As I begin to study the tea industry, I have found it difficult to learn much about Fair Trade tea. I see it for sale quite often, alongside Fair Trade coffee, but details are scarce. From my friends at Equal Exchange, I have learned the reason: because nearly all of the world's tea is grown on large estates, it has been nearly impossible to apply the small-holder model common to Fair Trade coffee. As a result, there is not yet much agreement on what constitutes Fair Trade tea. (Some tea companies, feeling the pinch of consumer conscience, have taken token measures, such as Teavana's commitment of one percent of its profits to development projects. That is not a typo.)
Following a 2009 visit to India, Equal Exchange describes how it is working with farmers to find its way in this new market.