Kaley Tea founder Udena Wickremesooriya

Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 10

Tea news for the week ending March 26 | India High Court Reverses Tea Worker Wage Increase | Kenyan Tea Factory Elections Suspended | Study Finds Growers Adapting to Climate Change | PLUS: Certifications soothe the conscience, but do they deliver for the communities where workers reside?

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Hear the Headlines for the Week of March 26

Hear the Headlines

| India High Court Reverses Tea Worker Wage Increase
| Kenyan Tea Factory Elections Suspended
| Study Finds Growers Adapting to Climate Change

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This week Tea Biz discusses a retail-inspired tea education club that delves deeply in the “geeky” aspects of terroir, horticultural practices, and processing during rare-tea cupping sessions at home

…. and we travel to London to weigh the marketing value of third-party certifications against authentic “boots-on-the ground” community involvement tailored to local needs.

Udena at Kaley
Kaley Tea founder Udena Wickremesooriya at a July 2020 Ceylon tasting showcasing artisan tea makers.

Certifications Soothe the Conscience, But Do They Deliver for the Communities Where Workers Reside?

By Dananjaya Silva | PMD Tea

In principle tea certification programs have positive impacts but in practice results are highly location-specific and mixed. Farmgate prices generally rise along with gross income, but so do costs that are borne by farmers in about 60 percent of certification programs. Certifications are an imperative for marketers seeking to export tea – third-party certifications soothe the conscience of retailers and consumers, but do they address the needs and interests of tea workers in the communities in which they reside? Read more…

Kaley Tea founder Udena Wickremesooriya on third party certification programs.
Shunan Teng
Tea Drunk founder Shunan Teng

Online Tea Education Club in a Class All its Own

By Dan Bolton

New York’s Tea Drunk tea house is normally bustling with tea lovers gathered to sip and learn. Since opening in 2013, founder and first-generation immigrant Shunan Teng, an accomplished speaker and educator, taught by example, telling stories of her annual buying trips while pouring tea for customers. Last March, Teng, who normally spends three months a year with heritage growers in China, was grounded – worse yet, her thriving business was locked down.

Read more…

Shunan Teng on educating tea lovers during the pandemic

Headphone iconListen to Japanese Resilience and Resolve, Part 1: The story of the Tōhoku Quake Tea Relief Caravan. | Click to see photos of their adventure.

Japanese Resilience and Resolve, Part 2: The story of Kitaha Tea, a company reborn after the Tōhoku Quake.

Maruyama Tea: 21st Century Japanese Tea Production

Tea News you Need to Know

Assam High Court Halts Wage Increases

A 50-rupee per day wage increase for Assam tea workers announced in February was halted by the state court on behalf of 17 tea companies and the Indian Tea Association. ITA filed the motion citing the state’s failure to properly examine financial and other impacts via subcommittee.

On March 16 the Gauhati court ruled that garden managers are at liberty to pay the interim wage hike, but it is not mandatory, pending further review. The decision means tea estates can continue to pay workers a minimum of 167 rupees a about ($2.30) per day.

Biz Insight – In the hotly contested Assam State elections India’s National Congress Party promised to more than double the daily wage to 365 rupees (about $5 US). The ruling BJP promises to increase tea wages to 351 rupees per day. A court hearing is scheduled for April 23, two weeks after polling closes for the April elections.

Kenyan Tea Factory Elections Suspended

Elections naming the boards of directors of 54 tea factories supporting 640,000 small farms were suspended this week by a Nairobi court that overruled a presidential executive order. The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) and reformists seeking to enforce the Tea Act are competing for the board seats. President Uhuru Kenyatta, pressing for reforms, on March 12 ordered the elections to proceed. KTDA responded by filing a motion to stop the elections. The Tea Act signed in December re-establishes the Tea Board of Kenya with orders to streamline the sector. Once the legal disputes are resolved, the board will be in charge of running Kenya’s tea factories — a change KTDA opposes.

