After living in China for over 3 years, being deeply involved in the tea business on not only a professional level, but family level and my own personal interests I have been able to see where the big tea companies are buying their tea from, how they are buying, and then how they market it in the US. I have also seen from the inside how the Fair Trade and similar certification processes work here. We want to believe these tea companies are doing good, after all they have Fair Trade, USDA organic certifications, but what does that all mean anyway? I had a different perspective on the Fair Trade certification process before I actually lived in China and saw how they certify it firsthand. Not only do I say the Fair Trade is bogus, it is almost fraudulent. I won’t mention names here, but I know of one major tea factory that supplies a good portion of the US market’s looseleaf major tea company’s teas.
When they applied for Fair Trade certification it was a total joke. The man who did the Fair Trade certification simply looked through the company’s records, which are extremely easy to doctor from what I am told and is obvious. Then onto the farm and factory where they have a translator (who works for the factory) translate into English the Fair Trade Certification manager’s questions and the factory’s employees’ answers. It was simple for the factory, put on paper only a certain amount of employees, doctor the records about how much the employees earn and then pay those select few to meet the Fair Trade certification manager. The translator in actuality does not even have to translate what they are actually saying if the translator is not satisfied with their answers.
This simple sad but true story can lead anyone to question the validity of Fair Trade the next time they see the logo.
I am not trying to bring anyone down here, but it is time we raise the integrity of the tea industry and really know not only what’s in our cup, but how it got there.