•  Thirst-Quenching Cold Brew Teas

    Chinese Cold Brew Retail Concept
    A popular new Chinese cold brew tea retail concept
    Tea News for the week ending June 9

    | As Temperatures Rise, Tea is Ideally Suited to Quench the World’s Thirst
    Consumers favor boldly flavored, non-sweetened blends
    | Kenya’s Costly Tea Crisis
    | The Tea Association of India Lists Industry Concerns

    Hear the Headlines
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Tea News Recap

    Tea Biz traveled to Sri Lanka in May to speak with Romesh Walpola, CEO of Tea Smallholder Factories, at his offices in Colombo. Walpola later arranged a visit to the Neluwa Madagama Tea Factory, one of the company’s seven bought-leaf factories. Combined, these factories produce three million kilos of black tea a year. Walpola explains that investing in training, wellness, and educational programs, including internships for second-generation farmers, earns the loyalty of thousands of small tea growers and is one reason why the company’s teas get top dollar at auction.

    Listen to the Interview
    Romesh Walpola, CEO, Tea Smallholder Factories

    Cold Brew is Steaming Ahead

    Globally as temperatures rise, thirst-quenching iced and cold-brewed teas are experiencing a boost in demand. The global market for cold-brewed teas, estimated at $215 million in 2020, is small but fast-growing, with cafes, on-tap, and ready-to-drink opportunities.

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  • Badulla Tea Harvest Blessing

    Tea Biz traveled to Badulla, Sri Lanka, in early May to participate in the annual Fresh Tea Festival. Hundreds of local tea growers each carried an offering of intricately arranged tea leaves on a ceremonial plate or a small sack of processed tea. Accompanied by Geta Bera drummers and Wadiga Patuna dancers, they paraded through the city streets to the ancient Muthiyangana Raja Maha Vihara Temple courtyard, where a Buddhist monk blessed the season’s first harvest.

    • Caption: The Ven. Wachissara Hamuduruvo, a Buddhist Monk and senior lecturer in the Department of Public Administration, Faculty of Management at Uva Wellassa University, presides over the first harvest blessing at the temple in Badulla.
    The Sri Lanka Tea Board’s Regional Office in Bandarawela organizes the annual Fresh Tea Festival.
    The tea community paraded through Badulla to offer Buddha their first teas of the season. Photo by Chathura Fernando/Sri Lanka Tea Board

    Tea Planters and Pluckers Present First Harvest Offerings

    By Dan Bolton

    Badulla is an ancient city of 50,000 located in the remote central mountains of Sri Lanka. It is the capital of Uva Province, where tea is grown on steep hillsides alternately exposed to the northeast and the southwest monsoon winds. Plantations are located between 3000 and 5000 feet above sea level.  Here, Thomas Lipton cultivated the world’s most popular tea blend. The district’s distinctive, aromatic high-grown broken orange pekoe (BOP) grades have earned a top price at auctions for over 150 years.

    The city is a picturesque tourist location with guest inns, small hotels, resorts, and bungalows. The rail station is the remote terminus of the upcountry railway built by the British in 1924 to transport tea to Colombo.

    Tea is the major employer with a mix of plantations and smallholders. Once a year, the tea community gathers for the annual First Tea Festival.

    • Temple Gates
      Entering the temple gates

    On Saturday, May 6, I joined Sri Lanka Tea Board Director of Promotions Pavithri Peiris and staff members for the annual First Tea Festival Parade. The Tea Board’s Regional Office in Bandarawela organized this year’s festival.

    Parallel lines of pluckers and tea planters formed ranks at the Badulla administration building with tea offerings in hand. Masked dancers costumed in bright yellow skirts readied themselves to perform the Wadiga Patuna, along with Kandyan men wearing Ves Netuma chain vests adorned with silver ornaments. On a large flatbed truck, workers readied a silk-covered platform that supported a huge brass urn to receive offerings of finished tea. Musicians took their places, and the parade began to the beat of Geta Bera drummers.

    A Buddhist monk in bright saffron robes motioned for me to walk with him along streets lined with onlookers. He explained to the curious that I had traveled 12,000 kilometers to convey the gratitude of tea drinkers in the West.

    The parade route was less than a kilometer.

