The following is excerpted from Steep Progress in Good
The concurrent artisanal food and beverage trend means that as more Americans learn to appreciate a cup of tea, they’re also more interested in the source of the leaves, making “Fair Trade” teas particularly attractive. Fair Trade USA calculates that just between 2012 and 2013, Fair Trade Certified tea—produced by cooperatives and farms—imports jumped by 26 percent.
Fair Trade certification ensures that farmers receive safe working conditions as well as a sustainable wage and fair capital, determined by the prices they set for their products. All workers also receive a Fair Trade premium, which they may choose to invest back into their farm or community.
“I believe that Americans love fair trade—they’ve backed it and bought it even when the economy was trashed,” Muzyka says, recalling when tea first joined coffee, bananas, and cocoa on the short list of available Fair Trade Certified products.
...“Once a farm is Fair Trade Certified, [the farmers] are given the opportunity to democratically decide how their Fair Trade premiums—the extra price that a consumer pays for a product [that] goes directly back to the farm source—are used,” explains Hassani. “In India, we see Fair Trade funds going to college scholarships or retirement funds whereas in China, it goes to building school dormitories, building roads, installing gas stoves, or building sanitation facilities.”
While Fair Trade certification does not require that farms be organic, many farmers choose to invest their Fair Trade premiums into such certification. Regardless, Fair Trade certification does impose certain environmental standards in order to maintain healthy living and working conditions for workers. These include restricting the use of pesticides and fertilizers, banning the use of genetically modified organisms, and protecting water resources.