• UK Tea Academy

    Co-founder and Director of Studies Jane Pettigrew describes the remarkable evolution of the UK Tea Academy into an innovative global tea education resource that has emerged from the chaos of COVID-19.

    • Caption: Jane Pettigrew, author, educator, historian, and tea retail expert

    Hear the Interview

    Jane Pettigrew and Suranga Perera on how the UK Tea Academy evolved to meet challenges posed by the pandemic
    Jane Pettigrew at the UKTA's launch party at the Cafe Royal in January 2016.
    Jane Pettigrew at the UKTA’s launch party at the Cafe Royal in January 2016.

    Online Adaptations Enhance and Expand Tea Education

    By Dananjaya Silva | PMD Tea

    The United Kingdom Tea Academy is recognized as a world authority for online tea education. Staffed by professional tutors the academy offers courses from beginner to advanced. I sit down with Co-founder and director of studies Jane Pettigrew, who is a leading author and speaker on tea, along with Suranga Perera, the chief instructor of the Ceylon tea program, who counts over 20 years of experience in tea and is the former CEO of Ceylon Tea Brokers PLC.

    UK Tea Academy

    Dananjaya Silva: Will you explain the essential role that is performed by UKTA in the growth and expansion of specialty tea?

    I think that what we’re doing is actually raising awareness amongst consumers of the possibilities of drinking better tea and also helping food service employees to deliver better tea and to know more about the sort of tea we’re hoping they will serve. 

    There’s an awful lot of people amongst the general public, but also working in restaurants and hotels and tea lounges, coffee bars, etc., who really don’t ever stop to think about tea as a suitable offering for what they’re doing. 

    And so I’m afraid tea has always been treated as a bit of a loss leader, a second cousin — twice removed. 

    It’s never really featured in a lot of people’s minds. Our aim is to raise people’s awareness of the fact that there is so much more than paper teabags. 

    Suranga Perera
    Suranga Perera

    “We have created a very, very exciting master class for Ceylon Tea where we will be tasting roughly 80 teas. Some of the sessions are live at the factory so that the audience can see the production line and talk with factory owners and managers for a greater understanding.

    – Suranga Perera

    Dananjaya: Specialty tea is growing in popularity and there are more tea houses being established. Who are the courses that you offer aimed at and how do you deliver these courses? 

    Jane: So the people we aim at are specifically food and beverage. But of course, we are also found online by people who just love tea. About 15 years ago, shortly after the new Millennium up to about 2005, things really started to change. China opened up and people began drinking more Chinese tea again. 

    And a lot of completely non-tea people came into the tea business. There are many people who have been working in tea for a very long time, and I think a lot of these new people came into tea from just a completely different direction, either with outside experience and a business degree or because they traveled and they’d come across Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese teas that they couldn’t get here. 

    Some of those people opened tea businesses so that they would make those teas available.

    And as more people learned about teas, cafes, restaurants and hotel lounges started serving more teas, and they all began to realize that they actually didn’t know very much about tea. 

    So we try to be at least one step ahead, particularly with food service operations, to give them an insight into the different categories of tea which they’ve never heard about. We help them understand fine teas and help them brew the tea properly. We also help them answer clients’ questions about caffeine and why tea is good for us, and to talk about the different flavors. 

    I mean there is just so much to know, which obviously raises the profile of a really good restaurant or tea lounge or even a coffee bar. 

    In the past, we were classroom-based here in London which meant that people flew in to find us and sit with us in the classroom. Because of COVID, we had to reinvent ourselves into a completely online business. 

    There have been a lot of advantages of actually doing that. We of course now can reach people absolutely anywhere in the world. 

    We try to gear our courses in two different time zones because if we’re teaching in Asia, they’re eight hours ahead, and if we’re teaching in West Coast America, we’re eight hours behind. So we try and find times that suit the different markets, which seems to be working really well. Instead of teaching for a whole day, now we teach in three-hour chunks or less, and the three hours absolutely fly by. Quite a lot of our courses include brewing together, discussing flavor and aroma profiles together, learning to talk about tea, and sound exciting. 

    There’s just so much to this that people gradually get very drawn in, and once they start with us, they tend to go through the different levels. 

    Dananjaya: You mentioned that it’s a global course. How does someone sitting in Australia or New Zealand receive those samples? Could you take us through the process?

