What if you discovered that the Fair Trade tea in your cupboard really wasn’t fair? How would you feel? If you found out that the extra money you paid for your tea because of the Fair Trade label never really made it to the workers, would you still feel that your conscience was satisfied? Worldwide, millions of consumers, purchase Fair Trade product with a belief that the Fair Trade system works– that the extra money paid goes to fight poverty, end hunger and ensure that workers in Third World countries are getting a fair wage for their labors. Fair Trade has become a 21st-century buzzword filled with progressive promises of increased labor standards and higher levels of employee welfare. Consumers contribute to Fair Trade as a means of satisfying a desire to, “do the right thing”; “do something good.” Some even consider that buying Fair Trade products is a charitable act of duty. What if that was all wrong?
In 2008, a pair of Danish documentary filmmakers produced The Bitter Taste of Tea. It was aired on Danish television and highlighted issues and concerns that are currently ongoing in the Fair Trade tea industry. The filmmakers travelled to tea producing countries, visited tea plantations, both traditional and Fair Trade. There they uncovered some truths and realities of Fair Trade. They shake the tree and produce an image of Fair Trade that is unsettling, disturbing and even somewhat shocking.
The film made headlines throughout 2009 and is now finally available to the English-speaking world. A screening was held in January 2010 at the University of California, Los Angeles. The screening was followed by a forum discussion moderated by acclaimed tea author, Beatrice Hohenegger. We’ve reviewed the film, listened to the discussion and were surprised to learn that Fair Trade is not what we thought it was.
We are big fans of Henrietta Lovell, the Rare Tea Lady, she is doing some great things promoting loose tea in Britain. We’ve featured her a number of times in our forums. In this video, she pairs tea with cheese. Watch and let us know if you have ever tried combining the two and what your best pairings were.
In December of 2006, History Channel broadcast this excellent and well-produced, 45-minute documentary on the history of tea and the American tea industry. For those of you who missed it or would like to see it again; we are making it available here via Hulu.