Organic Tea FAQs

Rishi Tea's Organic FAQs

Why Organic?

The short of it: Organic has more of what we want, and less of what we don’t want.

The long of it: Organic foods often taste better because they are truer to the natural state of the agricultural product. Their production offers a wide variety of benefits for us, as well as for the environment, through the use of earth-friendly agricultural practices.

We care about the well-being of those involved in the tea making process. By offering organic teas, we are promoting the health of farmers as well as their land. Sustainable practices such as those implemented by organic agriculture will enable the next generation of tea lovers to enjoy natural, true-tasting tea.

Health & Environment
Generally, organic foods are richer in nutrients derived from the healthy soil in which they are grown. Conversely, conventionally farmed foods are sprayed with pesticides (often associated with health risks from asthma to cancer) that disrupt the soil’s natural balance. Organic farming replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic pesticides and fertilizers, instead using natural methods to control pests, weeds and disease. When you buy organic, you’re reducing the chances of your food containing harmful chemicals, while simultaneously promoting ecological well-being. Reducing the use of toxic chemicals will help prevent the pollution of our soil, air, water and food supply.

Genetic Engineering
Organic products are free from genetic modifications - a relatively new food technology that is still in the process of being understood. If you’re like us, the idea of genetically modifying the makeup of your food is unsettling; let’s keep it natural.

Read more about organic farming and the environment here:

What does Organic mean?

The term Organic describes both how an agricultural product is grown and processed. An organic product is free of chemicals, antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic modifications, and field use of sewage sludge as fertilizer. It is also minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation. These practices maintain the integrity of the food, preserve ecological harmony and promote biodiversity.

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What does Certified Organic mean?

“Certified Organic” means a third-party certifying organization accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has verified that a product meets the standards established by the National Organic Program (NOP). This program was created by the USDA in 2002. The NOP regulates all aspects of organic food production, including handling, labeling, processing, delivery and retail sale. It also accredits state agencies and private organizations to inspect and certify organic facilities.

To learn more about the NOP and its regulations, visit:

Who is Quality Assurance International?

The USDA requires that a third-party certifier inspect the production and handling of organic products.

Rishi Tea is certified through Quality Assurance International (QAI), an independent, organic-focused organization established in 1989. QAI, like Rishi Tea, is committed to organic integrity. QAI was one of the first USDA-accredited certifiers. The QAI and USDA logos found on our organic teas ensure Rishi’s utmost compliance.

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When did Rishi Tea become Organic Certified

Rishi Tea was among the first importers to receive organic certification under the NOP standards in 2002. Prior to the enactment of the NOP, Rishi Tea offered Certified Organic teas according to the standards of the EU organic program.

What does the Organic certification process entail?

In order to use the USDA’s Organic seal on organic products, the producer must be a Certified Organic handler. All practices pertaining to their organic products must be thoroughly documented and transparent. Auditors visit Rishi Tea’s facility on an annual basis to renew our organic certification. During their visits, they evaluate sanitation, record-keeping procedures, certificates, purchase orders, receiving logs, and storage procedures. Auditors also require documentation to be given for all segments of the supply chain – every point the tea passes through from the farm to facility.

What about Food Safety?

In addition to our love for organics, Rishi Tea commits to providing the safest and highest quality teas to our customers. We hold a Certificate of Achievement through AIB International - a food safety certifier that conducts rigorous yearly audits inspecting our policies, cleaning procedures, facilities, production and storage areas, maintenance, operational methods and personnel practices.

Learn more at

Are all Organic products the same?

No, not all organic products are the same. There are different categories of organic. In order to display the USDA Organic seal, a product must be at least 95% organic; that is, at least 95 percent of the ingredients used must be organic. The remaining 5% cannot include ingredients that are artificial, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), irradiated or grown in fields where sewage sludge is used as fertilizer. But they can include conventional (non-organic) items, only if an organic option for that product is not commercially available. Rishi Tea proudly offers many 100% organic teas.

Products that contain at least 70% certified organic ingredients may use the phrase “Made with organic ingredients,” but may not display the USDA Organic seal on their package. Rishi Tea does not currently offer any products in this category. Always consult the printed list of ingredients to determine the organic makeup of a product.

For more information about organic labeling, visit:

Are products labeled “All Natural” also Organic?

A food labeled “natural” does not mean it is organic. As regulated by the USDA, the use of the term “All Natural” only applies to the production (not farming) of meat, poultry and eggs. For other products, this term legally does not guarantee anything under the USDA.

It should also be noted that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has not developed a definition for ‘natural’ or its derivatives. However, the agency does not object to the use of the term, provided the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors or synthetic substances. To be sure, always check the ingredients list and look for the listing of Certified Organic ingredients.

How does certification happen at origin?

Rishi Tea works with numerous organic tea gardens throughout Asia to produce our award-winning organic teas. Our teas and ingredients are initially Certified Organic at origin; they undergo on-site inspections from third-party organizations similar to audits conducted by QAI in the U.S. Most of our Chinese teas become Certified Organic at origin by Swiss IMO. This organization is accredited to certify by both European Union standards as well as the USDA’s NOP.

In 2012, the U.S. and the EU announced an organic equivalency arrangement. This means that, as long as specified terms are met, organic products certified to the USDA or EU organic standards may be labeled and sold as Certified Organic in both countries/member nations.

For more information about U.S. and EU organic equivalency, visit:

How do I know it’s really Organic?

You can be confident that our teas are organic when you see the USDA seal of approval and QAI logo. Organic food production is the most regulated food production system in the world. The organic process from seed to store must be both transparent and traceable.

In addition, throughout the year, Rishi Tea spends a great amount of time at origin, visiting the tea farms, the tea facilities, and building and maintaining strong relationships with tea farmers. Our consistent visits to the tea gardens with whom we directly work allow us to witness, firsthand, the tea growing and handling process. Rishi Tea proudly offers the best organic teas available.

Can all tea products be made Organic?

Rishi Tea offers organic products whenever feasibly possible. However, Certified Organic farms do not exist in all regions where we source tea. For example, the USDA-NOP and its accredited certifiers do not currently operate in some of our favorite tea growing areas in Japan and Taiwan. We believe these exceptional teas still warrant a place in our menu due to their historic importance and overall quality (such as authentic shade-grown Gyokuro green tea from Japan or Dancong oolongs from the rare tea trees of Phoenix Mountain, China). Our non-organic teas will always meet our strict quality tasting and constant evaluation checks.

The reality is some of the finest teas in the world, produced in centuries-old artisan fashion, come from farms that grow “organically” and responsibly, but are not able to become Certified Organic. This could be due to expense - the farm itself must pay for the certification and inspections, as well as anything that has to be done to the land to earn compliance - or lack of availability of the program in that area. Further, in some areas where Certified Organic teas are available, the quality is just not to our standards. Tea farming is very demanding and skilled work; organic farmers need to employ true ingenuity and understanding of flavor to achieve results that are above and beyond the conventional standard. It’s worth noting organic certification does not guarantee flavor quality, as the certifying agencies do not evaluate and taste the teas on that level.

At Rishi Tea, we only offer Certified Organic teas when they’re the very best available. Similarly, we only offer conventional teas when they are of exceptional quality and simply not available in organic form. We would never sell a tea we wouldn’t love to drink ourselves.

I’d like to learn more about the Organic movement. Can you recommend some further reading?