growers and the shops that sell the products.  This allows for the farmers to be given a chance and the capacity to compete in the global market.

It was created in 1988 when the fall of coffee prices created a panic for developing countries that were supplying the beans.  This directly impacted the small farmers.

When you see the words Fair Trade on a product, you may also notice that the price is sometimes higher than a typical store brand.  That’s because there is also a “social premium.”  What you’re paying for is not just for the product itself.  You are also paying for funds that go directly into the communities of the workers through educational, social and cultural development.

There are six keys principles of Fair Trade according to a well known company who deals in Fair Trade called Rishi:

A Fair Price: Fair-Trade-certifying organizations establish a fair price, guaranteeing farmers and workers a living wage as well as an additional sum of money or “premium” for investment in social, environmental or economic development.

Fair Labor Conditions: Fair Trade workers and farmers are guaranteed safe working conditions and fair living wages. Forced child labor is strictly prohibited.

Direct Trade: Fair trade products are purchased directly from Fair Trade producers, eliminating unnecessary middlemen and allowing farmers to strengthen their organizations and become competitive players in the global economy.

Democratic and transparent organizations: Fair Trade producers within the farm or organization democratically decide how to use their Fair Trade premiums.

Community development: Fair Trade producers invest their Fair Trade premiums into projects that benefit the community and environment including but not limited to the following: improved healthcare, education, business, and farming improvements.

Environmental sustainability: The Fair Trade system strictly prohibits the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), promotes the improvement of soil fertility through practices such as crop rotation and limits the use of harmful chemicals in favor of farming methods that protect and preserve the health of the soil, air, water, workers and consumers.

What a wonderful business model, don’t you think? All in all everyone wins! Do you invest in Fair Trade products?