    Well, yes, of course. Our foundation level, what we call Tea Champion is taught in two segments, practical and sensory. We don’t have so many teas going out for that course.

    For our Tea Sommelier class, which is the second level up we send out something like 170 teas. We’re not drinking all of those. We add things in for little quizzes on dry leaf recognition and for blind tastings. 

    We try to do as much as we used to do in the classroom, but of course, we have to plan ahead and allow a good month to get teas out — and not just to far off places but actually into Europe, which has since Brexit been a bit of a problem. So then we send them the recording of a class or event and they can listen along on their own and brew the teas on their own time.

    We have a brilliant team now who are constantly packing teas for the next course. The students keep in touch with us to let us know whether or not they’ve received the teas. So with good planning and “military precision,” we can actually do this. 

    Dananjaya: So by the sounds of it, although COVID had a massive negative impact around the world for your organization, it’s actually allowed you to reinvent yourself and have a much wider scope, hasn’t it? 

    Jane: It’s been amazing Dananjaya because when we were teaching in class, particularly with the more advanced class, it was very, very intensive. We went through lots of material in four days, maybe with a day off in the middle, but we had to do it like that because people were flying in specially and they couldn’t keep coming back for the class. 

    They did well, but I think it was an awful lot of material for them to take in and with less time for revision, quizzes, and games. 

    So now that we’re teaching online, we can actually spread the classes out over four weeks, six weeks, and weekends, whatever we want to do. There is a longer gap between each module and the students are now brewing the teas themselves, which they never did in the classroom, and that means that they actually build up a much closer personal relationship with the tea. 

    And they have enough tea to brew more than once, so they’re getting a lot more, I think, that we delivered in the classroom. I’ve been running quite a lot of exams individually online, talking for about three hours. The results that we’ve been getting since we began teaching online have been absolutely phenomenal. You know, some people are absolutely word perfect. I think it is because they’ve had more time to build up not just their understanding, but their passion for tea. It’s not hard to develop a passion for tea. Everybody gets caught up in the whole thing.

    Dananjaya: Yes, there’s so much to explore. What you’re saying is that participants needed to let the information brew for a while.

    Jane: Yes, it’s assimilating it and making sure you’ve really understood it, and if they haven’t, having the time to go back and ask more questions. What we aim to do is give people the tools they need to go off on their own tea journey.

    This is particularly true of the lower-level class. It is absolutely essential because tea is difficult to learn on your own. There’s a lot of stuff out there now, more than there used to be, but it’s still quite confusing if you don’t get the basics absolutely clear. We can then introduce the higher-level classes with some of the most amazing teas from all around the world. People just can’t believe the many options.

    Ceylon Tea Masterclass and Diploma

    Dananjaya: The UK Tea Academy is relaunching the Ceylon Tea Diploma course in July can you explain what the new course entails?

    Suranga Perera: As Jane said, the main objective is to bridge that gap between the consumer and the producer. We have created a very, very exciting master class for Ceylon Tea. We have got some very exciting teas and gone into great depth. It’s roughly 10 hours long

     The first session will be one hour. We will be tasting one or two teas just to break the ice and get people moving, and we’ll be talking about the history, of Ceylon teas. Then a current overview of production and discussions about certifications and Ceylon Lion logo in particular. There is a segment on ozone-friendly teas a discussion about the employment that Ceylon tea provides and an explanation of the auction system. 

    The second session is three hours long and covers what are known as the “high-grown” tea gardens on the island. There are some teas that we are tasting for the first time. For example, we are featuring a Mattekelle Golden Curl from a Japanese clone that is extremely flavorful, and quite different. Few have tested and tried it out. In this masterclass, we will be tasting roughly 80 teas. 

    The third session is also three hours long. it will focus on low-grown teas. We will cover teas from Sabaragamuwa, Galle, Deniyaya, Matugama, and other tea producing subdistricts. Having been a broker for 21 years I worked with these factories very, very closely and personally tasted these teas and picked the best at the time. Because teas change all the time due to weather and various reasons, we need to pick the right teas for the current season. We want to make it as current as possible and as precious as possible so it’s a dynamic masterclass. There are eight teas in this session to be tasted at home by participants.

    The fourth and last session is about specialties, amazing teas that are not readily available. We see that a lot of factories are now getting into manufacturing specialties from which we have picked up the best available. Several of these factories are so, so, exciting, so authentic, so organic.

