Caption: Philippe Juglar, right, presenting AVPA award to Managing Director Chaminda Jayawardana, Lumbini Tea Factory, Sri Lanka
The Paris-based AVPA (Agence pour la Valorisation des Produits Agricoles) is allied with tea producers globally. Recognition, professional education programs, and competitions build self-esteem and economic success that directs a larger share of the value chain to the country of origin. “This is why we cling to local transformation of agricultural products so that producers benefit from the pursuit of excellence,” says AVPA President Philippe Juglar. Juglar explains how competitions that exclude international judges in favor of local experts reveal that what the gastronomic world and what the professional tea world consider quality tea leads to some “very interesting differences.”
How AVPA Elevates Origins
Philippe Juglar is a partner and consultant at Agro Business Consulting & Development, a Paris-based consultancy focused on agrobusiness development and trade. ABCD helps clients increase revenue by adding tangible and intangible value. He has worked in Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Middle East. Juglar was named AVPA president in 2005.
Dan Bolton: Tea-consuming nations have many compelling reasons to support tea suppliers at origin. Name the most compelling of these reasons from the vantage of AVPA and describe your process of evaluating tea with French-only juries.
Philippe Juglar : We are trying to create contacts between European distributors and possible suppliers in new countries. For instance new tea producers in Eastern Africa are absolutely unknown up to now. They have a new image. We want the French and European tea distributors to have contact with new countries of production and new producers.
The tea market is mainly global international companies or very large trading companies. They import the quality and the quantities they want.
First, we try to precisely define the parameters we want to judge, and we check that all our judges in the jury agree on the measurement of all those parameters.
Second, we group the products in homogeneous categories. We don’t want to compare what is not comparable, but just to have a comparable notation for products that are seamlessly similar.
Third, very paradoxically, we wish not to have an international jury. Tasting is very hard to predict related to our culture. We want to have and to find out, the very interesting proof and for that a common language is very, very important. To try to say in your mother language what you feel is difficult but in a foreign language is nearly impossible.
Last, we try to compare what the gastronomic world thinks and what the professional tea world thinks, and I can assure you that we find very interesting differences.
Dan: Quality is visible to all. Color, pluck, and the precision of leaf preparation and style as is the absence of defects such as oxidation of the leaves. Taste is subjective, yet skilled tea tasters agree that certain teas possess exceptional characteristics. Please explain AVPA gastronomic approach in evaluating tea.
Philippe: Do you know how we judge wine in France? The best one of a certain region?
The wine that mirrors the pattern of the wine of that region. So you have an organoleptic profile for, for instance, Burgundy, and the best wine of this specific region of Burgundy is the one with a profile which is the nearest to the theoretical one, which is completely intellectual.
We never compare two wines from two different regions, that is nonsense.
In AVPA we prefer a local transformation of the rural product.
First reason, to give a larger share of the value chain to the country of origin.
The second reason is to obtain exceptional qualities. When the processing of the agricultural product is made by the grower himself or the nearest possible from the grower, then you get exceptional products: You change your grower into apassionate, dictator of his own product, and his reaction is completely different. There is no discussion. You just want to have the best with the best practice.
The third reason is that in producing countries you now have emerging markets. Why import from America or from Europe?
Tea is, by definition, processed in growing countries, which may be the reason for those exceptional teas you have in China or in Japan because they have processed their own teas for thousands of years.
Dan: Consumer preferences power markets, AVPA educates and helps inform tea selection by consumers. Will you share your thoughts on the importance of traceability and delivering a fair price to those at origin.
Philippe: Traceability for me is very, very important because what the consumer is looking for is to know the family, the region where the product is coming from. Nowadays you have a code, a picture of the very farm where the product has been grown. That leads to a notion, you know perfectly which
is a geographical indication.
A lot of these small producers have no financial means to get a brand or a trademark, but they can get a geographical indication and collectively capitalize upon it (that’s the way we do it in Italy or in France or maybe in Japan).
Very good products are known by their geographical indication and a geographical indication is a way to get that intangible value, which will transform the lives of the group.
As far as fair trade prices for me, it’s a very, very difficult notion. I don’t believe that you built a regular commercial relationship based on the fact that one in the deal is a poor guy.
I saw it very well in coffee: If I am poor, I can sell my coffee. If by selling my coffee I become rich, I cannot sell it anymore.
And the second problem: What is a fair price? The cost of living is not at all the same in Sri Lanka, in China, in Colombia or in Canada.
So the notion of a fair price is a concept developed in developed and consumer countries.
Frankly speaking, deep studies for coffees show that over $1.00 gained by the fair trade logo, 90% of that stays in Europe.
I prefer to help the farmer to get a natural good value by the quality, and by the fact that his brand or the geographical indication is reviewed by the consumer. This is better than by an act of charity.
By Dan Bolton
Tea competitions that “speak” for their respective markets are great for the industry. In the tea lands, skilled growers and tea makers can infinitely adjust their pluck, style, and grade for export but first, they must understand market preferences. Respected annual contests such as the Emei Dah Pan Competition in Taiwan and the Lu Gu Farmers competition, which dates to 1976, are a model for peer review but in France AVPA judges companies from around the world for excellence “based on gastronomic rather than standardized refereeing.”
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