In 1989, we started selling our very first teas. (We still carry them today- Ban-cha, Twig, Oolong, and Premium Japanese Green.) Lots of things have changed since then. We have more teas now, a bigger space, and fancier machines, but we still have the same mission that we did when we started: to provide high quality teas while continuing to lead the tea industry towards more social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
We started because we knew there was something missing in the market. Even the so-called “natural” teas at the time were just a product of conventional agriculture, with all of the pesticides and herbicides used in any major industrial crop. Although organic food was still a far-away concept for most people, we thought it was important to commit ourselves to the movement from our first step. Our commitment to the environment has been at the heart of every decision we make as a company. In the past twenty years we’ve been at the forefront of environmental standards in the tea industry, with such innovations as eliminating staples from our Original line of teas to offsetting all our electricity use with Renewable Energy Certificates. We make sure that our teabags are made from unbleached material, that our boxes are made from 100% recycled paperboard, and that no PVdC is used in our packaging.
Social responsibility has been just as important as environmental responsibility. When we first started hearing about Fair Trade certification, we knew that we had to be involved. We worked closely with TransfairUSA, which, at the time, had been focused more on coffee, to get standards in place for the tea industry. Now, customers that buy Fair Trade Certified™ know that the workers who grow, process, and harvest their teas do so under fair labor standards. We created our Himalayan Green Tea to support the great works done by the nonprofit Save the Himalayan Kingdom, and donate 10¢ from every box sold to help them aid the residents of this underserved region. Locally, we work with PCC Natural Markets, the nation’s largest natural-foods co-op, and donate 5¢ from every box sold at PCC to the PCC Farmland Trust. The PCC Farmland Trust works to secure, preserve, and steward threatened farmland in the Northwest, as well as to promote organic agriculture. We’re proud to be involved.
But what has kept us going for twenty years is our commitment to the tea. Everything we do is based around providing and showcasing high-quality tea and celebrating the estates we’ve been working with for two decades. We don’t like to hide tea amongst fancy names and overpowering flavors. We also like to ensure that everyone can afford sustainably and responsibly raised tea by keeping our packaging minimal and controlling our production costs. From those original four teas that debuted in 1989, we now have over seventy-five, designed for every budget, mood, and need.
It’s by staying true to these values that we’ve been able to grow for two decades, and that’s how we plan to keep growing in the future. We’re constantly looking for new Fair Trade teas and herbs as they become available to bring the Fair Trade program to more and more tea estates. Our development team is always searching out ways to reduce our footprint in packaging and energy use. With our new Whole Leaf Organics line, we’re pushing the tea envelope into new realms of social and environmental standards by using 100% biodegradable material to make the pyramids, ensuring that the entire line is Fair Trade Certified, printing with biodegradable soy inks, and even featuring a local artist commissioned to design our artwork. It’s exciting to look back on where we’ve been, but it’s even more exciting to look at where we’re going.