    Some of the sessions are live at the factory so that the audience can see the production line and talk with factory owners and managers for greater understanding. 

    Bridging the gap to the best of our ability is what we are trying to do with this masterclass.

    London-based Dananjaya Silva is the managing director of PMD Tea and a fourth-generation tea man whose family business, P.M. David Silva & Sons date to 1945 during the Plantation Raj in Ceylon’s Dimbula Valley. The company was founded on Brunswick Estate in the fertile Maskeliya Valley as a small independent Tea shop for tea plantation workers to gather, relax and enjoy a quality cup of tea.


    Outstanding Education for Tea Professionals and Enthusiasts

    The UK Tea Academy was established in 2015 to raise the standards of tea service in hospitality. One of the UKTA founders and director of studies, Jane Pettigrew, is a passionate advocate of high-quality tea, prepared correctly to draw the best flavor from the leaf. Jane is among the best-known and most highly respected professionals in the tea world. She has worked as a writer and educator for more than 35 years and is tirelessly committed to sharing her knowledge of tea with anyone who has an appreciation for this fabulous leaf. She teaches all over the world, has written 17 books on tea, and was awarded a BEM (British Empire Medal) for services to the tea industry.

    A certificate from the UKTA is recognized in the hospitality industry as representing a high level of achievement and means the holder has attained a deep understanding and serious appreciation of quality tea. On completion of the introductory Level 1: Tea Champion, most of our students are inclined to develop an even greater knowledge of this fascinating world and enroll in Level 2: Tea Sommelier. Some go even further, to the ultimate challenge of Level 3: Tea Diploma.

    UKTA Tutors
    Tea experts living in the United Kingdom teaching live webinars

    Jane PettigrewSam KimminsKate Popham
    Dr. Tim BondBeverly-Claire WainwrightCarri Hecks
    Asako StewardAlex ProbynSunjin Lee
    Chau-Jean LinEunice PallotJuyan Webster

    Licensed Tutors
    Teaching UKTA courses online in other languages

    HyunSei Yu, South KoreaIsaline Lannoy, FrancePilar Serrano, Spain
    Sabine Gullatz, GermanyStefania Gilardi, Italy
    Asako Steward, JapanGabriella Scarpa, Italy

    Online Study
    Linktree: UK Tea Academy Courses

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  • Ukraine’s Cold Weather Tea

    Virtually all the world’s tea is grown between the latitudes 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the equator. Rising temperatures in this narrow band threaten tea yields and force growers to consider planting “upslope” at higher elevations where cooler temperatures prevail. Unfortunately, subtropical tea cultivars perish in a hard frost, expected above 7,500 feet. The Zhornyna Experimental Tea Plantation in western Ukraine, is located near 50 degrees north latitude. Planter Maksym Malygin is successfully growing tea under forest cover that has survived heavy snow during prolonged winters at temperatures 26 below zero Celsius.

    • Caption: Maksym Malygin at his home near Kyiv
    Maksym Malygin owner of Zhornyna Experimental Tea Plantation
    Preparing for winter at Zhornyna in Western Ukraine near Mukachevo close to the border with Poland and Slovakia

    Cold-resistant Cultivars are Key to Expanding Tea Lands

    By Dan Bolton

    The Zhornyna Experimental Tea Plantation is in western Ukraine near Mukachevo, a city of 85,000 located near the borders that Ukraine shares with Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland. Known as the Transcarpathia, this hilly region south of the Carpathian Mountains in ancient times was a part of Kyivan Rus. It was ruled by the Hungarian Empire for 1100 years until World War I and was part of Czechoslovakia until 1945 when it was ceded to Ukraine. The plantation is situated on high ground known as Chervona Hova or the “Red” Mount.

    Dan Bolton: Thank you Maxim for joining our podcast. Your first recordings were interrupted by air raid sirens following intense missile attacks near Kyiv where you make your home. What has been the impact of the invasion on Ukraine’s only tea garden?

    Maksym Malygin: We planned to carry out classical formative pruning of tea bushes in three seasons, from 2021 to 2023. After the first two years of pruning, we planned to test the winter hardiness of the skeletal branches of the bushes and not cover for the winter. This was planned to be done on 300 bushes that grow on the cleared part of the plantation. Pruning last year showed excellent results, the vegetation of the bushes increased from 15 cm after pruning to 70-80 cm at the end of the season. This April, we planned to cut at a height of 20-25 cm.

