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Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 4

Tea Industry News for the week of February 12 | Hard tea packs a punch | India earmarks worker subsidies for women and children | Beware of false claims, FDA warns companies to stop misleading consumers with products that claim to cure COVID-19

Listen to the Tea Biz Podcast for the week of February 12

Here are the News Headlines

• Hard tea packs a punch
• India earmarks worker subsidies for women and children
• Beware of false claims, FDA warns companies to stop misleading consumers with products that claim to cure COVID-19


Since 2013 the US League of Tea Growers has nurtured close collaboration among the more than 60 growers in 15 American states producing tea for commercial sale. Led by Angela McDonald, owner of Oregon Tea Traders, the group hosts online webinars and discussions. This week Kevin Gascoyne, a well-known tea buyer and co-owner of the Camellia Sinensis tea company in Montreal, counseled the group on what American tea growers need to do to make themselves competitive on the world stage. He also had this to say about what makes America’s experiment in tea growing relevant to the industry at large.

Kevin Gascoyne on the contribution of American tea growers to the world of tea.

Enrollment in the Tea & Herbal Association of Canada’s Tea Sommelier Certification Program surged during lockdowns and continues to grow in the new year. The program, designed for tea professionals, costs between $2,500 and $3,500 to complete online, or, on campus. In this report Jessica Natale Woollard talks with founder Shabnam Weber and with MacKenzie Bailey, a tea sommelier enrolled in the online program.

TAC Tea Sommelier Certification Program founder Shabnam Weber

News you Need to Know

Hard Tea

Rates of alcohol consumption in spring 2020 were up 14 percent compared with the same period in 2019 and drinkers consumed nearly 30 percent more than in pre-pandemic months, according to Modern Healthcare magazine. The spike is due in part to the onset of “cabin fever” and the speedy delivery to your door of every kind of booze you can imagine from high-proof bourbon and Scotch to crafty beers and juice coolers. Michigan residents, as one example, consumed an average 956 alcoholic drinks per person in 2020.

Hard tea with its moderate volume of alcohol and healthy halo is in sync with this trend. Well-known Twisted Tea, a 5% alcohol by volume (ABV) iced tea dates to 2000 but leave it to America’s big bottlers to add a new layer of glitz by combining tea with trending seltzer.

Truly Hard Seltzer iced tea (a 5% ABV launched by the Boston Beer Co. this month follows organic seltzer pioneers Suzie’s Brewery in Pendleton, Ore. and Michelob ULTRA hard seltzer, Bud Light Seltzer, Molson Coors Seltzer, and Masq Hard Tea, an organic 12-oz 4% ABV yerba mate base flavored with blue agave and monk fruit priced at $9.99 for a four-pack.

Biz Insight –Beware. Five percent ABV delivers more than a half-ounce of alcohol per serving, the same as a 12-oz can of beer. A 5% tea seltzer contains 25 percent more alcohol than a 4% light beer (the equivalent of 1.8 alcohol units vs .1.4 alcohol units, a measure of how our bodies process alcohol). Adults typically process 1 alcohol unit per hour so drinking two or three seltzers delivers far more than a gentle buzz. Moderation is trending. Globally the low alcohol beverage category grew to 3% of the entire alcohol market in 2020. Volume increases are projected to grow by 31% by 2024.

Tea pluckers at Cinnamara Tea Estate, Assam, India

India Earmarks Worker Subsidies for Women and Children

India’s Ministry of Commerce announced $137 million in welfare subsidies for tea workers in the government’s new budget last week. Officials say a major portion of the 10 billion rupees will specifically address challenges facing women and dependent children. Women constitute 50% of the workforce, deftly performing the “entire gamut of activities from nursery to planting, bringing up young saplings, plucking, pruning and manufacturing in the factory” writes the Tea Board of India.

“It is due to the strenuous and untiring efforts of the tea garden workers that the Indian tea industry has exhibited remarkable resilience in the midst of multilateral challenges-climate change, upheaval in the market, and the Covid-19 Pandemic,” according to the tea board.

Biz Insight – There are 200,000 female tea workers in West Bengal and 400,000 in Assam. Together these provinces produce 81% of India’s tea. Many women working in the fields are poorly educated, older, and not in good health. Younger women confront a shortage of childcare and lack training that imparts a broader range of skills. Many lack a feeling of self-reliance. The intent of the investment is to significantly enhance women’s quality of life, writes The Economic Times

There is No Cure for Coronavirus

Tea is known to bolster the body’s immune system. Its composition of polyphenols, catechins, and nutrients offer many health benefits, but tea does not cure coronavirus. The US Food and Drug Administration this week ordered Ausar Herbs, marketers of “Coronavirus Destroyer Tea” to remove inaccurate claims about their product or face stiff fines. The company promptly complied. Similar products promoted as “Virus Bioshield”, “Flu Immune Drops” and “Spike Protein Vaccine” were also called out for false claims.

Biz Insight FDA maintains an online list of products that fraudulently claim to “mitigate, prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19” FDA has sent 145 warning letters to pharmaceutical, holistic, and herbal companies since last March. Self-policing is in everyone’s best interest, report unlawful sales of medical products to the FDA.

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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.