• Colombo International Tea Convention | July 24-26

    Early Bird Discount Ends March 31 | CITC Home Page

    Tea News Recap | 29 March 2024

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    CITC Colombo July 24-26
    CITC Colombo July 24-26

    Toward a Sustainable Tea Industry

    By Dan Bolton

    The Colombo Tea Traders’ Association and Sri Lanka Tea Board will host the Colombo International Tea Convention (CITC) at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel from July 24 to 26.

    The convention theme is “Tea: A Lifestyle & A Livelihood.” The event will explore Ceylon tea’s pivotal role, spark conversations, and inspire action toward a sustainable tea industry.

    The program includes 50 speakers and will unfold in eight sessions over three days. Events include an outcry auction, gala dinner, and beach party on closing night. A Ceylon Tea Tasting Experience will introduce attendees to Sri Lanka’s growing regions.

    Sessions include “Fair Price as a Global Challenge,” a topic of utmost relevance in today’s tea industry; an “Ozone Friendly to Zero Carbon” session on climate; and a conversation about the “Value of Tea.” Sri Lanka has emerged from financial, political, and social turmoil, addressed in a session on “The Resilience of Tea & Its Legacy.”

    BIZ INSIGHT — I will moderate the Friday discussion on “Innovation,” which features a panel of ag technology experts presenting innovations such as streamlining financial transactions, online markets, new traceability tools, digital identification, and cloud-based analysis of tea as a service.

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    Colombo International Tea Convention | Episode 161

    Dan Bolton
    Usambara Tanzania 2023

    Dan Bolton

    Dan is a niche content creator who fosters genuine connections globally through informative, educational, and captivating conversations centered around tea.
    Host | Tea Biz Blog | Podcast

    Episodes 1-49

    Ep 50-96

    Ep 97-148

    Ep 149-161

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  • Why is First Flush Tea so Tasty? Metabolites | Oversupply Threatens Kenya’s Harvest Windfall | World Tea Expo: An Infusion of Fresh Ideas Opens this Weekend

    Why is First Flush Tea so Tasty? Metabolites | Oversupply Threatens Kenya’s Harvest Windfall | World Tea Expo: An Infusion of Fresh Ideas Opens this Weekend | PLUS Tea Revolution founder Annabel Kalmar describes the DNA of a purpose-driven venture.

    Tea News for the week ending March 15, 2024

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    India Tea News
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    Annabel Kalmar, founder of Tea Rebellion, a small direct-trade single-farm tea retailer, describes the DNA of a purpose-driven tea venture and the challenge of changing how tea is traded, marketed, and consumed. She says the goal is to be a sustainable, transparent, award-winning tea brand. Tea Rebellion, founded in 2017, does not sell blended or flavored tea. Farms are co-branded, and marketing draws attention to the farm and identity of growers. “To affect change, we need to credit the maker of the product,” she says. “To drive impact, I choose to work with tea farmers with a clear goal of sustainability and impact in their communities. Several of these farmers are female-run or committed to the empowerment and well-being of women,” she says.

    Listen to the Interview

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    First Flush

    The 2024 First Flush is Underway

    By Dan Bolton

    The allure of first-flush teas has inspired poets for centuries, but what of the science?

    Scientists are rhapsodic, too.

    In spring, the buds of high-mountain teas burst with amino acids. Tea leaves contain significantly more carbohydrates, flavonols, and polyphenols in summer and autumn.

    According to a 2020 study published in Food Research International, flavonoids and flavonols (the good-tasting, good-for-you compounds), catechins, and amino acids abundant in spring leaves showed sharp seasonal differences. The researchers concluded that harvesting time was one of the most critical factors affecting metabolites most closely related to the quality of green tea.

    A team analyzing young translucent Anji Baicha leaves plucked on March 6 found their leaf chemistry significantly differed from leaves from the same plants plucked on May 10. The analysis, which combined liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry (LC-MS), was found to “assess tea quality objectively and reliably.”

    Since then, the research has been used to ascertain optimal harvest dates to take advantage of tea’s multiple health-promoting effects, primarily attributed to its secondary metabolites, including polyphenols, amino acids, caffeine, and other compounds.

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  • #TeaPower: A Call to Collaborate

    Tea trade associations, research institutes, tea boards, tea brands, and the United Nations Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG/Tea) are organizing to collectively promote #TeaPower for International Tea Day, May 21. The online and event-based marketing program heralds the benefits of including tea in every high-energy fitness regimen, from organized sports and cycling to nature walks and solo ascents. Messaging targets youth, but the findings on dietary benefits and hydration are science-backed and essential to healthy living.

