Delight in Our New & Improved Gourmet Teas!

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We’re thrilled to announce exciting changes with our Gourmet Teas, inspired by Seattle’s rich landscape and vibrant culinary scene. A delicious twist on tradition blends timeless teas with a dash of whimsy, yielding an unexpected and sophisticated cup.

If you’re already a fan of the line, you’ll love the changes we’ve made.

The new and improved teas now feature contemporary watercolor artwork that focuses on ingredients along with updated certifications for USDA Organic, Fair Trade Certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, Kosher, and Gluten-Free. Boxes now contain 16 tea bags.

All 12 teas remain the same great blends that you love with refreshed names to reflect key ingredients and flavor profile.

The new and improved Gourmet Teas are available now! Shop the line here.

Meet the new line-up below!

Blackberry Hibiscus 72dpiBlackberry Hibiscus formerly Northwest Blackberry
Steep a vivacious, fruity tisane that welcomes festivity. With its tangy character and sweet aroma, this ruby-hued blend is the life of the party. The taste of blackberry mixes with citrusy lemongrass as hearty hibiscus petals tango with tart rosehips. A sprinkling of spearmint melds with a dash of sweet licorice root. This unforgettable infusion tastes like an herbal ode to sangria and plays well with ice.

Breakfast Blend 72dpiBreakfast Blend formerly Celtic Breakfast
Rise and shine, ready for whatever the day may hold over a robust cup of tea. Bold Assam and smooth Ceylon black tea leaves blend together for a hearty brew that will invigorate you with its wide-eyed flavor and centering aroma. Savor this timeless classic, served straight up and steaming hot. Add a splash of milk or a squeeze of lemon. Poured over ice is mighty   fine too.

Chai Spice 72dpiChai Spice formerly Chai Spice Black
Journey to a spice market as you drink this enticing black tea. Assertive Assam black tea leaves team up with cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and a dash of black pepper for a lively, yet balanced blend with a clean finish. Serve it as they do in India with your favorite milk and sweetener to soften the warming seasonings and create a creamy customized cup of tea you will crave hot or iced.

Chamomile Mint 72dpiChamomile Mint formerly Chamomile Spearmint
Long sought out to usher in calm and contemplation, chamomile’s sunny blossoms and aromatic fragrance continue to offer contentment in a cup. Spearmint leaves mingle with chamomile flowers while a squeeze of Italian bergamot imparts a slight citrusy note in this relaxing herbal infusion. Cozy up to a steamy cup or serve this honey-hued elixir over ice for an uplifting glass of refreshment.

Dragon Well 72dpiDragon Well formerly Dragon Well Green
An ancient tale and love of the leaf meet in a cup of classic green tea. Chinese folklore describes water from a well nourishing a tea so exquisite it became the tribute to emperors and is now offered to you. Pan-fired green tea leaves impart buttery notes for a palate-pleasing brew that is subtly toasty and will fill you with serenity. Serve it hot or over ice for a contemplative cooler.

Earl Grey Lavender 72dpiEarl Grey Lavender formerly Earl Grey with Lavender
Take the road less traveled when you sip a cup of this classic tea redefined. Full-bodied and smooth, Indian and Sri Lankan black teas blend with a squeeze of citrus as Italian bergamot scents the tea leaves. English lavender blossoms gently infuse their fragrance and flavor into this elegant tea that enthralls at the start of the day and well into afternoon tea. Try iced for a refined refreshment.

Jasmine Green 72dpiJasmine Green formerly Jasmine Green Tea
This tranquil green tea evokes evening strolls where the sky is strewn with stars, the air scented by flowers, and anything is possible. Jasmine blossoms perfume green tea leaves with their intoxicating flavor and fragrance before the petals are removed. The aromatic bouquet of floral notes makes this green tea a classic. Serve hot or over ice for an enchanting experience.

Licorice Mint 72dpiLicorice Mint formerly Liquorice Peppermint
Indulge your senses with a luxurious tisane. The pop of bright peppermint is softened by naturally sweet licorice root to provide an alluring finish to this aromatic herbal infusion. This full-bodied blend is smooth, silky, and compelling. Serve hot for a luscious, pleasing drink or over ice for an invigorating departure from everyday iced tea.

