Once upon a simpler time there was little question about whether or not your tea — or any other food or beverage, for that matter — was organically grown. For there once was a time when the pesticides and chemical fertilizers that disqualify a food from being labeled “organic” simply did not exist.
Of course, times have changed and nowadays there are an ever-increasing number of health-conscious consumers who are concerned about how their food and beverages are being produced. In addition to the increasingly popular local food and fair trade movements, there are also more shoppers who are looking to see if their items are being produced organically.
But what exactly does that mean? According to the Organic Trade Association (OTA), “organic refers to the way agricultural products — food and fiber — are grown and processed. Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. The use of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, cloning, and irradiation are prohibited in organic production and processing.” In the United States, organic certification is overseen by state and other agencies that have been approved by the US Department of Agriculture.
Sales of organic products have seen a dramatic upswing in the past few decades, according to the OTA. They estimate that in the United States sales of organic food and beverages have increased from $1 billion in 1990 to about $20 billion in 2007. From 2007 to 2010 the OTA estimated that organic food and beverage sales would increase an average of 18 percent annually.
While numbers on the size and growth of the organic tea industry aren’t readily available, a glance at store shelves and merchant web sites shows that things have improved considerably in this arena. More offerings are on display than one would have encountered even a decade ago and more are turning up all the time.
One study on organic tea in Taiwan indicated that plantings there have grown from five hectares in 1996 to 76 hectares in 2004. While these are modest numbers, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that they’re indicative of an increasing interest in organic tea everywhere.
Check out William’s blog, Tea Guy Speaks, for more great posts!