Organic and Fair Trade Green TeaThere’s a reason why I brew myself a cup of green tea every morning. With close to zero calories, a cup of green can help you burn fat more efficiently, protect against cancer, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and heart disease, keep your weight down, lower cholesterol, protect your skin against aging, improve mineral bone density and strength, improve memory and protect against ultraviolet rays. Plus, it’s gentler wake-me-up alternative to coffee.

Unfortunately, all is not hearts and rainbows in the land of green tea. Bottled varieties are basically sugar water and don’t contain the antioxidants that make green tea so healthy. (Did you really think that processed, sweet green tea was good for you?) Other green tea, especially from China, is contaminated with lead. Researchers found the cheaper brands of Lipton and Bigelow had more than trace amounts of the poisonous substance.

To get the most health benefits, you should brew loose-leaf tea varieties. If you’re worried about lead, brew your tea in bags, which can filter out the lead for you, or get it from a country that doesn’t suffer from high air pollution.

And there’s one more hazard of buying tea you should be aware of. Tea plantations in Uganda and Rwanda employ child labor. In India, plantation workers are paid such low wages, that workers are forced to bring their children along, or sell their daughters into the slave trade. And yes, this applies to teas that are stamped with “Fair Trade.”

Truly Fair Trade Tea

They key is to buy from a company who is actively trying to help farmers. Organic India tea was founded in the late 1990’s to, “establish a sustainable business model to support the livelihood of thousands of impoverished farmers in India by providing training and education, enabling self-sufficiency and skills that could be passed on to future generations.”

The company works with thousands of small family farmers in India to cultivate tens of thousands of acres of sustainable organic farmland. All of the farmers are educated in organic and biodynamic agricultural practices. Organic India pays all the fees associated with acquiring the necessary organic certifications for them, and purchases the harvested crops and herbs at a premium market price. The farmers also rotate between growing crops on their land for Organic India with food crops for themselves. The company has provided with health care, education, gender equality and empowerment programs through their 50 premium herbal teas, supplements and personal products rooted in Ayurvedic medicine.

I met Janita at an event a few weeks ago. Not only is she wonderfully sweet, her voice is a knockout. Listen to this gorgeous song and tell me you agree. 

How Tulsi Tea Tastes

I found out about Organic India when they sent me three varieties of their tea to try: Pomegranate Green Tulsi, Masala Chai Tulsi and Green Tea Tulsi. I had never heard of tulsi before, so did some research. According to Chopra.com, tulsi (also known as Holy Basil), is an Indian herb used in Ayurvedic medicine to sooth stress and promote cleansing of the body. It offers, “a rich source of essential oil, containing eugenol, nerol, camphor, and a variety of terpenes and flavonoids.”

My favorite of the three varieties was the Pomegranate Green Tea, though the Masala Chai was great too. The Green Tea Tulsi was very grassy, so I only suggest it if you are a regular green tea drinker and have grown used to the strong, unadulterated flavor.

Bonus: Call to Shine

Organic India recently created a microsite called Call to Shine to applaud sustainably minded teachers, kirtan artists, DJs, designers, painters, and musicians for their endless inspiration that make this world a brighter place. Find art from Jon Marro, who has designed for many well-known companies including Tom’s Shoes, PACT Underwear and Cafe Gratitude; photography from Amir Magal; and a compilation of music from artists like Brooklyn underground electro pop and psychedelic punk rock Dynasty Electric and MC Yogi.

Check out Call to Shine, order yourself a box of Organic India tea from their online shop, or find it at your local natural foods store.