As a consumer, you might wonder if there’s really a big difference between purchasing organic tea rather than non-organic. After all, non-organic tea is cheaper and more readily available than organic tea. As a former non-organic tea drinker, I’ve been converted over the years to drinking organic, and here are a few reasons I’d encourage you to do the same!
For your health
While we typically rinse non-organic produce before consuming, tea leaves are generally not washed before they’re air-dried (oxidized) and packed in tea bags. So the first time tea comes into contact with water is when it steeps in our cups. Choosing tea made with tea leaves and other ingredients sourced from regulated organic farms means you don’t need to worry about hidden toxins and pesticides in the tea that you consume. After all, many of us drink tea for its health benefits as well as its taste- why would we counteract the healing properties of tea by ingesting chemicals or even the heavy metals that are sometimes found in non-organic tea?
Choosing organic is especially important if you have global tea tastes- Non-organic imported tea, especially, has often been found to contain high levels of chemical substances, some of which are even banned for use in the USA by the FDA (like you can find a list of some of these substances in this report).
For the health of the workers that grow your tea
Imagine working all day in a field that had just been dusted with chemicals, breathing in the fumes of freshly sprayed pesticides. The unsafe use of pesticides and herbicides in the race to produce bigger crops, faster growth and less financial loss from insect-damaged plants takes a toll on the health of many farmers and field workers. Illness caused by exposure to harmful substances ranges from short-term effects like rashes, difficulty breathing, or nausea, to chronic health issues like damaged lungs or cancer.
Just as men and women in the agricultural sector should be entitled to fair wages for their labor, as a basic human right, the workers who grow our food also deserve to work in an environment where their health and well-being is considered.
Organic farming practices not only benefit the health of the workers in the fields, but members of the nearby community- cutting out the use of chemicals ensures an untainted water supply for families who depend on natural water sources like rivers and lakes for survival, and reduces any airborne particles that contribute to air pollution.
For the health of the environment
Chemicals that are meant to control certain insects and pests have the potential to harm other wildlife – birds, fish that swim in waterways where runoff from fields settles, and beneficial insects. The vast majority of endangered species are prone to harm from ingesting or being exposed to pesticides. Choosing organic means promoting agriculture that is in harmony with nature and coexists with the surrounding natural habitat rather than destroying it.
The health of the soil both in and surrounding organic fields is much stronger than fields that have been treated with pesticides, which leach into the ground. The delicate balance of organisms, fungi and bacteria that naturally exist in healthy soil can be severely damaged, and difficult to restore fully.
In my travels to visit organic farms in many different areas of the world- Costa Rica, The Philippines, the USA, and India alike- I’ve discovered that the management and workers of organic farms are more likely to be in tune with the general well-being of the entire ecosystem around them, and more compassionate and focused on the quality of life that the field laborers experience. I want to make a conscious effort to support good people with good values that most clearly mirror my own.
To me, choosing organic is not only an act of care for my own health, it’s a choice I make on behalf of others, and on behalf of the planet.
To read more from Hannah about where organic, Fair Trade tea comes from, check out To The People Who Make My Tea.