    Shabnam Weber is president of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada and co-chair of the United Nations IGG Working Group on Tea & Health, which developed the program. She discusses why #TeaPower is “the perfect pitch for younger generations looking to increase their performance and energy levels while staying healthy.”


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    Shabnam Weber, President Tea and Herbal Association of Canada
    Shabnam Weber, President of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada

    A Youth-Focused Health and Fitness Campaign to Boost Consumption

    By Dan Bolton

    Shabnam Weber worked for 18 years in tea retail as president and CEO of Toronto-based Tea Emporium. She is also an accomplished tea educator, establishing the Academy of Tea in 2016 and developing the THAC Tea Sommelier program curriculum. Shabnam graduated from the University of Toronto with an Honors degree in Political Science and a post-graduate diploma in Psychology. She was named president of Canada’s Tea and Herbal Association in 2018.

    In January, Shabnam traveled to Guwahati, Assam, as one of 44 country delegates at the recently concluded 25th Session of the United Nations FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG Tea). During the past two years, as co-chair of the Working Group on Tea and Health, she tirelessly promoted the merits of a unified global campaign to make the benefits of drinking tea relevant to younger generations. She says that #TeaPower will generate a global buzz around tea and its role in improved fitness. “There is extensive evidence supporting tea benefits in sports and fitness performance and optimal hydration,” she explains. “These scientific findings provide the framework for a youth-focused campaign to encourage increased tea consumption.”

    We need to remember that our competition is not ourselves. That’s a message for everybody in this industry: we are not the competition; the competition is other beverages. The only way for us to break through that noise is to work together.

    Dan Bolton: I greatly admire your work as an ambassador and architect in tea marketing and an articulate tea health and wellness spokesperson. Thank you for taking the time to brief our readers on this initiative.

    Shabnam Weber: It’s always a pleasure chatting with you. And you know, I also have to say a big thank you for your work within the industry, which is important.

    Dan: Will you tell listeners how #TeaPower came about?

    Shabnam: Tea Power came out of this continued conversation that we were having at FAO IGG on Tea about our desire to have a global generic promotion.

    It’s a lofty endeavor and nice to say, but what do you focus on? How do you do it?

    We decided that the focus should be tea and health. So, a couple of years ago, a new working group was formed, the working group on tea and health. As a group, we got together and had several meetings discussing what kind of promotion we wanted to do and deciding who our target should be.

    Throwing a message out targeted at everybody is just too much and lacks focus – especially when you consider that the marketing and promotion world that we live in now is no longer print, television, and radio. It’s digital, and digital adopts and adapts. It’s a very, very noisy environment, which means that you have to be very targeted. So, the group decided that the focus should be on youth.

    “Digital adopts and adapts. It’s a very, very noisy environment, which means that you have to be very targeted. So, the group decided that the focus should be on youth.”

    – Shabnam Weber

    Once that was decided, it was very clear to us that we had to reposition the tea and health messaging the industry has focused on, such as cardiovascular health, bone health, and diabetes.

    These are all important and critical aspects of tea and its promotion. But they’re not what the youth are interested in because, thank goodness, they’re not concerned about cardiovascular health, diabetes, osteoporosis, etcetera, etcetera.

    So, we made a list of what interests them, and sport and fitness were high on that list, as was beauty, hydration, and mental health.

    We then needed to look at what scientific data met the requirements we had set for ourselves as a group, identifying the highest scientific standards that needed to be met.

    The scientific papers we found that met all the requirements we had set, were sport and fitness, hydration, and mental health.

    That’s a fast-forward version of what took us two years to put together.

    Dan: So, what’s the next step?

    Shabnam: What the working group is doing now is putting together the campaign, and that means putting together all the scientific evidence. Our regulators require scientific evidence if we’re going to make promotional claims. Then, we’re designing images, visual collateral, ideas, suggestions, hashtags, for everyone to share. This package will be available to all. I can’t stress enough the importance of hashtags and a unified message. We are in this very, very noisy world of social media and that is what will unite this campaign. The way that I’m going to promote tea power is going to be different than, let’s say, Sri Lanka might, or India might, or China might, or Kenya might because it needs to be focused on individual markets and what works in each of our respective markets.