    We will not do this and lose at least one year. Also, we will not be able to organize the collection of leaves to produce more tea.

    “The most ambitious project at the idea stage is the creation of a new two-hectare tea plantation in Ukraine, but right now it’s completely frozen on hold.

    – Maksym Malygin

    Dan: It is good to know that you and your family remain safe. I speak for a global tea community that wishes your work will continue without war.

    What is the future of Zhornyna as it produces only experimental tea in small batches?

    Maksym: We have organized through ways for the development of the Zhornyna project. The first one is gaining experience directly on 300 bushes of the plantation. It’s not possible to make industrial production there, but it’s possible to consistently produce some tea for large tea tastings. The second is the vegetative reproduction of the unique winter-resistant tea. The third is a cooperation with colleagues in Europe on the transfer of tea and growing technologies in harsh climates. The most ambitious project at the idea stage is creation of a new two-hectare tea plantation in Ukraine, but right now it’s completely frozen on hold.

    Climate change is forcing planters to move upslope
    Zhornyna is near Mukachevo (marked in red)

    Dan: Listeners in Europe and northern regions that are experimenting with plantings will be interested in your experiments with temperature resistant cultivars. Will you describe the experiment in greater detail?

    Maksym: Analyzing cold-weather characteristics and cultivars is an interesting question. And it’s not that easy to answer.

    The history of unique Ukrainian tea plantation began in 1949 when non-varietal Georgian and Krasnodar seeds were sown, as well as seeds of the varieties Georgian No. 2, Kangra and a Japanese-Indian hybrid. This is described in the scientific literature.

    We made a map of the entire plantation area with the help of the GPS. The total area is 1.4 hectares (about 3.5 acres). Most of the original farm has been destroyed. The surviving tea plants are located in five places. Each has different morphological features. Unfortunately, we still have not been able to find specialists in the post-Soviet years who could establish a tea variety according to the morphological characteristics of plants.

    In this case, we need to use DNA analysis, but for comparison, we need to have data from old Soviet cultivars. My personal opinion is that the 300 bushes in the restored area descend from the Georgian No. 2 variety.

    During the past 70 years, tea plants on the plantation have experienced snowy winters when the minimum temperature was minus 26 degrees [see map depicting Hardiness Zones, above]. Last winter, the minimum temperature was minus 15 degrees with virtually no snow.

    Until 1999 “Zhornyna” was the most northern tea plantation in Europe. After the Tschanara Tea Garden in Germany emerging (the owners are my friends and colleagues Wolfgang Bucher and Haeng ok Kim) “Zhornyna” lost that status, but remains the most frost-resistant culture of tea worldwide (surviving winters with temperatures down to -26 C).

    Given the age and adaptation to the local climate, this tea is likely a Ukrainian frost-resistant subpopulation of Georgian tea. It is my opinion.


    Seventy-five Years of Experimentation

    In 1949 a team from the All-Union research Institute of Tea and Subtropical Agriculture in Georgia, after surveying much of Transcarpathia south of Kyiv, decided that conditions in western Ukraine on Chervona (Red) Hora Mount near the town of Mukachevo were ideal for planting cold-resistant tea.

    Dr. I. I. Chkhaidze supervised development of the experimental tea garden which was one of six in the region. The initiatives were part of a greater project of the National Academy of Sciences of the USSR that in 1950 funded attempts to acclimatize tea on territories including Moldova, Transcarpathia, Crimea, Primorsky Krai, and in the far west the islands of South Sakhalin and Kunashir.

    At Zhornyna non-varietal Georgian and Krasnodar seeds were sown, as well as seeds of the Georgian No. 2 variety; along with a Kangra cultivar from India and a Japanese-Indian hybrid.

    Photos of the plantation taken during the early 50s were lost. “All we can show is one photo from the archive in Russia and three photos from a book written by Dr. Chkhaidze, who led the team of scientists,” writes Zhornyna tea garden owner Maksym Malygin.

    The main goal of the project was “…full satisfaction of Soviet people’s needs for domestic tea.” In Georgia the Soviet Union implemented a similar project during the period 1930-1940 that ultimately supplied 30% of tea consumed in the USSR.

    Tea was first planted along the Black Sea coastline in 1885 near Batumi. In 1915 there were 170 Georgian tea plantations covering an area of 1,000 ha. By 1932 the state had established 19 state-run tea plantations and nine factories. The area under tea increased to 25,500 ha. By 1993 Georgia growers farming 56,000 ha annually produced 75 million kg of tea at 70 state run factories.