Mango Black 72dpiMango Black formerly Mango Ceylon with Vanilla
Set your course for paradise with this tempting black tea paired with a touch of tropical fruit. Smooth Ceylon and bold Indian black teas mingle with notes of mango evoking the aroma and flavor of fresh cut fruit. A hint of Sumatran vanilla imparts a subtle sweetness to this luscious tea that also satisfies when served over ice.

Mint Green 72dpiMint Green formerly Moroccan Mint Green Tea
From a Marrakesh market to a backyard herb garden, we blend old world tradition with Pacific Northwest flavor. Our interpretation of this Moroccan classic combines full-bodied green tea with mellow lemongrass while Washington-grown peppermint and cooling spearmint brighten the cup. This lightly caffeinated, half mint, half green tea blend also refreshes when served iced.

Peach Green 72dpiPeach Green formerly Green Tea with Essence of Peach
Reminiscent of the lazy days and sultry nights of summer, this blend entices with its heady fragrance and smooth fruit-kissed flavor. Freshly steamed green tea blends with the essence of ripe peaches, citrusy lemongrass, and tart rosehips in a delicately sweet, revitalizing infusion. Steep a cup to drink hot or pour it over ice to linger on the porch just a bit longer.

Vanilla Rooibos 72dpiVanilla Rooibos formerly Rooibos (Red Bush Tea) + Vanilla
Satisfy your cravings with a wholesome treat any time of day or night. Native to South Africa, the leaves of the red bush, known as rooibos (pronounced roy-boss), brew into an earthy, rich, mahogany-hued herbal infusion. A kiss of Sumatran vanilla draws out the sweet honey notes in rooibos for a cup that satisfies when served hot or over ice.

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Visiting a Tea Garden: Ray Reflects on His Recent Trip to India

In October 2012, Ray Lacorte, our Head of Operations, traveled to India where he visited Oothu Estate, a Fair Trade tea garden that we have worked with for two decades. Below, he captures some of his trip to share with us:

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One of the key components of Choice Organic Teas English Breakfast is Black BOPF from Oothu Tea Estate, a certified organic and Fair Trade Certified tea estate located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Both Choice Organic Teas and Oothu are pioneers in organic agriculture and social responsibility. Choice Organic Teas is the first exclusively certified organic tea line in North America. Similarly, Choice Organic Teas launched the first Fair Trade Certified™ teas in the U.S. In turn, Oothu Tea Estate is the first certified biodynamic and Fair Trade certified plantation in all of India.

Choice Organic Teas started buying certified organic teas from Oothu in 1992 and hence, my visit last October marked a twenty-year milestone between Choice Organic Teas and Oothu. Oothu tea gardens are situated in the core of Kalakkad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve, a gorgeous expanse located in the Southern Western Ghats in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. At an elevation of approximately 4000 feet, the view from Oothu offers nothing less than spectacular views of the Manimuthar Lake and towering peaks of the Western Ghats.

My journey to Oothu began from Kalladaikurichi, a positively hot and small town in Indian terms with a population of a little over 25,000. Kalladaikurichi’s claim to fame is merely its location, which is situated at the base of the tiger reserve, a popular tourist destination for wildlife viewing, with mainly tiger searching rather than actual watching given the rarity of sightings. My late afternoon drive up to the tea estates from Kalladaikurichi was on a relatively well-maintained and winding road and yielded a modest set of wildlife sightings: a curious wild boar, Nilgiri langur monkeys, an assortment of songbirds, wild jungle fowls, and of course peacocks, the national bird of India.

Upon arrival at one of the tea estate manager’s bungalow, we were served afternoon tea, a fine aromatic cup of Oothu black tea complemented with a generous selection of Indian-spiced donuts and sweets. Needless to say, the cooler temperatures afforded by the higher elevation and breeze emanating from the Indian Ocean were a welcome relief from the heat in Kalladaikurichi.