    Barefoot we approached the temple grounds guarded by four Asian elephants. The sacred site honors Siddhartha Gautama (who lived from 563 to 483 BC). Known as the Buddha, he was a prince born in what is now Nepal who traveled to Sri Lanka 2500 years ago during the eighth year after his enlightenment.

    On Station Road, near the temple entrance, a small herd of goats grazed at a roundabout near the clock tower as the drummers and dancers in bearded masks performed in the town square. Vendors sold lotus flowers to the crowd. Stands with fruit and fresh coconut lined the temple walls within sight of a brilliant white dome-shaped stupa built to preserve the Buddha’s relics.

    Muthiyangana Raja Maha Vihara
    The white-domed stupa at Muthiyangana Raja Maha Vihara Temple holds the tears of the Buddha turned into pearls and strands of his hair. Photo by Chathura Fernando/SLTB

    The sand-covered courtyard was peaceful and cool, shaded by palms and bodhi trees of massive girth. The largest tree, surrounded by a gilded enclosure, its limbs braced by ornate support brackets, was planted by an early Ceylon King, Dewanampiathissa, who converted to Buddhism during his 40-year reign from 247 to 207 BC.

    On arrival, celebrants carried the brass urn to a long marble altar and unveiled it. Planters then began tearing open small bags of tea and pouring the tea into the urn. Pluckers brought fresh leaves, forming a large pile near a statue of the Buddha. The crowd was devoted, joyous, and eager to present their teas before sitting cross-legged in the sand to join a meditation led by the monk.

    The monk’s harmonic chants calmed the crowd, who joined in. He then spoke of the harvest before blessing the tea on the altar.

    He explained to the crowd that Buddhist blessings rely on energetic cultivation, not simply prayer. Buddhists earn merit through mindfulness, meditation, chanting, and performing rituals. To be blessed requires practical actions to accumulate merits and good deeds.

    Everyone then socialized over tea with snacks and fruit near the museum on the temple grounds and were on their way back to the fields by noon.

    The altar under the ancient bodhi tree is laden with offerings.

    Harvest blessings originated centuries ago. Tea was first cultivated in Ceylon in 1867 and has since become one of the nation’s most important agricultural products. Sri Lanka is only 500 miles from the equator, so the harvests are not categorized as flushes. The harvest begins in May and peaks from June through September at this altitude. Production of high-grown tea in five provinces totaled 65 million kilos in 2021. Auction prices for these teas averaged $3.90 per kilo in May. Badulla’s rural economy is dominated by tea, making the blessing of the first harvest one of the more important observances on the calendar.

    The monk’s harmonic chants calmed the crowd, who joined in. He then spoke of the harvest before blessing the teas on the altar.”

    – Dan Bolton
    Dan and Buddhist Monk
    Dan offers a leaf and shares a laugh with the Venerable Wachissara Hamuduruvo, Senior Lecturer at Uva Wellassa University in Badulla. Photo by Chathura Fernando, Market Analyst, Sri Lanka Tea Board, Colombo.

    Related: The Pearl Temple
    Visit Badulla, Sri Lanka (Wikipedia)

    Sri Lanka Locator Map
    • Dan traveled more than 1,500 kilometers during a 10–day visit to Sri Lanka in May 2023. My travels were sponsored by the Sri Lanka Tea Board, chaired by Naraj de Mel, with accommodations at the Tea Research Institute courtesy of Dr. K.M. Mohotti. “I’m deeply grateful for the joyful days spent with Pavithri Peiris, the tea board’s Director of Promotion, Gayan Samaraweera, Market Promotion Officer, and Chathura Fernando, Market Analyst. Gayan and Chathura photographed the scenes above.

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  • Receding La Niña to Boost Summer Temps

    The Ku/Ka-band dual-frequency precipitation measurement radar onboard FY-3G captured the rain near Hainan and Yangjiang in Guangdong. The image showed the three-dimensional structure of the precipitation system from 3.75 kilometers to 6 kilometers from the surface. Credits: National Satellite Meteorological Centre of CMA
    The Ku/Ka-band dual-frequency precipitation measurement radar onboard the FY-3G Satellite captured rainfall near Hainan and Yangjiang in Guangdong Province. The image showed the three-dimensional structure of the precipitation system from 3.75 to 6 kilometers from the surface. Credits: National Satellite Meteorological Centre of CMA

    China is again experiencing record-breaking heat early in the crop cycle, impacting Yunnan and several other tea-growing provinces.