    Scientists considered the Transcarpathia to be the second most favorable region next to Georgia for producing tea, said Malygin. Fifty hectares on the collective were developed and 1.5 metric tons of high quality “Chervona Hora” tea was harvested in 1952

    The project was canceled in 1953.

    After canceling financial support for research, the plantation was abandoned. Lots of tea bushes were dug and cut out, only their roots remained. Thanks to the efforts of plantation workers tea bushes still grow, but there is insufficient capacity  to develop the plantation, Malygin explains.

    Among the experimental areas established in the Transcarpathian region only Red Mount’s persisted. Fifty years after the original 50 acres (20 hectares) were planted, only two hectares thrived. In 2000 there were several hundred tea plants still growing, blossoming and fructifying, he said. The bushes stood 1.5 meters high, said Malygin.

    Tea bushes over generations grew resistant to constant freezes and give new branches in the spring. Skeletal branches do not have time to grow on their own, he explains.

    Before 1999 Zhornyna was the most northern tea plantation in Europe. Plantations established in Germany and Great Britain are now the farthest north but Zhornyna is the site of the most frost-resistant tea cultivars worldwide, he said.

    A green arrow marks the Zhornyna Tea Plantation near Ukraine’s borders with Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia.

    “In December 2013, my wife and I visited the plantation for the first time and fell in love with this place. So was started the Zhornyna tea plantation conservation project that we call “Tea Grows in Ukraine.”

    The first step was to develop technology for the production of terroir and demonstrate that the leaves could produce quality tea. Experimental developments of semi- and full-fermented teas, were done from 2015 to 2021. The results demonstrated the great potential of the Transcarpathian teas, according to experts’ opinions.

    The second stage came in 2019, when part of the plantation was cleared. Our attention was then focused on the 300 small bushes. Shelters were built and the tea plants survived the cold winters.

    This block is restricted as a test

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  • A Living Wage Roadmap

    A sustainable future in tea depends on a shared responsibility among stakeholders to assure living wages (for workers) and a living income for smallholders. Last fall IDH, the Sustainable Trade Initiative, introduced the Living Income Roadmap, an extension of the Roadmap on Living Wages, launched in 2019. These online platforms provide companies and brands with the resources they need to understand the gap between a living wage and what workers earn. The platform’s wage matrix helps identify gaps and guide businesses to develop strategies to make continuous progress in closing the gap. Case studies show that companies that pay a living wage achieve greater productivity, less turnover, and a competitive marketing advantage by improving the wages and ultimately the quality of life for workers.

    • Caption: Judith Fraats, senior program manager at IDH in Amsterdam
    Hear the interview
    Judith Fraats, senior program manager at IDH

    IDH Roadmap on Living Wages

    Achieving Living Wages is a Shared Responsibility

    By Dan Bolton

    A living wage is the calculated wage needed for a basic but decent standard of living. Minimum wages are just that, a floor below which wages cannot fall. A living wage provides workers enough income to cover housing and groceries, healthcare, education and transportation, with a cushion for the unexpected.

    The IDH Roadmap on Living Wages helps workers secure living wages in supply chains globally. Achieving living wages is a shared responsibility across the entire supply chain. The program encourages stakeholders to align to strengthen their resolve. Case studies demonstrate that closing living-wage gaps is achievable without price escalation when best practices are employed. IDH has discovered that transparency and sustainable practices, beginning at the farm and extending to every link in the supply chain, adds value that is rewarded by consumers.

    IDH, the sustainable trade initiative

    Dan Bolton: Why is achieving a living wage for tea workers at origin a priority?

    Judith Fraats: Inequality is a big trend that we’re facing globally at the moment. Moving towards living wages enables structural change to break the cycle of poverty. But it also helps us to move towards a more inclusive society and reduce some of these inequalities.

    Let’s not forget that an adequate standard of living is a fundamental human right.

    Second, we see a growing amount of consumers, mostly in developed countries, that are asking these questions of their retailers and the brands that they consume: Can you prove to us that the workers and the farmers who have been engaged in making this product that they are able to earn a decent living?

    Do they earn enough with what you’re paying them?

    IDH Malawi Tea 2020

    Dan: In tea, labor issues and wages attract consumer scrutiny and debate. Will your share IDH’s experience in the tea sector?