    What connects the whole conversation are hashtags. If we all share the same hashtag, we’re all sending out the same message. I reminded the group when we met in India just a few weeks ago that we, as an industry, managed to trend number one on Twitter in 2021. And we managed to do that because we all agreed to use the hashtag tea on International Tea Day.

    That was at a time when Trump was president and dominating Twitter. The Syrian war was going on at the same time; yet we managed to break through that noise. And for a short time, we were trending number one on Twitter. It’s a really, really big deal for a food product without controversy to trend through the noise of social media.

    I’m often asked why that occurred only in 2021. Unfortunately, the following year’s International Tea Day fell on a weekend, so nobody was celebrating simultaneously. 2024 is the perfect opportunity to get that going again.

    Dan: So, we should all synchronize our social posts for T-Day, Tuesday, May 21.

    Shabnam: Yes

    Young people enjoying tea
    Young people enjoying tea enjoy life-long, scientifically proven health benefits.

    Dan: Young people benefit most from tea health and fitness education. Daily tea consumption delivers on the promise of health and longevity. They know that eating plant-based food is a lifetime habit. It should be the same for tea. Society teaches people to put aside a little money for retirement in their 20s and buy life insurance when premiums are low. The working group has devised a great start to explain the benefits of healthy hydration, but this work is ongoing – in fact, it’s never-ending. Who will update the research and maintain momentum?

    Shabnam: You’re absolutely right. To answer your question, one of the things that we did as a group was to agree on two key pillars within the IGG: sustainability and advocacy. Canada and Sri Lanka co-chair the advocacy group and the UK and Kenya co-chair sustainability.

    The advocacy group is going to carry this forward.

    Shabnam, will you rephrase the following graph?

    Sport and fitness is the first campaign we’re rolling out. The purpose of the Advocacy Pillar is to continue campaigns like this and find other messages that we can unite in within the industry.

    This is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of speaking with one voice. Our messaging might be slightly different, depending on markets, but to pick up on what you said earlier about youth and the power of lifelong habits, I think everyone needs to understand how important and critical this is to the industry.

    Trying to change people’s habits later in life is hard. Children form most of their habits by the age of nine. That’s crazy. We did a study, a questionnaire a couple of years ago, asking young people in Canada between the ages of 18 and 24 when they started their tea-drinking habits. And it was in their homes before the age of nine. A psychological study at Stanford University found that if you haven’t tried sushi by age 39, there is a 95% chance you never will. As we age, we are less open to “novelty.”

    See: The New Yorker, Open Season (1998)

    Dan: The point is that until you have experienced sushi, it’s just a plate of raw fish, right?

    Shabnam: Exactly.

    If you haven’t experienced something, you’re less likely to try new things the older you get.

    We really need to start learning and thinking about how we translate this for the consumer, “Joe Public.” They want to know, what does it mean for me? Translating it into something like sport and fitness and hydration and mental health, which are such big topics right now, is really important because we need to start living in the real world.

    If we want to grow this industry, we must start thinking about the real world and how it talks, behaves, and is influenced. Making that connection is what we’re planning to do – no, not planning to do. We’re going to do it, and we’re going to kick it off for this International Tea Day.

    That’s Tuesday, May 21

    Dan: German grocery stores sell decaffeinated baby tea. It’s given to two-year-olds and three-year-olds, and they love it. Tea tastes good, right? If you introduce children to something good for them, they will develop a taste for it.

    In the same way, it’s absolutely on point to explain the importance of hydration to young people. That’s a trending topic right now. Cure Hydration recently introduced Cure Kids, an electrolyte drink blending coconut water, pink Himalayan salt, and fruit juice powders.

    Manufacturers mixing synthetically produced vitamins and minerals into bottled water blended with powdered juice concentrate to “cure” kids is the craziness that distracts the world from the benefits of natural plant-based beverages. We could undoubtedly make tea more convenient and appealing. Will you share your thoughts on promoting tea as the healthiest of health beverages?

    Cure Kids Electrolyte Drink Mix
    Kids Electrolyte Drink Mix

    Shabnam: Talking about vitamin water, at the last North American tea conference, there was a presentation on the fastest-growing beverage trend, which is water that’s been fortified. And I have to bang my head against the wall when I hear things like that because we are the original fortified water, we are the original vitamin water.

    You know, I say this all the time: we have a product that comes out of the ground. It contains essential vitamins, it is full of minerals, it is full of stories, it is full of legends, and it is full of marketing opportunities; it’s got everything; we have to tell the story.

