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Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 27

Tea Industry News for the week ending July 23 - New Criteria Proposed for Differentiating Specialty Tea | Walmart Tea is now 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Sustainable | Kenya Sets KTDA Tea Auction Price Minimums | PLUS David Veal explains how the European Speciality Tea Association arrived at a new definition of specialty tea and why it will prove helpful and Aravinda Anantharaman takes us on a virtual tour of a northern India tea café with heart.

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Hear the Headlines

| New Criteria Proposed for Differentiating Specialty Tea
| Walmart Tea is now 100% Certified by Rainforest Alliance
| Kenya Sets KTDA Tea Auction Price Minimums

Seven-minute Tea News Recap
Tea Price Report
India Tea Price Watch | July 17

Assam’s new state government continues to woo the tea industry with new schemes, the latest is that workers on tea gardens will be included in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which will benefit them in winter when the gardens are not producing tea.  Read more…

Features

Tea Biz this week travels to London for a chat with David Veal, Executive Director of the European Speciality Tea Association. Veal describes the association’s new perspective and new definition of what makes specialty tea special.

… and then to northern India where Aravinda Anantharaman visits a tea café with heart.

David Veal, executive director, European Speciality Tea Association

Differentiating Specialty Tea

By Dan Bolton

A rigid definition of what makes tea special has eluded the industry. Professionals understand excellence in specific styles. After 45 years of competitions there is consensus on the qualities that make an outstanding Dong Ding oolong as judged by the Lugu Tea Farmers’ Association in Taiwan. In France, the AVPA has demonstrated skill in determining the gastronomic qualities in tea that please the local palate. The International Specialty Tea Association posts a set of universal standards such as pluck and leaf quality. Consumers mainly differentiate by price.

The European Speciality Tea Association recently announced a definition that is more aspirational than dogmatic. ESTA Executive Director David Veal explains how the association adopted this approach and why it will prove helpful. 

Read more…

David Veal on what makes specialty tea special.
Staff at the La Gravitea café L to R, in the front, Suraj Thakur, Chandra Prabha, Nandita. In the middle, Monika Mahato, Amit Kumar Singh, Amit Lahari. Back row, Shakuntala Hansda, Nikit Sharma and Navin Kumar

For the Love of Tea

By Aravinda Anantharaman

La Gravitea café is a remarkable tea café with hundreds of selections of fine teas inspired by the travels of founder Avinash Dugar but aside from specialty teas, what make La Gravitea special is that the young staff are hard-working graduates of the local school for the hearing-impaired. Learn more…

Aravinda Anantharaman takes a virtual tour of the La Gravitea cafe

A New Definition of Specialty Tea

By Dan Bolton

The European Speciality Tea Association this week presented a comprehensive new definition of specialty tea. The 450-word definition seeks to “encapsulate the spirit of speciality tea” writes ESTA president Nigel Melican. The essence is that those involved in producing specialty tea “aspire to attain excellence from bush to cup” says Melican. Four aspects cited in the definition seek to differentiate speciality tea from commodity.

These include transparency that makes know the supplier, location, production dates, and processing method; Physical characteristics such as size, shape, and appearance of the wet and dry leaf; sensory properties including color, clarity, flavor, aroma and mouthfeel; and the mitigation of environmental impacts including support for biodegradable packaging.

The definition describes specialty teas as “hand-made.”

The effort involved stakeholders at every level, but the messaging is directed to consumers.

“We believe that the consumer needs to be inspired from the moment they enjoy the aroma, liquor, and taste of the tea and celebrate in the plant’s personality, the origin of the tea, the care that has been taken in the processing and brewing of it; this being a speciality moment,” reads the association announcement.

See the definition and supporting documents at www.specialityteaeurope.com

Biz Insight – Forty years ago consumers in the US and Europe tossed aside 25-cent cups of stale, anonymous, percolated, and warmed-over drip brew in favor of carefully selected, roasted, and barista-prepared single-origin coffee and specialty blends.  The additional billions spent on $4 espresso drinks and premium beans revitalized the industry.

Will the same be true for specialty tea? David Veal, executive director of the European Speciality Tea Association, discusses the reasoning behind the new definition in this interview.

David Veal on what makes specialty tea special.
Walmart Tea now 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Sustainable

Walmart Tea is Certified by Rainforest Alliance

By Dan Bolton

Walmart announced this week that all its Great Value Brand black and green teas will be 100% certified sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance.

“This is good news not just for Walmart, but also for farmers, and the future of tea,” writes Silvia Azrai [AZ RAY] Kawas, Walmart vp of Private Brands Food. She explained that Rainforest Alliance helps ensure that three pillars of sustainability are met: social, environmental and economic.

“Our Great Value Brand black and green teas will remain affordable, high-quality drinks, with an added bonus: Each box you buy makes a measurable impact on the life of a smallholder farmer,” according to the company.

Biz Insight – In 2007 when Unilever, the world’s largest tea supplier, committed to Rainforest Certification at Kericho, Kenya it signaled to commodity suppliers that to remain competitive they needed to invest in environmentally-friendly cultivation at origin. A consumer-driven embrace of sustainable processing, packaging, and waste reduction soon unfolded, making the entire supply chain more efficient. In 2016 Walmart committed to sustainably source 20 commodities by 2025 including tea. Now Walmart, the world’s largest tea retailer, has extended that commitment to the terminus of the supply chain.

Kenya Sets Tea Auction Price Minimums

The Kenyan government withdrew tea valued at 1 billion Kenyan shillings (about $9 million in US dollars) at the Mombasa Auction because prices failed to meet a controversial $2.43 per kilo minimum reserve price. 

“We made a drastic but necessary decision with regard to sale of teas at the Mombasa tea auction,” Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya told the local press.

He said the government has plenty of storage capacity and will continue withdrawing tea if prices do not meet the minimum rate.

The decision angered traders who simply purchased tea on offer from other African countries leaving 8 million kilos of Kenyan tea idled in local warehouses. A spokesman for the East African Tea Traders Association said that when sellers set prices for themselves, instead of relying on free market fluctuations, there is “no guarantee that buyers will follow that lead.” Production far outstrips demand and as such, prices have taken a hit. This is not an auction problem,” said EATTA’s managing director Edward Mudibo.

Secretary Munya said the government is determined raise the price at auction. “We believe we can sustain the situation as we have enough reserves,” he told Citizen TV.

Biz Insight – It is unclear in this face-off whether tea traders or the Kenyan government will be the first to blink. Nine tea producing countries sell their tea at the Mombasa auction and independent producers are free to ignore the Kenya Tea Development Agency reserve price, but none can rival output of 620,000 smallholders supplying KTDA’s 54 factories.

Traders must also weigh the fact that tea exports are down from India, a bidding rival. The Sri Lanka auction at Colombo has sufficient volume of tea but prices, at an average $3.97 per kilo for low-grown tea, are significantly higher than the recent 5- and 10-year lows seen in Mombasa. Tea prices at the Mombasa auction have averaged $1.80 per kilo so far this year, dipping to $1.65 per kilo, significantly below the estimated $2 per kilo cost of production.

– Dan Bolton

Upcoming Events

August 2021
Beijing International Tea Expo, Beijing China
August 27-30, 2021 | Beijing Exposition Center


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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
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