What Is Fair Trade?

What Is Fair Trade?

October is Fair Trade Month! We are proud that our teas and sweeteners come from fair trade producers. But what is fair trade? What does it mean? We thought we’d take a few moments to answer those questions.

Overhead view of a cup of tea and a pile of loose leaf tea in the shape of a heart on a wooden table. The overlay text reads: what is fair trade?

What Is Fair Trade?

Fair trade is a system of business that seeks to bring equity to farmers and producers of goods around the world. They do this by connecting producers directly with consumers and retailers, thus ensuring better wages, living conditions, and production practices.

According to the Fair Trade Federation, “Fair trade supports farmers and craftspeople in developing countries who are socially and economically marginalized. These producers often face steep hurdles in finding markets and customers for their goods.” And when they do find people to buy their products, they are often brokers who take a large percentage of the profits for themselves. Or, workers end up taking jobs from larger producers who exploit their labor and don’t offer a livable wage. Fair trade attempts to remove the middleman and to provide better working conditions.

Overhead view of a bag of loose leaf fair trade tea next to three yellow flowers on a wooden surface.

For goods to be labeled fair trade, they must be produced without forced labor or poor working conditions, they must not be genetically modified, and they must be grown or made using environmentally sustainable methods. The workers and producers must also be paid a wage that is considered livable for the economy of their region.

Products that fall under fair trade oversight have a “floor” price, meaning that the price of those goods cannot go below a certain number, no matter the market. This protects producers from market fluctuations and ensures a livable sales price for their goods.

Fair trade organizations also provide oversight to make sure workers are treated humanely and have access to food, clean water, shelter, education, and more.

Does Fair Trade Cost More?

So, producers are being paid a fair, livable wage, and the items they produce are being made with sustainable practices. That’s great! But doesn’t that mean the products will be more expensive? I mean, somebody has to pay for all of that, right? Well, not really. See, when you take out the middleman, you take out the payment to the middleman. That means that more of the money gets to go to the producer — and you might only end up paying a few percentage points more, if anything.

Here’s a very simplified visual: Think of it like a pie cut into eight slices. In a typical business scheme, when a product is sold, the retailer might get four slices, the broker would get three slices, and the producer would get one slice. In a fair trade scheme, the producer would get four slices of the pie by taking out the middleman. The producer is then able to earn a livable wage and even put money back into their business — without the price of the product price going up. Again, that’s a simplified take on it, but hopefully it gives you an idea of how fair trade business distributes wealth more evenly.

Overhead view of a cup of tea and a pile of loose leaf tea in the shape of a heart on a wooden surface.

Does Fair Trade Taste Good?

Since fair trade goods are often coming from smaller farmers and producers instead of larger companies, does that affect the quality of the goods? Especially with tea, does it affect the flavor?

Here’s the great news: Small batch teas will almost always taste better than mass produced ones. And they’ll be higher in quality, too! Now, the reality is that mass produced teas will have a more consistent flavor batch to batch, whereas smaller batch teas will have more flavor fluctuation from season to season and year to year. (It’s very much like wine, actually.)

When it comes to quality, fair trade oversight helps producers create clean work environments as well as to source equipment and tools to help them in their work. They also foster the setup of sustainable growing practices, which in themselves result in a higher quality product.

From livable wages and improved quality of life for other humans to environmentally friendly growing practices and higher quality products, who wouldn’t want more fair trade goods in their life? We are extremely happy to work with some amazing farmers and small companies here in the United States and abroad and to share their delicious goods with you through our tea blends.

Learn More:
Fair Trade Certified
Fair Trade Foundation
Fair Trade Federation

What Is Fair Trade?

Ciaran Keast

Ciaran Keast loves art, semicolons, books, cats -- and all the tea, ever. When they're not posting tea photos on social media, you'll catch them at almost every Plum Deluxe event.

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