Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 2

Tea Industry News for the week of January 29 | DAVIDsTEA Turnaround | Condition Specific Blends | Canadian Tea Sales Slow

Listen to the Podcast for the week of January 29

Here are the News Headlines

• Montreal-based DAVIDsTEA is undergoing a remarkable transformation
• Tea companies report strong sales and many new functional, and condition-specific teas
• Britons increased their tea intake 27 percent – dunking 61 billion tea bags in 2020
• Tea sales slow in Canada following a spring sprint


This week we travel to Malawi, Africa where industry veteran Ranjit Dasgupta talks with Honorary Consul Jordan Price about a tea growing region gaining a reputation for producing innovative and sustainable specialty tea

Ranjit Dasgupta interviews Jordan Price, Malawi’s Honorary Consul to the US

… and to the Nilgiri Mountains in South India where Aravinda Anantharaman reports that hundreds of small growers in 100-member “farm producer groups” are collectively learning how to transition from fertilizer- and pesticide-dependent land practices to the organic cultivation of tea.

Aravinda Anantharaman reports…

News you Need to Know

Sarah Segal began the New Year as CEO of DAVIDsTEA

The Montreal-based brick-and-mortar retailer is undergoing a remarkable transformation. The firm, which operated more than 200 retail locations in the US and Canada until last March was forced to declare bankruptcy, closing 166 locations, leaving only 18 mall and suburban storefronts. The situation looked dire — but within three months the business had returned to profitability —and in its most recent financial disclosures Segal pointed to– a 145 percent increase to $22 million in tea sales online and in grocery – up from $9 million during the same period the previous year. Segal said it is her goal to “solidify our position as a digital-first, industry-leading provider of on-trend, high-quality loose-leaf tea, tea accessories, and gifts.”

Biz Insight – Financial analysts praised the company’s “asset-light” business model, estimating that the combination of labor savings, minimal rent, and reduced overhead multiplied cash flow by 15 times. Segal promised investors that DAVIDsTEA “is on a new path, squarely focused on becoming a more agile organization.”

Innovation Driven by Pandemic

COVID has made consumers recognize that WELL BEING is a vital concern. Tea companies report strong sales and many line extensions for functional, and condition-specific teas. This week Celestial Seasonings Tea announced an expansion of its TeaWell line with Mood Tonic, Laxative, and Gut Health teas. Brands introducing new teas include Tata Tea’s immunity-boosting Tetley Green Tea with vitamin c, TAZO’s Calm in 42oz bottles; new Ayurvedics from India’s Teamonk. and a vegan double spice chai from STASH Tea. Researchers in Singapore recently announced probiotics that can be added to any tea which is then left to ferment for two days – retaining the original flavor — enhanced with fruity and floral notes and a faint acidity.

Market research firm Mintel, which maintains a global database of new products, noted a growing number of “Feed the Mind” formulations. “The events of 2020 caused a fundamental reset in human behavior” according to Mintel. In the coming years, consumers will be looking for more products and services that offer mental and emotional health benefits.”

Biz Insight – Manufacturers are also experimenting with new ways to deliver the goodness of tea. Effusio, a New York-based company, uses flexographic printing technology to make wafer thin dissoluble discs that deliver vitamins, minerals and complex nutrients including prebiotics. The company’s “Sleep” discs contain L-theanine derived from tea; chamomile and melatonin.

Tea Sales Up in the UK as Volume Continues to Fall

Britons increased their tea intake by 27 percent in 2020 consuming 61 billion tea bags, enough to cover the equivalent of 31,000 soccer fields. A survey of 2,000 tea drinkers financed by JING Tea found that during the pandemic UK residents used an average of four teabags a day or 1,460 tea bags per person last year.

One third say they drink tea for comfort and one in 20 said that tea calmed them during a crisis. One third said they plan on sticking with the same tea, prepared in the same way for life but 58 percent say they are willing to experiment.

Biz Insight – The British Isles are a bellwether for western consumption patterns dating back 361 years. Revenue from tea rose slightly in 2020 but consumption continued its 11-year decline in volume. Globally tea consumption grew by 1.5 percent, a retreat from the previous year’s 4 percent pace due to temporary and permanent closures of cafes and restaurants. The Economist Intelligence Unit predicts tea consumption to grow by 2.8 percent in 2021.

Canadian Tea Sales Slid in 2020

Tea sales in the first weeks of the pandemic soared. Canadians, like those in many nations, rushed to fill their pantries. During the early spring and summer sales in grocery grew by double digits leading all FMCC (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) categories and offsetting losses in foodservice. The situation changed as lockdowns returned last fall….

Shabnam Weber – President Tea & Herbal Association of Canada

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Tea News and Biz Insights – January 14, 2022 Tea Biz

HEAR THE HEADLINES – Draft Tea Act Redefines India’s Tea Board Mission | A Global Tea Harvest Review, a TEAIN22 Forecast | BOH Malaysia Named Tea Brand of the Year| NEWSMAKER – Jason McDonald, tea farmer and founder/CEO of The Great Mississippi Tea Company| GUEST – Kyle Whittington, founder Tea Book Club| FEATURES – This week, Tea Biz travels to the state of Mississippi, where tea farmer and founder/CEO Jason McDonald of The Great Mississippi Tea Company discusses the economics of mechanical harvesting following a two-year trial of selective harvesting equipment. Then to London, where Tea Book Club founder Kyle Whittington offers a modern take on the century-old classic The Book of Tea, published in 1906 by Okakura Kakuzō with an introduction rich in detail and context by Bruce Richardson. The Economics of Small Scale Mechanization –Inspired by The Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina, Jason McDonald decided to plant a tea garden amid the timber on his 289-acre farm in Lincoln County, Mississippi, where a combination of high heat, humidity, acidic soil, and ample rainfall is ideally suited to tea. In 2012 McDonald planted a test plot, making his first tea in 2015. In 2018 the tea garden produced sufficient quantities to begin selling to the public. McDonald has since diligently researched all aspects of the industry, enlisting horticultural, sustainability, manufacturing, and machine professionals to develop harvesting and automated tea processing equipment at scale. During the past two years, the farm conducted field trials with a selective mechanical harvester to produce 250 to 350 kilos of made tea annually. McDonald shares cost savings, a boost in yield, and leaves suitable for making specialty and mid-grade teas with readers.The Book of Tea, a review by Kyle Whittington –For a book that is well over a century old, The Book of Tea remains a classic and a book that is well worth re-reading from time to time. There are so many editions out there, variously with introductions by tea aficionados, scholars, and masters of the last hundred plus years. Some editions are particularly aesthetically pleasing to add to the tea bookshelf. However, the edition I always recommend is the one with the introduction by Bruce Richardson. Bruce’s exceptionally well-researched introduction into the life and times of Okakura is fascinating and helps to contextualize The Book of Tea. Additionally, the fantastic photos and illustrations help bring both the book and Okakura’s period of history to life.
  1. Tea News and Biz Insights – January 14, 2022
  2. Tea News and Biz Insights – January 7, 2022
  3. Tea News and Biz Insights – December 31, 2021
  4. Tea News and Biz Insights – December 17, 2021
  5. Tea News and Biz Insights – December 10, 2021
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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.