- Fair Trade fair trade certified India Brands sri lanka Firepot Chai Sustainable Development travel Darjeeling Ceylon Rainforest Alliance First Flush Fairtrade International direct trade Assam Events Numi Art of Tea Fair Trade Resource Network Ethical Tea Partnership Uganda Recipes Choice Organic Sustainable Supply Chain fair trade tea East Africa Seth Goldman Honest Tea English Breakfast Korakundah Estate Oothu Guest blogger Wildlife African Wildlife Foundation South Africa Kenya Runa Guayaki gardens tea shops Spices Cinnamon tea plant cultivars articles writings Traditional Medicinals TED China Travel tips Tulsi Utz Ray Lacorte Forum for the Future Hotels Numi Tea Rishi Tea Quality Smith Teamaker Peru Ahmed Rahim Tisane
Visiting a spice garden in Sri Lanka is like visiting a living Chai library– cardamom grows alongside ginger, cloves, black peppercorns, vanilla beans and cinnamon all under a shady tropical canopy. That all these spices wound up in the pot together with black tea and became known as the sweet, spiced milk tea we know as Firepot Chai then, is no surprise.The picture above shows you black pepper before harvest. Here it is after harvest and drying. You can tell from the color that the flavor has become rich and warm in the drying process.. Can you guess which spice this is? Our spices are sourced from tropical developing countries, just like the tea we buy for Firepot Chai. So, it is equally important to us that they are organic and ethically sourced; that we pay a fair or above market price for them.Read more about BioFoods, teh supplier of many of our Fair Trade and Organic spices here.
Many of our spices come from a company in Sri Lanka called BioFoods.Founded by Dr. Sarath Ranaweera twenty years ago, BioFoods is not only Fair Trade and organic certified, they also work closely with SOFA (Small Organic Farmer Association) and MOFA (Marginalized Organic Producer Association) to bring employment and opportunity to many small holders and in turn, to access some of the highest quality, wild grown spices from deep in the hills of Ceylon.
Sri Lanka was once known as “Ceylon” and so today the tea from this fertile teardrop shaped island off of India’s southern tip is known as “Ceylon” tea. The country’s varied topography and climate creates a diversity of tea types and styles. Today we are tasting teas from three of the country’s best tea growing regions: 1. Nuwara Eliya, high in the hills of central Sri Lanka, known for producing light liquoring, flavorful teas 2. Ratnapura, the coastal lowlands where robust, rich teas are produced and 3. Uva, where the classic, lemony and brisk Ceylon teas are from.Art of Tea’s Lover Leap Ceylon $3/ ounce. A light green leaf delivers a flavorful cup with notes of raw honeycrisp apple and a light yellow liquor. Organic.Tao of Tea Ceylon Silver Striped FBOPF: $2.63/ ounce. This exquisite tea, made of fine, young buds and leaves, has plenty of complexity, astringency and flavor. Look for notes of dried fig and chocolate, a nice complexity and a medium body.Bellocq No. 8, Ceylon OP $4.3/ ounce. This large-leaf selection from Uva produces a rich, red cup and a smooth infusion with malty and woody notes. Fair Trade certified.
They were one of the first to use organic cotton and one of the first to then make it wearable; they were they first to track the carbon footprint of their iconic fleece jackets and yoga pants. Now, Patagonia has joined Oliberte Footwear and PrAna as a pioneer of ethical clothing by committing to the Fair Trade process. By becoming certified by Fair Trade USA, Patagonia has agreed to use Fair Trade cotton, produce garments in a Fair Trade USA certified factory, agree to regular audits, purchase products according to Fair Trade terms (i.e. the piece rate is not the lowest possible), and agree to pay a 1-10% Fair Trade premium to a worker-controlled fund. Workers vote on how to use the funds and use them for things like medical facilities, schools, or simply a bigger paycheck.Now, don’t you think it is time for Patagonia to offer it’s bevy of climbers, surfers, runners, mountaineers and yogis a nice cup of Fair Trade tea? Read more about it here…here.
For those of you who do not subscribe to Fresh Cup, this is a version of a recent article I wrote for their October issue– it is on tea plant cultivars and varietals. For the true tea geek, it is a riveting read!
No one knows the exact time or place marking the origin of today’s tea plant, Camellia sinensis. Legend has it that in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung discovered tea. This likely took place in the cloud forests of Southern China’s Yunnan province, for that is where all evidence suggests tea first sprouted. Since then, countless botanists, planters and tea masters have been mesmerized by this small, evergreen tree and have dedicated their work to its cultivation in search of the perfect cup. Their work continues today as modern tea lovers follow the quest for increasingly healthy, sustainable and delicious teas.
