Tea Clipper Races Reborn

Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 11

Tea news for the week ending April 2 | Suez Ship-jam Delays Tea Deliveries | Tea Aisle Sales Stand Out in Grocery | Tea Retail Realignment Underway | Camellia Sinensis Closes Emery Street Teahouse | PLUS: A maritime foundation in Scotland has a bold plan to restore the last of the clipper ships and race it from China to UK filled with tea.

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Hear the Headlines for the Week of April 2

Hear the Headlines

| Suez Ship-jam Delays Tea Deliveries
| Tea Aisle Sales Stand Out in Grocery
| Tea Retail Realignment Underway

| Camellia Sinensis Closes Emery Street Teahouse

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This week’s Tea Price Report

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This week Tea Biz visits Scotland for a lesson on the history of tea clipper ships and a plan to revive the famous tea races from China to the UK with next-generation zero-emission sail craft that someday may enable shippers who switched from sail to steam 150 years ago to switch back to sail again.

…. and we explore a realm that knows no bounds — the imagination of tea book authors. Listen as Kyle Whittington, founder of the Tea Book Club, presents the first in a series of crowd-sourced book reviews

China Tea Clippers Ariel and Taeping
China Tea Clippers Ariel and Taeping race to London in a painting by Jack Spurling.

Clipper Tea Races Reborn

David O’Neill is director of Falls of Clyde International, a non-profit vested in preserving Scotland’s maritime heritage. The 200-foot-long Falls of Clyde is the last of the full-rigged, iron-hulled clippers. It is designated a US National Historic Landmark and moored as a maritime museum in Honolulu. However, the ship is no longer open to the public and needs $1.5 million in immediate repairs or it will be scuttled. Read more…

David O’Neill on the return of the clipper tea races
Kyle Whittington
Tea Book Club founder Kyle Whittington

The Tea Book Club

By Dan Bolton

The Tea Book Club is a virtual adaptation of the popular Saturday afternoon tea and armchair get-togethers. Members meet monthly as either regulars or drop-ins. A new book is introduced every two months. The first session is social with a book-related theme or special guest. The second meet-up is to discuss the book in detail. There are two time slots to accommodate the global community with recordings available and a group chat on Instagram. Email prompts during the month help you keep on pace.

Tea Book Club founder Kyle Whittington is joining Tea Biz as a contributing editor responsible for reviewing books on tea. In this segment he introduces the club’s favorite book of 2020, Tales of the Tea Trade by Michelle and Bob Comins, two adventurous tea retailers from Bath, England who recount their travels to origin. Read more…

Kyle Whittington reviews Tales of the Tea Trade

Tea News you Need to Know

Suez Ship-jam Delays Tea Deliveries

The reliability of ships arriving on time was at record lows before the March 24 Suez Canal ship-jam delayed significant amounts of coffee and tea mainly bound for Europe. The Van Rees Group, based in Rotterdam, continues to track 80 containers of tea on 15 vessels idling in the canal or re-routed at sea. Logistics firm Sea-Intelligence estimates arrival reliability declined below 35% in February and reports an average delay of 6.72 days for LATE ships. This marks the sixth month of double-digit, year-on-year declines in vessel performance and the “highest average delay ever.”

“With continued widespread port congestion, and with carriers still not letting off capacity-wise – especially on the major trades – not even for Chinese New Year, shippers might not see improving schedule reliability anytime soon,” writes Sea-Intelligence CEO Alan Murphy.

Refloating the gigantic container ship Ever Given within six days averted a crisis as year-end supplies dwindled at the start of the harvest year. Recovery will take a few weeks as 350 ships make their way through the canal at a pace of 80 ships per day. In addition, the blockage will prevent empty shipping containers from being returned to Asia, adding to a container shortage caused by rising demand for consumer goods during the pandemic.

Biz Insight – In the orderly world of logistics, nothing is going as planned. Ports are designed to unload ships at an even pace. Hundreds of vessels arriving all at once at the same Western European destinations will create bottlenecks at terminals in Antwerp, Rotterdam, and Hamburg where most tea is offloaded. Port authorities say they are now experiencing a lull before the rush.

Tea Stands Out in the Grocery Aisle

Staid and steady center-aisle categories like tea rarely accelerate at growth rates faster than advertising-driven Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) categories – but that’s exactly what happened in 2020. Last April sales of tea bags in US grocery and department stores grew by 12.7% year over year, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI. Growth held steady at 12.3% for the year. Sales of tea in teabags totaled $250 million in the 52-weeks ending February 2021, according to IRI. In Canada hot tea sales grew by 18% through January compared to 11% growth in fast-moving goods overall, according to Nielsen research shared by the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada.

Fraser McKevitt, Kantar’s head of retail and consumer insight in the UK, writes that “We’ve eaten an extra 7 billion meals at home since spring 2020. Office tea rounds meanwhile were replaced by brews in our own kitchens and we drank an additional 2 billion cups of tea in the house this year.”

Globally sales of packaged foods and beverages have fully recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Biz Insight – Consumer surveys show that comfort and relaxation and lifestyle motivated purchases – with immunity and mental health and “just keeping warm” among the top five reasons people bought tea during lockdowns. Consumer trends toward self-care and convenience are now more prominent than in last year’s surveys but the desire to spend more to indulge in premium tea and to create pleasant in-home experiences remains strong. Overall, the US economy is still troubled. On Wednesday the Conference Board reported that 62% of US consumers, many of whom are facing economic uncertainty and income loss, are cutting back on spending overall. The survey found that frugality is one of three dominant household priorities along with a preference for digitally enabled convenience and spending on health and wellness.

Retail Realignment

Tata Consumer Products, owners of Tetley branded tea, announced it has sold its stake in two US-based joint tea ventures – parting ways with Empirical Group, a major foodservice supplier, and the Harris Tea Company’s Southern Tea. Tetley is one of North America’s highest grossing tea brands. Tata’s CEO said the company is consolidating to sharpen its focus in the US coffee and tea market.

In a release announcing the acquisition, Harris writes that the new company will be called Harris Tea Food Service, “offering foodservice customers innovative products, consistent quality, and service.”

In addition to Tetley® and Good Earth®, Harris Tea Food Service will now offer Southern Breeze®, Ready Sweet™, Newman’s Own Organics®, Red Rose®, Salada®, Tea India®, Chai Moments®, Wonder Drink Kombucha® and Secret Squirrel Coffee® according to the release.

Harris Tea Company is the largest blender and packer of private label teas in North America with two production facilities in the US (in Georgia and New Jersey), one in Newcastle, UK and, an affiliated factory in India.

Camellia Sinensis 351 Rue Émery, Montréal.
Camellia Sinensis 351 Rue Émery, Montréal.

Camellia Sinensis Will Close Emery Street Teahouse

Kevin Gascoyne, a partner and spokesman for Camellia Sinensis tea retail in Montreal, announced the company will close its Emery Teahouse after 22 years. Gascoyne said that like many firms the pandemic forced the company to re-structure and reinvent itself to survive.

“Had this been simply been a one or two months event would have weathered it out and carried on as before.  But now, after more than a year, we have come to realize that we will have to cut free a part of the company that is very close to all our hearts. We have decided to close the Emery Teahouse,” writes Gascoyne. 

“In early 2022 we hope to present a new space, offering a completely different client experience, a location where tea tasting, and discovery are at the core of each visit,” he said

“Naturally the Tea School and our passion for the art of tea will play an important role in this new project and, if all goes well, it will both seduce the senses and enhance the tea experience for all our clients,” he said.

The company’s Emery Street Boutique remains open for business.

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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.