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Ethically sourced, fair trade and organic, and Geographic Indication

Ensuring that a supply/value chain is in compliance with environmental law is complex enough to say nothing of social issues being added to the mix. Small wonder, then, do questions of customers having a deep understanding of this complexity amid an already supersaturated landscape of data dissemination often come up.

Ethical labels are one solution to this problem, with marks providing a visual queue as to how products are sourced and sold. The problem is that the universe for certification marks is vast, with not all labels standing for the same thing; difference among standards can be large with no two marks necessarily being of equal benefit to the producer and or consumer.

Within the discussion of ethical sourcing, questions of organic inevitably come to the fore. Here again, as with certification marks, clarity in organic is still a work in progress. Canada has only had organic rules legislation since 2009.

Where does Geographic Indication (GI) come into the mix? In many ways, it stands apart, especially as relates to tea, and specifically Darjeeling tea. Within India, Darjeeling is regulated by rules further to their 1953 Tea Act. The Darjeeling logo, administered by the Tea Board of India further to the act stipulates that an audit trail must be in place from the tea garden as seller, to the purchaser to ensure that the tea is unadulterated and pure; no blending of the product is allowed at origin.

This origin purity, however, is only one guarantee that the end consumer is getting the product purchased as advertised. The real strength of GI is that, unlike some of the ambiguity in fair trade and organic supply / value chains, GI is registered within Canada under protection of trademark law.

This means Darjeeling tea is protected from origin to consumer in the supply / value chain under copyright law: working backwards, Canada protects the integrity of tea bearing the Darjeeling mark via copyright law, with the owner of this mark being the Tea Board of India, who has put in place rules governing the purity of this product further to national laws.

Tea Campaign, as the largest single purchaser of Darjeeling tea, then takes the tea and has it tested independently as organic. The Tea Gardens themselves are further certified fair trade via the Swiss-based Institute for Market Ecology or IMO.

The system isn’t perfect by any means. But, for the consumer, transparency is at least assured by national, Canadian trademark rules, and internationally, by Indian rules guaranteeing purity of product via licensed trademark.

As for product cost and markup for the consumer, Tea Campaign Canada´s supplier, the German Teekampagne, provides further insights into what is being paid for — the beauty is in its simplicity, as the graphic illustrates. Combined with the exquisite taste of the tea, consumers can be assured of a quality product without excessive profit being made at the expense of the producer.

Transparency is paramount for Tea Campaign

Matthew Healy
Matthew Healy

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