    So, how do we tell that story? How do we take that product and as I said earlier, make it relevant in the real world? Well, the real world, as you just said, wants convenience. So, you know, if we want sport and fitness and hydration, and you know you’re going out for your marathon or half, whatever it is that you’re doing for sport and fitness, you’ll want something that has no sugar. You want something natural, no artificial anything. So why aren’t we taking pure tea? Why can’t we take tea that has been infused with water and bottle it? That’s the end of the story. But then, rather than bottle it as an ordinary iced tea, let’s market it as an energy drink, without any of the negatives of an energy drink, because the energy is natural. We’re not talking about moderate caffeination, zero sugar, no artificial colors, no artificial flavors, et cetera, et cetera. We sometimes get pigeonholed by what we know and how we always do things, right? How do you get somebody to buy a bottle of iced tea for sport and fitness? Well, how about you change the label on it and don’t call it iced tea? Call it a sport and fitness enhancer, for example.

    Dan: That’s a creative solution. To me, it’s an opening for green. In the 1990s, green tea accounted for about 3% of tea imports in the US. Researchers published compelling evidence during that decade that green tea was good for you. Sales shot up, and green tea imports reached almost 20% of overall tea. They’ve fallen to around 14%. The single biggest complaint is that it fails to deliver on the promise of good health; what holds back green tea is the hassle of making it and the limited foods that can be paired. When you change the format to powder, matcha green tea has excellent culinary appeal, from salads to desserts, and is an energy boost in smoothies.
    Can we use sports celebrity endorsements to refresh the image of green tea?

    Shabnam: Wouldn’t it be amazing to have an NFL team that pours tea over the coach? Instead of the bucket of Gatorade. Honestly, the onus is on us to figure out how to not just re-market it, not by changing the name of tea but by restating its benefits. When I have this conversation with a handful of brands, I guarantee you that the answer will be, well, we’ve already done it; we’ve got iced tea, so you know, “let’s just push that out.”

    That’s not enough. I don’t think it’s enough. I think there needs to be marketing around it to make that connection that this is an iced tea, but it’s your sports and fitness drink.

    Dan: Consider a campaign around the marketing concept of “healthy hydration.” Hydration speaks to active athletes who ride bicycles, pump iron, and play football. Healthy hydration also rings a bell for neighborhood walkers, joggers, weekend baseball players, and yoga enthusiasts. You don’t have to put TEA in big letters on the label. Healthy Hydration can stand alone on the shelf, separate from Gatorade and Vitamin Water. In that category, green will stand out as seasonal and origin-specific with the taste and sweetness of the first flush.

    #TeaPower campaign by UN FAO IGG/Tea
    #TeaPower campaign report by UN FAO IGG/Tea

    Dan: How does the launch look at this point?

    Shabnam: Well, the beauty of this campaign is that it is whatever you want to make of it.

    I mean, at the end of the day, having everybody chip in for one global campaign wasn’t realistic, right?

    One of the important elements when we considered how we wanted to roll this out was that we also needed to live in the real world and say, okay, how is this realistically going to happen? That means putting together this package that we’ll be delivering to all the members of the IGG. Then, every member will roll it out however they want to.

    So, if, for example, somebody finds an athlete, as you’ve suggested, or a celebrity to endorse the campaign, then great.

    If you want to do something as a live event, then that would be great. If it’s going to be purely social media, that’s fine as long as we’re maintaining some of the elements in terms of the messaging, sport, fitness, hydration, and then the added hashtags. That’s what’s going to make the connection for us. So, I think, as I said, the beauty of it will be to see how everybody translates this and how it’s going to roll out on the one hand differently, but then, at the same time, unified for this year’s International Tea Day.

    Shabnam: We need to remember that our competition is not ourselves. That’s an essential message for everybody in this industry: we are not the competition; the competition is other beverages.

    The only way for us to break through that noise is to work together. When we have these conversations at the IGG, it’s really good for all of us to work together. And the power we have working together is greater than we sometimes understand.