The following morning was sunny yet chilly with the steady ocean breeze; I found out later that the ocean was a mere forty kilometers away. The climate and terrain of Oothu reminded me of areas in Eastern Washington in late spring while the prevalence of eucalyptus trees was reminiscent of Australia where I spent my childhood.IMG_3289

South India experienced an unseasonably dry monsoon season leading to lower than average annual rainfall throughout the region. The tea estates have endured a record-setting drought, which the region had not experienced since 1975. At the time of my visit, rainfall level at the tea estates was seventy percent lower than average. Nothing demonstrated the dry conditions more than the Maripunam Lake, which had visibly receded from its normal shore levels, with helpless small boats lying in dry beds. Nevertheless, the tea leaves kept the rolling hills an immaculate green and the tea bushes themselves looked robust.

Oothu is part of the Singampatti Group which consists of a number of tea estates covering over eight hundred hectares. Singampatti means the “River of Pearls” and our trek’s first stop was located at a river from where the name could have easily been inspired. Its tranquil presence under a charming old bridge was only a mere foreshadowing of the scenaries we would enjoy throughout our visit

Plucking tea leaves from the bush commences around 9 am and is performed by hand and shears. A tea plucker can achieve a daily yield anywhere from a dozen kilograms to one-hundred kilograms, depending on the conditions of the bushes and immediate elements. The health of the tea leaves is highly dependent on the condition of the soil, which is enhanced by a rigorous composting program. Composting stations are found throughout the tea estates and are an essential component of organic agriculture. Quality of the compost is further enriched by adopting biodynamic farming methods, which accelerates the composting time and improves the nutrients in the soil.

IMG_2882The plucked leaves are taken to the Oothu tea processing factory which consists of a series of machinery for the last phases of creating the perfect tea leaf.  One of the key steps in tea processing is the drying of the leaves. Steaming is a method typically employed in India to dry newly plucked moist leaves. The branches from trees in the estates are used as firewood in the steaming stage. Throughout the various manufacturing stages whether it was in the fermentation areas or the rolling and drying of the leaves, strict quality control and safety measures were employed for the protection of the tea and the workers.

As with any of my visits to manufacturing facilities, I went away with a much greater appreciation of the work involved in creating a finished product. At Oothu, care is extended well beyond the agricultural processes. Fair Trade Premiums received by Oothu go toward helping workers and their communities in providing a variety of services. One of these benefits includes funding a hospital staffed with two doctors and fully-trained nurses. The hospital is fully equipped and prepared to handle a variety of conditions, including maternity care.

Likewise, day care and an elementary school are also provided for children of plantation and factory workers. During a brief visit at the daycare center on my last day in Oothu, we were serenaded by a cheerful group of children singing a nursery rhyme. Upon translation of the rhyme, I found out that the song was “Rain, rain go away, come again some other day,” and instantly understood why the drought had remained stubbornly persistent.IMG_2652

Join us for a tour and tea tasting in honor of Mother’s Day and World Fair Trade Day!

On Saturday, May 12th, we will be hosting a special event “Fair Trade Teas from Around the World Company Tour and Tasting” at Choice Organic Teas in Seattle from 11:00am to 1:00pm. Have you ever wondered what goes into bringing your tea to the grocery shelves or what makes Fair Trade teas so special?  Come find out and get a chance to dive into the world of tea with our twenty plus years of experience. We are inviting guests for a rare opportunity to visit our tea company and explore the world of Fair Trade Certified™ teas.

The program includes refreshments, a tour of our certified organic facility, an introduction to Fair Trade, and a tea tasting featuring Fair Trade Certified teas guided by our experienced staff. Admission includes a complimentary mug, an assortment of tea samples, and 3 boxes of tea. Tickets are $50 and limited to 12 guests, so be sure to get your ticket soon here!

We are located in the Georgetown neighborhood of Seattle, just off I-5. Free parking is available in our parking lot and on the street. View our location here.

We hope to see you there!

Fair Trade Tea: Promoting a Healthier Environment

Fair Trade aims to lift farmers out of poverty around the globe. But beyond improving the living and working conditions of farmers, it also plays an important role in elevating and maintaining the health of the environment for Fair Trade farms and estates. Through specific standards required for certification, encouragement for farms to transition to organic methods, and community development premiums applied to programs that have positive environmental impacts, the Fair Trade certification program helps develop and sustain healthy ecosystems.