    The country has experienced several heat waves since March, with Yunnan in Southwestern China recording 40 Celsius highs. Northern provinces Jinan and Tianjin are seeing temperatures soar to 37C (about 98 degrees Fahrenheit).

    Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, had recorded only 8 millimeters of rain through April. According to state broadcaster CCTV, the province has seen only 35 millimeters of rain since the first of the year, the lowest total since record-keeping began.

    In its latest assessment, the World Meteorological Organization, WMO predicts a strong likelihood of the El Niño weather pattern returning later this year. The current La Niña pattern has moderated temperatures over the past three years. WMO said the change would most likely lead to a new spike in global heating.

    A study published in Nature Reviews Earth found that sea surface temperatures and variability increased after 1960 in the Southern Oscillation (ENSO).  El Niño and La Niña events are more frequent and more extreme. The CSIRO study found that El Niño events have doubled, and strong La Niña increased nine-fold.

    Lead researcher Wenju Cai said that “Global warming makes the impact of these events more extreme because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, so when it rains, it rains harder, and evaporation is higher, making droughts more severe, their onsets earlier and harder to get out,” he said.

  • International Tea Day Makes a Big Splash

    International Tea Day 2023
    International Tea Day 2023

    Tea News for the week ending May 19

    | International Tea Day Makes a Big Splash
    This year’s theme is Bringing People Together Over a Cup of Tea

    | Receding La Niña Expected to Boost Summer Temps

    | Catchy TV Campaign Promotes Lipton’s New Hard Tea

    PLUS Tea Biz travels to Montréal, Quebec, to talk with Nadia de la Vega, director of tea sustainability and content at DAVIDsTEA, a company that fosters a spirit of POSITIVI-TEA which she describes as doing what’s right for both our local communities and global suppliers. Jessica Natale Woollard reports.

    Hear the Headlines
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Tea News Recap

    International Tea Day Celebrations Expand Globally

    Enthusiasm for the United Nations-designated International Tea Day is peaking this year as tea associations, governments, and brands join the May 21 tribute. The global tea industry increased production from 4.3 to 6.5 billion kilos from 2009-2019, enabling tea drinkers to enjoy 8.2 billion cups daily. A few of the many activities are linked below.

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  • Catchy TV Campaign Launches Lipton Hard Tea

    Lipton Hard Iced Tea
    Lipton Hard Iced Tea

    This week, Lipton unveiled a trio of television and web commercials that state the obvious. 

    The top-selling non-alcoholic tea brand recently launched a fresh-brewed line with 5% ABV (alcohol by volume). The new hard tea is blended with a triple-filtered malt base in four versions, replicating its best-selling flavored iced tea. 

    The lineup includes lemon, peach, strawberry, and half & half flavors.

    View commercial | Mechanical Bull | Oil Painter

    According to Zion Market Research, the hard tea segment pioneered in 2001 by Boston Beer’s Twisted Tea was valued at $20 billion last year. Zion projects revenue will surpass $30 billion by 2030, growing at a combined annual rate of 11.9%.

    Europe is expected to register the highest growth rate through 2030, followed by the Asia-Pacific region.

    The television commercials, created by Founders Agency, depict situations in which actors are caught in humor, such as a guest who arrives in a swimsuit and fins for a “pool” party at a billiard room. When given a can of the new tea, the actors exclaim, “Obviously!”

    Brand director Lisa Texido writes, “We created the recipe to make sure that the smooth, balanced flavor people love about Lipton iced tea came through. People will be surprised that a hard iced tea can be this delicious – a must-try.”

    The tea is available in 12-packs of 12oz cans and 24oz single serve. Competitors, including Twisted, sell for $15-$18 for a 12-pack, $3 per 24oz can. Online prices were $18 for the Lipton 12-pack. A 12-pack of non-alcoholic Lipton Iced Tea sells for around $7, about 50-60 cents per can.

    Lipton Hard Iced Tea (5% ABV)