A Look at the Impacts of Rainforest Alliance Certification on Tea Farms

A closeup of tea leaves from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ tea estate in Coonoor, India.
A closeup of tea leaves from Rainforest Alliance Certified™ tea estate in Coonoor, India.

Written by Laura Donnelly, Senior Associate, Markets Transformation, Rainforest Alliance. 

Tea is one of the Rainforest Alliance’s most impactful commodities. Almost a fifth of tea produced globally is grown on Rainforest Alliance Certified™ farms- translating to over a million metric tons of Rainforest Alliance Certified tea being harvested each year. To celebrate the success of our tea program, and in honor of International Tea Day, we wanted to shine a spotlight on the work the Rainforest Alliance has done- and continues to do- in tea!

The Rainforest Alliance tea program began in 2007 when the Unilever-owned Kericho Tea Estate in Kenya became the first Rainforest Alliance Certified farm. Since then, companies and consumers can find certified tea grown in twenty countries, encompassing every major tea growing origin. The growth of the Rainforest Alliance tea program is due in large part to the significant public commitments of tea companies to purchase tea from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms. These include Unilever (Lipton and PG Tips), Taylors of Harrogate, and Typhoo Tea, amongst others.

The rapid growth of our tea program has resulted in significant impacts at the farm level. Some of the impressive impacts resulting from implementation of sustainable farm practices include:

  • Increased tea leaf quality and yields.
  • Improvement in livelihoods and an increase in productivity on the tea farm.
  • Safer use of agrochemicals and improved health of farm workers.
  • Improved housing and sanitation for workers.
Tea workers and access to safe drinking water. Source: study of tea farms in Kenya, Ochieng, et al. 2013

In addition to transforming impacts, some highlights of our tea program:

  • 85% of branded tea in the United Kingdom is Rainforest Alliance Certified.
  • Japan and China are the newest (and very exciting!) tea growing origins where we work.
  • Over 700,000 tea producers (and growing!) have been trained in sustainable agriculture practices through Rainforest Alliance certification.
  • 95% of tea farms in Kenya, most of which are smallholder farms, are Rainforest Alliance Certified- almost the whole country!
  • The Rainforest Alliance also works in many herbals used in tea blends, including certified mint, chamomile, hibiscus and more!
  • As a percentage of global production, tea is the largest crop we work with.
  • Certified tea availability has grown a staggering 88% since 2010 (in metric tons).

To learn more about our work in tea, click here. If your business is interested in sourcing Rainforest Alliance Certified tea, email us directly at business-support@ra.org.

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