Need to Know (Nov. 25, 2013)

What tea professionals need to start the week.

Rooibee Red’s Heather Howell, Chief Tea Officer at the Louisville, Ky., firm succeeded in convincing Google to serve her Rooibos in the company’s employee cafeteria… relatively few of the 100,000 small tea-growers in Assam who pay taxes benefit from the general welfare fund… a Japanese study found that drinking tea correlated with reduced psychological distress, easing depression… an Indian company has developed an electronic tongue to classify tea… and finally, a tribute to “Doctor Who,” a tea lover who celebrated on Sunday his 50th TV Anniversary on the longest running sci-fi series in history.

  • Persistence Pays for Rooibee Red
  • Assam Small Growers
  • Tea Eases Depression
  • Retail News

Chief Tea Officer Heather Howell visited the Google Inc. campus in Mountain View, Calif., to present her Rooibee Red Tea last month. The visit proved worthwhile as the company recently advised her that the Rooibos blends will be offered in the company cafeteria beginning next year.

Howell was featured in the Wall Street Journal’s The Accelerators blog last week where she used the metaphor of a roller-coaster to present a number of practical suggestions for those starting a tea business. “After four years of twists and turn, fortunately many of them positive, I have some advice for your journey.”

“Be conscious and strategic about whom you sit next to.  My goal is to hire people who are a) smarter than me, and b) have skill sets I do not possess,” she wrote. When working with investors, “I aim to under-promise by a little and over-deliver by a lot.”

She advised readers that a “good mentor is a wonderful stabilizing force in the life of an entrepreneur. A good mentor took the journey before you and can give you a heads up of what may be around the next bend.”

At the onset “have an idea of what the end of ride looks like before you begin. Don’t get side-tracked. Prepare yourself for an exit and continue to exceed goals and stay focused along the journey,” she advised.

Source: Business First Louisville (American City Business Journals), Wall Street Journal


GUWAHATI, Assam — Five years ago the government of Assam began taxing small growers 4-cents for every 10 kilos of tea to establish a general welfare fund to benefit workers.

Small growers do not enjoy the medical, education and housing benefits of plantation workers on the state’s 765 tea estates. Small growers, many organized into Self Help Groups (SHG), raise about 30 percent of the 570 million kilos produced annually.

Only 600 SHGs representing a fraction of the state’s 100,000 growers have sought assistance, according to the All Assam Small Tea Growers’ Association (AASTGA).

“A large chunk of the growers were left out despite the fact that all the small growers bore the cess,” the group’s General Secretary Karuna Mahanta told the Times of India. All who contributed are entitled to the same benefits under the Assam Cess Utilization Policy, said Mahanta who is asking that government make public the fund total. Along with the money collected along, a matching sum was called for by the legislation.

“We have been asking the government to amend certain clauses in the policy so that small tea-growers get the real benefit of the corpus fund. Unfortunately, the government has not made any such move yet,” he said.

Source: Times of India


Researchers in Japan found that frequent consumption of green tea is associated with fewer symptoms of depression both in the working population and in a community of older residents.

A study in the journal Public Health Nutrition in March 2013 showed that higher green tea consumption is associated with a lower prevalence of depressive symptoms in workers aged 20 to 68 years. Researchers at the Department of Epidemiology and Prevention at the National Center for Global Health and Medicine in Tokyo reported those consuming four or more cups of green tea had a 51 percent lower prevalence of depressive symptoms. Coffee drinkers showed a less pronounced but similar association.

The results are consistent with previous study of a community of older residents in 2009.

Mild and severe depression was common in the cross-sectional sample of 1058 residents aged 70 and older in Sendai, Japan. In that study researchers from the Tohoku University Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering found 34 percent of the sample suffered from mild depression and 20 percent reported symptoms of severe depression on the 30-item Geriatric Depression Scale. Those drinking less than a single cup daily showed the highest incidence of mild depression while a third of those drinking 2-3 cups per day experienced no depression and 44 percent of those drinking four or more cups a day were less likely to have symptoms compared to those drinking one or fewer cups of tea. No similar correlation was demonstrated for black or oolong tea. “Similar relations were also observed in the case of severe depressive symptoms,” according to researchers. The study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Dec;90(6):1615-22. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28216. and Public Health Nutr. 2013 Mar 4:1-9.

Learn more: Tea: 6 Brilliant Effects on the Brain


Experienced tea tasters are an elite group with similar skills but no two are identical.

Not so with the impedance tongue and digital camera perfected by Central Scientific Instruments Organization (CSIO) in Chandigarh, India.

Studies show that 90 percent of what we taste is actually due to what we smell.

Nano sensors in the electrode of an  iTongue can identify 70 chemicals in tea, which is seven times more than human taste receptors.  Meanwhile a camera (3CCD) precisely identifies the color associated with a perfectly steeped cup.

The device is calibrated with 100 samples after which it “has amassed a huge pool of information for comparison,” according to Amol Bhandekar Senior Scientist at CSIO.

Bhandekar told  the New Indian Express “the tea tasters’ observations are subjective depending on his health and mood, but the iTongue will provide consistent evaluation. We have already  manufactured a ‘proof sample’ and are working on a marketable prototype.”

Learn more: Central Scientific Instruments Organization


Doctor Who Tea

“Doctor Who” marked his 50th TV anniversary Sunday with a day-long celebration of the series. The show first aired Nov. 23, 1963. More than 10 million tuned into the Day of the Doctor program produced by BBC Entertainment. It is the longest running sci-fi program in history. The anniversary episode brought together the 10th Doctor David Tennant and Rose Tyler and 11th Doctor Matt Smith and Clara Oswald.

In honor of the good doctor, the blenders at Beastly Beverages created a special tea available at the company’s Etsy shop.

Learn more: Dr. Who Anniversary Episode

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Editor | Publisher | Podcaster | Consultant | Journalist Dan is the founder of Tea Journey Magazine, the Tea Biz Podcast and Blog, and a contributing editor at STiR coffee and tea. He is the former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine, former editor and publisher of World Tea News, and former editor-in-chief at Specialty Coffee Retailer, then headquartered in San Francisco. Dan has traveled the tea lands, speaking on retail beverage trends in Canada and the United States and at conferences in Europe, China, India, Australia, the Middle East, South America, and Africa.