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’s Tea Price Report

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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 News and Biz Insight – September 17, 2021 Tea Biz

"HEAR THE HEADLINES – Advent International Will Bid $4 Billion for Unilever’s Tea Portfolio | India Considers Halting Imports of Nepal Tea | Sales of Herbal Supplements in the US Reach a Record $10 Billion in 2020 | NEWSMAKER – Rainforest Alliance Director South Asia Madhuri Nanda  | GUEST – Caroline Giacomin, Ph.D., a physicist at ETH Zürich, Switzerland   | FEATURES – This week Tea Biz travels to Switzerland to learn from ETH Zürich physicist Caroline Giacomin the physics of that colorful sheen that rises to the surface of black tea. Is tea scum just that or a revealing indication of goodness in the cup? … and then we travel to New Delhi, India where the Rainforest Alliance’s Madhuri Nanda reveals how practitioners of RA’s sustainable farming methods are evolving toward broader, more holistic ecosystems in Part 2 of our series on Regenerative Agriculture. The Physics of Black Tea Film Have you ever noticed a colorful sheen on the surface of your tea? It appears to break like ice floes in the arctic as the tea cools. Researchers once thought tea film was due to waxy substances contained in tea leaves released during steeping. That is not the case. The delicate film is an interfacial interaction of air, tea polyphenols, and calcium carbonate ions in water. It does not form on white, yellow, green, or lightly processed oolong teas, only black tea. In many parts of the world, soft water prevents the film from forming. Is tea film a fleeting glimmer of color to enjoy or an ugly scum to quickly dissipate with a squeeze of lemon. Caroline Giacomin, Ph.D, a physicist at ETH Zürich, Switzerland joins us to explain the physics of tea film from a study she and colleague Peter Fischer recently published in the Physics of Fluids.  Regenerative Agriculture: A Holistic Approach The Rainforest Alliance's Madhuri Nanda explains that while sustainable farming ensures that agricultural practices do not negatively impact and degrade the environmental, social, and economic aspects of the surrounding ecosystem ̶ the focus shifts in regenerative agriculture toward adopting a broader holistic approach that enhances biodiversity and improves soil health through increased microbial activities that build resilient systems capable of withstanding adverse climatic scenarios."
  1. Tea News and Biz Insight – September 17, 2021
  2. Tea News and Biz Insight – September 10, 2021
  3. Tea News and Biz Insight – September 3, 2021
  4. Tea News and Biz Insight – August 26, 2021
  5. Tea News and Biz Insight – August 20, 2021


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Editor | Publisher | Podcaster | Consultant | Writer Dan is the founder of Tea Journey magazine the Tea Biz Podcast 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 editor-in-chief at Specialty Coffee Retailer. Dan has traveled widely in 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, and Africa.