The earliest records of tea cultivation date back to China, circa 700 AD, when plants were being propagated from wild seeds. Circa 1200 AD, imported Chinese seeds were being sown in Japan. In the early to mid 1800s, offspring of the original Chinese trees were being planted in the now classic tea origins of India and Sri Lanka.This original variety of the tea plant, hailing from China, has come to be classified as Camellia sinensis var. chinensis. It is known for its small leaves, highly aromatic flavor and its ability to thrive at high altitudes and to produce quality leaf well into old age. Although you will generally find China plants in areas known for aromatic and flavorful green, white and oolong teas (for example, China, Japan and Taiwan), the tea grown in Darjeeling India is an iconic example of var. chinensis. It it grows at elevations over 6,000 feet, is renowned for its intense flavor and has been thriving on steep hillsides in the Himalayan foothills for more than 150 years.Around the same time that var. chinensis was first planted in India, in 1823, famed Scotsman, Robert Bruce, discovered a native variety of Camellia sinensis growing in Northern India’s Brahmaputra River valley—the region now known as Assam. On perennially warm and humid riverbanks, it grew in size and developed broad leaves and a reputation for making a bold and full-bodied cup. This tea plant came to be called Camellia sinensis var. assamica. While Assam plants are generally found in areas producing black teas for strength, briskness and body (for example, India, Africa and Sri Lanka), exquisitely flavorful black teas can be produced from China plants as well.A third tea variety, Camellia sinensis var.cambodiensis, the “Java bush”, has its origins in Southeast Asia. This variety is less commonly known because it is not typically used for the production of tea outside of Indonesia, but is used in agricultural settings for the development of new cultivars.
From these three principal varieties of Camellia sinensis, thousands of cultivars have been developed in tea gardens and agricultural research stations around the world. A cultivar is a “cultivated variety” and is developed to exhibit particular traits such as hardiness, yield, flavor, disease and drought resistance and compatibility with a specific terroir. Just like Japan’s Fuji apple has certain characteristics that differ from New Zealand’s Braeburn apple, an AV2 from Darjeeling is quite a different plant than an Asanoka from Japan. Both have proven characteristics that make them commercially viable.
Cultivars are generally reproduced using a method called vegetative propagation. Rather than planting seeds, vegetative propagation calls for taking a stem or leaf cutting from a mother bush that has been selected for desirable traits, rooting it in a nursery and then planting it in the field. The resulting plants are clones and, in the tea industry, known as “jats”. They have very specific attributes and the exact genetic makeup of the mother bush. Since plants originating from seed are “wild cards”– you never know exactly what you are going to get, vegetative propagation offers modern tea planters uniformity, reliability, control and profitability.The very first tea clone was only introduced less than 70 years ago. Today, the majority of new plantings are clonal, making the tea in your teacup significantly different from that in Shen Nung’s and, as tea plant development continues, equally different from the one that will be in future generations’ cups. Modern times are changing the future taste of tea.The current challenge of climate change threatens the sustainability of the tea industry and calls on plant scientists for solutions. The International Center for Tropical Agriculture recently revealed that tea production in Africa could disappear completely by 2050. The Tea Research Foundation of Kenya has developed a promising cultivar, TRFK 306/1, known as “purple tea”, that is drought, disease, frost and pest resistant. Its unusually high levels of antioxidants give it added pharmacological implications.Japan’s relatively new (c.1993) clone, Benifuuki, also has been created to have a strong resistance to disease and unusually high antioxidant levels. It is hardy and so can be grown with only a minimal amount of chemicals. Benifuuki is being marketed specifically as an anti-allergen. Both benifuuki and TRFK 306/1 have unique flavor profiles and can taste very bitter if steeping is not adjusted to compliment their chemical makeup.The desire for a unique and flavorful cup continues to drive cultivar development as well. Kenya’s S 15/10 is one example—it is tippy and slow to oxidize and makes a full-bodied white tea with a taste like freshly baked butter cake. In Nepal, the tea masters at Jun Chiyabari are taking established cultivars from Japan and Taiwan that are renowned for flavor and quality and planting them in Nepal’s pure, rich soils. The results are extraordinary. Like a Sauvignon Blanc that is known to produce a crisp and elegant wine at home in Bordeaux but that can produce an equally impressive, yet significantly different tasting wine in New Zealand, a Yabukita tea cultivar will make an impressive, yet different, cup in its native Japan and in Nepal. Along these lines, innovative tea masters in China are producing black teas with cultivars typically used for green tea production.Though the benefits of modern tea cultivation are vast, there is a reaction against large-scale reproduction and planting of only the most popular clones and a growing trend towards heirloom, or heritage, teas as well as wild ones. Heirloom and heritage teas are old cultivars that are not used in large-scale agriculture. Teas marketed as “wild” are likely from very old heritage cultivars, originating from original, wild plants in China. They have been left untouched for a very long time and are harvested in small lots.The value of heirlooms lies in their having evolved over long periods of time to become perfectly suited to their environments. The slight variations from one cultivar to another, then, result in a wealth of genetic diversity. Since the future of tea depends on its ability to survive and adapt to our changing environment, this diversity is of ultimate importance. In ancient times, tea drinkers sought serenity and spirituality form their tea. They were content to reproduce tea like Mother Nature- by putting a seed in the ground. Modern tea drinkers are searching for so much more and cultivars and connoisseurs are rising to meet their demands.