Narendranath Dharmaraj

Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 3

Tea Industry News for the week of February 5 | Shipping container shortage threatens timely tea deliveries | Kenya’s High Court has ruled against unions seeking to prevent mechanical harvesting of tea | Bombs Away… Tea bombs encased in confectionary get rave reviews online

Episode 3

Listen to the Tea Biz Podcast for the week of February 05

Here are the News Headlines

• Shipping container shortage threatens timely tea deliveries
• Kenya’s High Court has ruled against unions seeking to prevent mechanical harvesting of tea
• Bombs Away… Tea bombs encased in confectionary get rave reviews online


This week Aravinda Anantharaman speaks with Narendranath Dharmaraj who has spent nearly five decades in plantation and agribusiness management. In the conversation around the viability of the Indian tea industry and in particular the outdated nature of the plantation model, Dharmaraj has proposed an alternative where he recommends that estate owners distribute land-ownership in favor of the plantation employees and buy back the raw material through a co-operative. Here, we speak to Dharmaraj on how this model will address the issues of labor and wages that have hit an impasse. Read more…

A conversation on the future of India’s tea industry with Narendranath Dharmaraj
International Tea Training Center on the beach in Mexico

Traveling to origin is no long practical, yet tea retailers must still learn tasting skills essential to selecting fine tea. Dan Robertson, founder of the International Tea Cuppers Club, has constructed an international tea training center in Mexico where tea masters share their knowledge during a week-long immersion program. The soon-to-open facility is on the Riviera Maya near the Mayan Ruins, south of Cancun and Cozumel.

ITCC founder Dan Robertson on why tasting skills are essential to sales and success.

News you Need to Know

Shipping container shortage threatens timely tea deliveries

The cost of shipping a container of goods increased 80 percent since November and nearly tripled in 2019. One third of the containers transiting the world’s 20 largest ports failed to ship on schedule. Unlike grains, tea is not shipped in bulk. Depending on its density, 10 to 12 metric tons of tea can be loaded into a 20-foot container.

Beginning last spring the pandemic shifted the normal shipping cycle leaving hundreds of thousands of empty shipping containers at destinations with no loads to return. In China and India, the shortage is acute. Bloomberg reports that in January India shipped less than a fifth of its normal volume of sugar. Responding to a 30 percent surge in orders for goods, last fall China offered top dollar for the return of empty containers. The strategy is working so well that coffee and rice are piling up at the docks in Thailand and lentils in Canada as shippers rush return containers instead of filling them with Asian-bound goods. Gradually equilibrium is returning with predictions that the shortage will abate in time for the first of the tea harvest shipments in April.

Biz InsightEliot Jordan, vice president of tea at Mighty Leaf Tea in California writes that he is “backing up orders by a month on anything that has to move on the ocean.” He says, “The problem is, as long as COVID is running rampant, all the forecasts I have are throwing darts in my basement with the lights off – sometimes it’s better to throw very few darts until the lights come back on.”

Kenya’s High Court has ruled against unions seeking to prevent mechanical harvesting of tea

The appeals court decision follows a 2018 ruling that Unilever Tea Kenya had the right to adopt new technology. The Kenya Plantations and Agricultural Workers Union sought a universal ban on tea harvesting machines.

Biz Insight – Kenya’s flatland tea farms are uniquely suited to mechanical harvesting, but planters have faced stiff opposition to mechanization since 2010. In 2018 workers led a strike in protest. Lower courts sided with workers initially but were overturned on appeal, a reversal that allowed planters to dismiss all who joined the boycott. During confrontations, several pieces of expensive harvesting equipment was destroyed. The expansion of mechanical harvesting (and subsequent loss of jobs) now appears likely.

An assortment of 2.5-inch Tea Bombs made with a sugar free shell by Confection Bombs. | Etsy

Bombs away

Tea encased in confectionary sold as Tea Bombs are easily created in partnership with a local candy company or with the use of silicon molds in your own tea shop. Made with a shell of liquid sugar, the two-inch translucent spheres can be filled with tea leaves, tea bags and a variety of inclusions such as edible flowers, spices, and herbs. The bomb explodes as hot water is poured into the cup, lightly sweetening the mix. Bright colors, food-safe glitter and sparkles add to the fun.

Biz Insight Nudge Coffee bars are an example of beverages sold as food. Ultra fine powdered roasted coffee beans are processed with cocoa butter into a shelf-stable paste similar to Nutella that can be molded into bars. The company’s candy coated coffee pellets resemble M&Ms and deliver caffeine in consistent doses. Natural grocer Sprouts reports a strong debut among coffee lovers.

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Tea News and Biz Insight – June 18, 2021 Tea Biz

HEAR THE HEADLINES – Cold Brew is Trending for Iced Tea Month | DAVIDsTEA in Canada Settles its Debts and Kenya Exports Surge but Auction Prices Remain Low| GUEST – Ravi Kroesen, head teamaker at Steven Smith Teamaker, in Portland, Ore.| NEWSMAKER – Amy Dubin-Nath, founder Janem Tea in Colombus, Ohio| FEATURES – Tea Biz this week travels to Columbus, Ohio to visit with Amy Dubin-Nath, founder of Janem Tea and an ad hoc India tea ambassador to the US.… and then to Portland, Ore. where Ravi Kroesen, head teamaker at Smith Teamaker, explains the many uses of tea at the company’s recently opened plant-based café.Spectacular Indian TeasAmy Dubin-Nath sees a bright future for specialty teas originating in India, “but I don’t think it is going to be a quick flip where people are only after high end teas.” Instead, the process will be gradual, following a path similar to wine. “Do I want to see the spectacular teas of India keep selling at a high price?" she asks, “Yes, definitely, as that elevates the perceived value, making it something precious. I believe that message should be spread throughout the world — including in India.”A Plant-Based Café where Tea Reigns SupremeThe intent of the new café concept, says Smith Teamaker Ravi Kroesen, is to “develop foods that really reflect our ethos [E THOS] of plants, as well as utilizing tea as an ingredient.” The new Smith Teamaker café sources locally with a menu that includes snacks, lattes and iced concoctions with full meals that demonstrate how tea and food can live in harmony from leaf to cup to plate.
  1. Tea News and Biz Insight – June 18, 2021
  2. Tea News and Biz Insight – June 11, 2021
  3. Tea News and Tea Biz Insight – June 4, 2021
  4. Tea News and Tea Biz Insight – May 28, 2021
  5. Tea News and Tea Biz Insight – May 21, 2021
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Editor | Publisher | Consultant | Freelance Writer Dan is the founder of Tea Journey magazine and a contributing editor at STiR coffee and tea. He is the former editor and publisher of World Tea News, and a contributor to Fresh Cup, Specialty Coffee Retailer, and CoffeeTalk. His personal blog is In 2012 Dan supervised the successful re-launch of Tea Magazine where he was editor and publisher. This followed two years as editor and publisher of World Tea News. Dan has traveled widely, speaking on retail beverage trends in Canada and the United States at conferences in Dubai, UAE, Global Dubai Tea Forum (2016) and GDTF (2012 and 2014); World Tea Expo (2011-2015-2016); Canada Coffee & Tea Show (2011); Coffeefest; World Tea East and presented at the Tocklai Tea Research Institute Centennial, Jorhat, Assam (2011). He addressed the India International Tea Convention in Goa, India (2012). Dan is addressed COTECA conference attendees in Hamburg, Germany in September 2016, presented at the Xiamen Tea Fair in China, the DMCC Tea Centre hosted Global Dubai Tea Forum in 2016 and the Puer Specialty Coffee Forum hosted by the Yunnan Coffee Exchange in 2019.