Biz Insight – Farmers in six factory districts have already cast ballots ousting KTDA incumbents and naming new directors as authorized under the Tea Act. Four other factories have scheduled elections March 31. President Kenyatta sought to conclude factory elections within 60 days, a timetable upended by the court

Adapting to Climate Change

New study by researchers at the Tocklai Tea Research Center recommends motivational campaigns, demonstrations, training, and extension work to encourage growers large and small to adapt to climate change.

The study Perception of Climate Change and Adaptation Strategies in Tea Plantations of Assam India analyzed tea growers’ awareness of climate change, its impact on tea, adaptive approaches undertaken and future strategies. The study was recently published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, a peer reviewed, scientific journal published by Springer. The work was authored by Dr. Pradip Baruah and Dr. Gautam Handique at Tocklai.

Three quarters of tea farm respondents (78.3%) reported a decline in productivity while 12% were uncertain. Only 9.6% believe that tea production was not vulnerable to climate change.

Rainwater harvesting and irrigation are common adaptations. Others include mulching to conserve soil moisture, reduce surface runoff and soil erosion while lowering soil temperature; reforestation, wildlife preservation, and the construction of wind barriers. “There is increasing evidence that climate change will strongly affect tea cultivation,” concludes a study of growers in Assam, the world’s top tea producing region.

Read more…

Rosekandy Tea Estate
Rainwater harvesting to facilitate irrigation during the dry season is the most common adaptation.

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Tea Biz News and Insight – December 2, 2022 Tea Biz

HEAR THE HEADLINES – Black Friday Lives Up to its Name | US shoppers set in-store and online sales records | UNESCO Inscribes Two Tea Traditions on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity | Australian Study Shows Elderly Women Benefit from Tea Flavonoids| NEWSMAKER – Andrew McNeill, Business Development Director Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea| GUEST – TeaBookClub Founder Kyle Whittington| FEATURE INTRO – Tea Biz travels to Tucson, Arizona, for the grand opening of a 2200 sq. ft. combination tea shop, tearoom, warehouse, and online fulfillment center. Andrew McNeill, Business Development Director at Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea, says that stay-at-home tea drinkers experimenting with specialty teas are eager to share the experience of tea discovery face-to-face.Tearooms Rekindle Cultural Experience Face-to-Face – Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea is typical of well-established shops that survived the pandemic. The direct-trade retailer is 20 years old, located in a second-tier city, and generates revenue online and in-store from packaged sales, tea service, and wholesale supply to coffee shops, cafes, hotels, and restaurants.Packaged tea has fared well since 2019. A spike in sales jammed tea cupboards with direct-from-origin and exotic teas purchased online. The growing consumer preference for better-tasting tea favors retailers with quality selections, including herbal infusions. Retailers are remodeling to promote in-shop sampling as it encourages social interaction and repeat business among enthusiasts eager to experiment and learn from experts.Seven Cups founder Austin Hodge says, "When you enter a traditional teahouse, in China or Tucson, you step into a cultural experience that separates you from your daily problems. It’s a teahouse tradition for tea drinkers to be treated with respect and dignity, whatever their outside problems might be.”REVIEW: Tea & Empire, James Taylor in Victorian CeylonAngela McCarthy & T.M. DevineThis fascinating book illuminates the all-too-often overlooked tea region of Ceylon, present-day Sri Lanka. The authors draw on the letters of James Taylor, pioneer and founding father of the Ceylon tea industry, to explore the life of a Scottish migrant who, through experimentation and determination, forged a new industry out of the ruins of the coffee blight. This uniquely complete collection of correspondence reveals this pivotal time in tea history through the eyes, thoughts, and actions of a key player. – Kyle Whittington
  1. Tea Biz News and Insight – December 2, 2022
  2. Tea Biz News and Insight – November 25, 2022
  3. Tea Biz News and Insight – November 18, 2022
  4. Tea Biz News and Insight – November 11, 2022
  5. Tea Biz News and Insight – November 4, 2022


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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.