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From Tea in the Field to Tea in Your Cup

Branch cuttings from a prized organic tea “mother bush” are taken to grow hearty, pest resistant crops. Generally young plants are tended in nurseries and then moved to the estate’s gardens where they are allowed to grow naturally to a height of nearly six feet tall. They are then pruned back to a one-foot tall trunk and grown to waist high. When the plants are three years old, the first leaves are plucked and processed into finished tea.

 

Consider The Garden as an Organism

Two of our organic tea sources, Makaibari and Oothu, also practice the Biodynamic method of agriculture. Based on the teachings of philosopher Rudolph Steiner, Biodynamics seeks to actively work with the health-giving forces of nature. It is the oldest non-chemical agricultural movement, predating the organic agriculture movement. The Demeter Association is responsible for certifying Biodynamic farms, based on internationally recognized standards.


Biodynamic® Certifier

 


Since our inception in 1989, Choice Organic Teas has tried to visit every organic tea garden from which we purchase tea. This is unusual for a tea company.

Most conventional tea companies buy their supplies from brokers who bid at anonymous tea auctions. That’s not good enough for us. Choice Organic Teas has marched proudly far from the beaten path of any conventional tea company in North America. We need to know for ourselves that the tea we purchase is cultivated, plucked, and processed in an exceptional manner. The garden must be committed to long-term use of organic cultivation methods which regenerate and refresh farming soils and protect wildlife and the health of those who farm the land.

Equally important, Choice Organic Teas only trades with estates that treat their workers fairly. These organic gardens are continents away, in India, Sri Lanka, China, Africa, and Japan, and while the trips there are often grueling, there are great rewards when we meet amazing people who love and respect organic tea as much as we do.

Here’s what we’ve seen on some of our recent visits:

 

Hot, dry summer winds blow across the tree-lined hills of Sri Lanka, whipping for weeks past the tea leaves of the Thotulagalla Tea Garden in the famed Uva Region. The people who pluck the organic tea leaves say the winds are crucial, giving the tea grown there a unique cedar flavor that has been enjoyed for hundreds of years. We know this because we have visited Thotulagalla. We have walked the gardens, inspected the organic cultivation methods, and tasted the tea firsthand.

The tea workers at the Oothu Tea Garden in the jungled, rolling hills of Southern India place organic compost and Neem oil cakes in the trenches alongside tea plants to aid in drought resistance and prevent soil erosion during the heavy monsoons. This is hard, labor-intensive work. But natural methods like these dramatically reduce groundwater pollution, protect the health of these workers, and preserve the native flora and fauna of the tropical rainforests that surrounds the gardens. We see the effect that forsaking cheaper, destructive farming methods has made at Oothu. Elephants wander the grounds, and tea pluckers have told us of sighting rare jaguars and endangered tigers.

And to the north, at the Makaibari Tea Estate at the foothills of the Himalayas where Mount Everest is visible on a clear day, organic farming helps protect the environment. In continuous operation since 1859, Makaibari is among the oldest of all Indian tea gardens. The garden is home to more than 600 tea workers and their families. A pioneer in innovative management, Makaibari has committed to 100 percent organic and biodynamic production since 1991. Among the more than 220 species of birds, 2,000 species of butterflies, and hundreds of species of flowers is a rare white orchid. It is extinct in surrounding areas but still thrives on the tea estate.

We understand that dedicated drinkers of Choice Organic Tea expect fine organic teas that are well balanced. That’s why we go great distances to deliver amazing organic teas in a manner the Earth deserves.


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