    FAO IGG/Tea Working Group Report: Tea & Health (PDF)

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    Episode 158 | TeaPower is “the perfect pitch for younger generations looking to increase their performance and energy levels while staying healthy,” says Shabnam Weber, President of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada and co-chair of the United Nations IGG Working Group on Tea & Health that developed the program. | 9 March 2024

  • Sailing Through the Tea Doldrums | India Budgets a Big Increase for its Tea Industry | Crude Tea Production in Japan Declined in 2023

    Sailing Through the Tea Doldrums | India Budgets a Big Increase for its Tea Industry | Crude Tea Production in Japan Declined in 2023

    Tea News Recap | March 8, 2024

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    FAO Composite Tea Prices (2000-2023)
    FAO Composite Tea Prices (2000-2023)

    Sailing Through the Tea Doldroms

    By Dan Bolton

    Slack sails signaled trouble for sailors plying the trade routes of yore.  The Intertropical Convergence Zone, known by sailors as the doldrums, describes a monotonous, windless passage. This is a helpful metaphor describing the past 25 years of tea exports. Like the converging trade winds, the impact shifts with the seasons and location, but the overall drag on productivity, resources, and profits is global.

    The Tea Association of India warns these times signal a return to the “dark phase.”

    Ajay Jalan, president of the Tea Association of India (TAI), cited stagnant prices, oversupply, a widening gap between demand and supply, and a “race to the bottom” for cheaper teas.

    Speaking to delegates at the association’s annual meeting, he was quoted in The Hindu, saying, “The economic strides made by our nation are indeed commendable, yet the tea industry is currently experiencing challenges reminiscent of the dark phase two decades ago.” Twenty-two years ago, India’s tea industry experienced a severe downturn until 2007 (when a global recession extended the pain).

    India is not alone. China’s tea export value declined by 16% to $1.74 billion in 2023 (down by $343 million), falling below $2 billion. China’s export value fell by 9.6% in 2022. Export volume remains low in Sri Lanka, but tea value rose to $1.3 billion in 2023. After exports fell to $940 million in 2022, Kenya was the only top five tea producers to show gains in volume and value. Export earnings rose 31% to a record $1.24 billion in 2023. Export volume grew by 72.5 million kilos year-over-year to 523 million kilos.

    Record volume, but the price per kilo for auctioned tea averages hovered around $2.25 per kilo — well below 2022 when prices peaked at $2.74 per kilo.

    World Tea Exports
    World Tea Exports
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  • Diets that Include Tea Brewed in Teabags Linked to High PFAS Levels | Flavor-enhancing Microbes Are at the Root of Quality Tea | Retail Tea Prices Remain High

    Researchers Link Diets that Include Tea in Teabags to High PFAS Levels | Flavor Enhancing Microbes Are at the Root of Quality Tea | Retail Tea Prices Remain High as Inflation Eases

    Tea News for the week ending February 23, 2024
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Tea News Recap
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    Invented in 1875, the aromatic “qihong cha” or Keemun black tea, grown in Qimen County in China’s Anhui Province, quickly rose to prominence, explains senior tea master Lilian Xia, President of the Canada Tea Institute. She joins Tea Biz to recount the legacy of a Chinese market-savvy entrepreneur, Yu Ganchen, the pioneer of Qimen tea, who developed the processing method for Qimen black tea and expanded its sales overseas.

    Listen to the Interview
    Lilian Xia on the revival of Keemun black tea

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    Diet with tea linked to PFAS
    A diet with tea brewed in teabags was linked to higher PFAS levels in human trials.

    Researchers Link Diets that Include Tea Brewed in Teabags to High Levels of “Forever Chemicals”

    Researchers studying dietary patterns report a link between consuming tea in teabags and high levels of forever chemicals likely leeched from tea bags and packaging. The study was financed by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was led by chemists at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC)

    According to researchers, dietary changes could lower pre- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) levels in the body based on testing that showed increased levels in human trials among those consuming certain foods and beverages. The research is based on a nationally representative sample of 725 young adults.

    The PFAS levels were highest in those who ate out frequently and those who drank tea in teabags and consumed processed foods. Eating food at home demonstrated the opposite. Every 200-gram increase in home-prepared food showed lower levels of PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), one of several forever chemicals.

    A single additional serving of tea was linked to 24.8% higher levels of perfluoro- hexanesulphonic acid (PFHxS), 16.17% higher perfluoroheptanesulfonic acid (PFHpS), and 12.6% higher levels of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

    Totals also rose among those who consumed pork, hot dogs, and processed meats.

    Researchers expressed concern that even metabolically healthy foods such as tea can be contaminated with PFAS, which is known to harm human health.

    Hailey Hampson, a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, told Technology Networks, “Our primary hypothesis is based on a study published last year, which found that some tea bags contain PFAS. This study, conducted in India, tested 108 tea bag samples collected from the Indian market and found that 90% contained detectable PFAS concentrations.”

    The research team is now testing popular tea brands in a follow-up study. 

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