Organic Green Tea Production – Healthy Tea, Healthy Environment

Is that anti-oxidant rich healthy green tea you love to drink hurting the environment? It is if it’s not organic.

Green tea is renowned the world over for its health-producing benefits, both through traditional wisdom, and more recently through a large volume of scientific research. Yet the truly health-conscious know that health is not just for the individual body, but extends out to society and the environment. Given the large volumes of tea grown around the world, and the number of chemicals used in ordinary agricultural production, going organic with green tea becomes even more important—for the quality of tea, the quality of the environment it’s grown in, and for the quality of life of the workers .

Although tea is grown in almost 40 countries, the vast majority (approximately 80%) comes from just five—China, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. Unfortunately, most of the production is not organic and this can have some devastating effects, as commercial tea production often uses up to 20 different chemical fertilizers, herbicides and insecticides applied multiple times throughout the growing season.

Tea production is labor intensive and land intensive. The plants take about 10 years to mature and can then easily last for over 80 years, sometimes well over a hundred. Soil nutrition becomes very important in that situation because there is no crop rotation to rest the land and replenish nutrients. Nutrients have to come from somewhere. This has led to a huge reliance on chemical replacement, which further damages the soil and leaks an excess of nitrogen into the water table, harming, creeks, rivers, and marine life. There is also a potential for pest invasions and thus the use of insecticides and herbicides. Often workers are not adequately protected from the effects of these harsh chemical, working in the fields right after they have been sprayed, without protective clothing and often barefoot. The result? Both workers and local wildlife are harmed by these harsh chemicals.

But in every tea producing area of the world some farmers are turning to organic methods. China and India, as the world’s largest producers have some major producers, but the Japanese also compete in this market. Organic green tea cultivation involves natural pest management, composting for soil nutrition, sometimes using the biodynamics developed by Rudolph Steiner, sometimes including vermiculture (worm composting) and in Japan even seaweed is utilized to make a rich organic fertilizer for elite green tea.

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