Fair Trade Standards

One of the important ways Fair Trade certification has a positive environmental impact is through its requirements for environmentally responsible criteria for production conditions on Fair Trade farms. For instance, producers must work to protect the natural environment of their gardens and properly manage water usage and waste. Farms and gardens are prohibited from using harmful agricultural chemicals and genetically modified organisms in production. Additionally, minimizing energy use is also encouraged, especially that of non-renewable sources. The higher prices set by Fair Trade also ensure that farmers aren’t struggling to make a living, which reduces the deforestation, erosion, and use of pollutants that can result from impoverished living situations. Through all of these standards, long-term sustainability becomes a working goal instead of only an ideal.

Fair Trade & Organics

Though Fair Trade certification doesn’t require farms to be organic, it certainly encourages producers to head in that direction. Because harmful chemicals and genetically modified organisms are prohibited, gardens have already taken an important first step in becoming organic. Fair Trade also sets higher prices for organic items, another incentive for farms to convert entirely to organic agriculture. Many Fair Trade gardens that are already organic have even taken it one step further through the adoption of biodynamic practices, as utilized in the Oothu Singampatti Tea Garden in India and the Greenfield Tea Estate in Sri Lanka.

 

 

Community Development Premiums

Fair Trade community development premiums play an important role in reinforcing sustainable and organic farming techniques as well. The Da Zhang Shan Tea Garden Cooperative in China has implemented training programs funded by Fair Trade premiums to develop knowledge of organic agriculture among workers. The group is dedicated to expanding its membership, improving working conditions and economic efficiency, and spreading knowledge of organic agriculture and environmental sustainability.

In addition to organic efforts, Fair Trade premiums are often used for community improvements that have positive environmental impacts. The Sewpur Tea Estate workers in Assam have used premiums to purchase gas and pressure cookers instead of using firewood, lessoning smoke pollution, deforestation, and respiratory illness. Chamong Tee Exports, which has Fair Trade tea estates in Assam and Darjeeling, has harnessed natural water resources to produce hydroelectric power. Petroleum gas has also been implemented in these estates to limit the need for firewood and deforestation.

Healthy environmental practices not only encourage tea and other commodities to thrive on Fair Trade farms, but also the surrounding ecosystem and the people that live on and work the land. The Fair Trade community development premiums that producers receive allow them to invest soundly in environmental sustainability, knowing that they’ll see a return on their efforts. By maintaining the health of the land’s ecosystem, Fair Trade farmers ensure a richer and brighter future for themselves and their families.

This post originally appeared as a guest blog for Fair Trade Month on the Fair Trade USA blog on 10.27.11.

Happy World Fair Trade Day!

For us, 2011 marks ten years of bringing you Fair Trade Certified™ teas!

As the first tea crafter in North America to offer Fair Trade Certified™ teas, supporting our partners and their communities in the developing world has long been a priority of ours.  Before tea became a Fair Trade certifiable commodity, Choice Organic Teas sent additional funds to benefit tea workers, specifically for improving living and working conditions. Working with TransFair, we initiated the development of the Fair Trade certification for tea that has become the present day standard.

Today, Fair Trade premiums are worker-managed to support a community’s specific needs. In the Chamong gardens of India’s Assam and Darjeeling regions, workers receive social security, medical and maternity benefits, and have built hospitals and schools. The Sewpur Tea Estate constructed a new school and recreation building and has made improvements to workers’ homes in the form of cooking stoves and mosquito nets. The Putharjhora gardens have used premiums to not only fund education and healthcare, but a mother’s club that educates women about illness, medicine, and other family issues. The Oothu Singampatti Tea Estates have used premiums toward healthcare, education, women’s programs, and retirement.

In China, the Da Zhang Shan cooperative has built a school, library, computer classroom, and student dormitory and created a training program to preserve organic agricultural practices. The Jingmai Mangjing Tea Association has used their Fair Trade premiums to subsidize school expenditures such as desks, chairs, teaching equipment, teachers’ bonuses, and scholarships. Choice Organic Teas is proud to support the Fair Trade programs that have made these innovations possible.