For years, the conversation of plantation teak versus Burmese teak has been a hot topic.
While many people believe that Burmese (or ‘reclaimed’) teak is superior due to it being grown in its natural habitat, the question of its ethics and sustainability have been debated.
On the other hand, plantation teak is often dismissed as inferior or low-quality, although it is generally agreed to be the more responsible and ethical option.
These claims are widely circulated, but are they true? In this guide, we’ll go through the truth about the differences between plantation and Burmese teak, and what selection you should make when choosing your teak outdoor furniture.
Today, the majority of teak is grown in government-controlled teak plantations. Rather than being harvested from the forests of Myanmar, Indonesia and Thailand, it is grown in tropical locations around the world that have a similar climate.
The main difference between plantation teak and Burmese teak is the density. While plantation teak generally has between 10 to 12 growth rings, Burmese teak tends to have between 20 to 25.
This leads many people to believe that plantation teak is an inferior product, this is far from the case. The density of teak has no impact on the quality of the wood, making plantation teak the go-to choice for buyers who want an affordable and ethical product.
Plantation teak can be grown in tropical climates around the world, making it easier and environmentally friendlier to transport to neighbouring countries. Rather than one region shipping teak all around the world, plantation allows for reduced emissions and various countries grow teak and can produce high-quality products.
Many governments around the world, such as the Indonesian government, have created initiatives to ensure the sustainable and ethical management of teak plantations.
These have been put in place to maintain a high quality of life for the plantation’s workers, promote biodiversity and well-management of these forests.
Grown without artificial fertilisers
Even on plantation farms, teak can be grown without the need for artificial fertilisers, which can help give them the look of ‘old teak’ that is grown in Myanmar.
Artificial fertilisers can harm the environment due to their high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, and they are widely used in farms and plantations. However, purchasing plantation teak does not contribute to this damaging practice.
Burmese (or ‘reclaimed’) teak
Burmese teak is often considered to be the ‘superior’ option, and commands a higher price tag. However, there are a number of ethical concerns surrounding Burmese teak and how the incredible demand for it is met.
Grown in Myanmar
Teak is native to much of Southeast Asia, particularly in Myanmar. It is one of Myanmar’s top exports, and its sales are believed to fund the country’s oppressive governments’ continued human rights abuses.
For this reason many countries, including Australia, have placed sanctions on Myanmar. However Burmese teak is still widely sought after and is brought into many countries through legal loopholes.
Believed to be higher quality
Burmese teak is still so in demand due to the widely held belief that it is superior to plantation teak. This is due to the higher density of Burmese teak, however, plantation teak still has the same durability and water resistance as Burmese teak.
Mainly obtained via deforestation
Deforestation has ravaged Myanmar, and between 2010 and 2015 it had the third-highest deforestation rate in the world. Too many trees have been cut down too quickly, and teak is the main reason for this.
As you can see, there are many reasons to choose plantation teak over Burmese teak when purchasing your outdoor furniture. So next time you need a new outdoor folding table or sun lounge, make sure you make the choice that is responsible, ethical and affordable.