by Anna Galandzij for the Fairtrade Foundation
Change is blowing through cafes and supermarket shelves around the UK – on the back of the green tea leaf. As the 'grassy' beverage has a moment, we round up five things that make the UK’s first Fairtrade green tea so special.
When Clipper Teas launched the first Fairtrade green tea in the UK 20 years ago, the beverage was very much unknown on the market. Today, almost half of the UK's 25 to 34-year-olds choose green tea over coffee or regular black tea. Although some of green tea’s widely promoted health benefits are yet to be medically confirmed, its natural and plant-based taste has won the hearts and pockets of the growing health-conscious consumer base.
Clipper, the pioneering tea brand owned by Wessanen UK, has also blazed a trail in sustainability by driving change for tea growers, their families and communities in developing countries.
So, as the UK’s first Fairtrade green tea celebrates two decades this year, here are five top things you should know…
1. Flavour – from simple satisfaction to refined pleasure
From the light and bright golden Pure Green Tea to the refreshing and deliciously calming Citrus and Aloe Vera Green Tea, Clipper truly caters for every taste. Its range now boasts more than 20 different varieties, all bursting with flavour, and accordingly playful designs. If you are a busy yet huge fan of juicing, try the brand new Super Green Moringa Boost Tea, with the added boost of moringa leaves, spinach and the crisp tang of apple. Voila!
What about caffeine, I hear you ask? Caffeine in green tea can provide a steady source of stimulation, which has a relaxing and calming effect on your brain. If you want to reduce or eliminate it altogether, try the decaf variety, chemical-free, naturally.
2. Organic – good for you, tea growers and the planet
Clipper has a long history of producing organic and natural teas. The benefits of organic for both people and the planet have been widely documented and championed in the UK by the likes of the Soil Association.
At Fairtrade, we know that more farmers are switching to organic farming methods, to eliminate the use of harmful chemicals that play havoc with the soil, water and human health. Research shows that in the long term, the use of fertilisers also hardens the soil, making it more and more difficult for the tea plants to grow without them. This kind of chemical dependence becomes a vicious cycle in which we all lose.
Tea pickers at Burnside tea estate, India
3. Bleached or unbleached, that is the question
The average tea-drinker might not know that a standard tea bag is put through the process of bleaching to achieve its pearly-white exterior. Clipper Teas' bags are a slightly different colour to the rest – a light brown. The company has proudly led the way on unbleached teabags, and rightly so. Since a mixture of chemicals are used to bleach bags, the unbleached ones are nasties-free, which brings us nicely to our next point…
4. All-round health booster
Green tea is claimed to be the healthiest beverage on the planet. It contains B vitamins, folate (naturally occurring folic acid), manganese, potassium, magnesium, caffeine and other antioxidants (healthy chemicals), in particular catechins that fight and may even prevent cell damage. Top tip alert – don’t add green tea to boiling water, as it’s bad for those catechins in the tea. Let the water cool for a few minutes until it drops to around 140 Fahrenheit.
Want to stay sharp as you get older? Research published in the journal Psychopharmacology in 2014 suggests that green tea can enhance our brain's cognitive functions. And so it could be promising in the treatment of neuropsychiatric disorders, such as dementia. Green tea also contains polyphenols that kill microbes that are responsible for bad breath – which means it could be a great (and healthier) alternative to mints and chewing gum!
5. Driving change with each cup
By launching the first Fairtrade green tea in the UK, Clipper has shown that it is possible for a business to offer a great product while putting the interests of people at its heart. The company works closely with a handful of tea producers, notably in southern India, to deliver high quality green tea and, most importantly, a real difference to local communities.
Through being part of Fairtrade, green tea sales and the Fairtrade Premium have transformed the lives of two generations: growers and the children they have raised on the tea estates. These young people have been able to go to college and achieve qualifications, an opportunity they might not have had.
Mrs. M. Kalamani, a tea plucker at the Burnside tea estate Clipper works with, said that her earnings were “enough to support my family, but to stretch myself to pay for my son’s education without this [Premium] would not have been possible without incurring debts from outsiders. Fairtrade helped me give my children their education without this pressure.”
Ms. Kalamani with her son Saravanan
In an industry known for low wages and poor working conditions, the kind of trade that encourages fairness, transparency and respect is a lifeline for thousands. Buying Fairtrade tea is one of the most powerful ways to deliver impact for tea farmers and their families.