    Judith: I think some of the listeners are familiar with the program that we’ve run on living wages in Malawi called Malawi Tea 2020 a supply chain-wide commitment on living wages.

    The objective was to ensure that the Malawian tea industry remained competitive while working towards a living wage for its workers and living income for smallholders. 

    The predominant focus of this program was on living wages. That program had a wide set of partners — we convened 36 organizations with living wage at its core but also looking at holistically a number of other areas which needed to be incorporated in order to address living wages.

    One of the things at the center of this, is that we can’t work on wages if there is no tea industry in the future in Malawi, right? The 9,000 smallholders enrolled in the Farmer Field Schools (FFS) led to a yield increase of nearly 22% the first year and of 41% in the season after graduating. FFS farmers also had a higher percentage of green leaf rated as ‘good’ (73%) compared to non-FFS farmers (56%) in the year after graduation.

    Competitiveness is a really important aspect, looking at how can we enhance productivity and quality, but also looking at how can we further improve social dialogue. One of the things that we managed to achieve was the development of the first collective bargaining agreement, for example.

    Over a five-year period, we’ve been able to reduce the living wage gap, from two-thirds to one-third. Which means that there is still a gap, but we’ve come quite a long way. As IDH, we’re here to continue working with the tea industry to help them on their journey in living wages, and to make progress to close living wage gaps together.

    Dan: Will you explain the difference between a living wage and a living income?

    Judith: The term “living income” is coming up more and more because when we talk about smallholders, we are actually not talking about a living wage. That’s when we start talking about living income. The concept is similar. Both focus on achieving a decent standard of living for households. However, living wages applies to a hired worker setting, whilst living income focuses on a self-employed farmer, for example.

    IDH Roadmap on Living Wages

    Dan: IDH introduced “The Roadmap on Living Wages” to help companies secure living wages along the entire length of their supply chain. Will you explain the roadmap to listeners?

    Judith: The roadmap has been built on best practices that we’ve gained throughout the years working not only within the tea sector, but also flowers, apparel, and fruit and vegetables, for example.

    It consists of five steps. The first is to identify what is the living wage benchmark for the region that you’re sourcing from.  We have a benchmark tool available on the IDH website where you’re able to identify which benchmarks are available for your sourcing regions. Once you know the benchmark, you obviously would like to know whether there is a difference between the actual wages that are being paid by the suppliers within your supply chain.

    To help companies in that process, we have developed the Salary Matrix, which is a self-assessment tool for producers to calculate current remuneration including wages, bonuses, cash, and in-kind benefits. This is then compared against the living wage benchmark. The tool helps you to understand the size of the gap, if there’s a gap at all. It also helps you monitor progress over the years and support work with, for example, certification programs that are continuously improving their living wage requirements.

    In step three we recommend you find a trustworthy way of verifying those calculations as a principle of self-assessment. One of our goals at IDH is that these gaps are verified by audits through certification schemes. We are not there yet completely. But it’s a process that’s very much ongoing.

    IDH Roadmap on Living Wages

    “IDH is committed to taking action and working together to have as a minimum a living wage for everyone in the workplace. We encourage more companies to get started. IDH is ready, we have the roadmap and are keen to support you in your living wage journey.”

    – Judith Fraats

    I think the most tricky step is actually closing the gap. Once the size of the gap is clear, you need creative and innovative approaches to remove these barriers to make progress towards closing this gap, which we believe is a shared responsibility and should be done in close connection with local stakeholders.

    The fifth step is sector-specific, and also context-dependent but you can learn so much across from all these different experiences, by sharing insights, learnings, best practices, what has worked well, what hasn’t. This is really key to further advance the living wage journey 

    Those are the five steps of the roadmap in a nutshell. Last fall we developed the Living Income Roadmap, which mirrors those five steps. They’re the same, although the actual process and implementation are obviously tailored to the smallholder setting.

    Dan: What’s the bottom-line benefit to brands and tea companies and how do they sign up?

    Judith: We hope that the roadmap provides guidance to companies that want to make progress towards closing the living wage gaps, and also helps to bring alignment within the more academic world on living wages. We’ve built this roadmap to help companies make progress. It is based on best practices with input from the private sector, but also civil society, other NGOs and sustainability and expert organizations. Together they really brought this roadmap to its fruition.

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  • A Rare Find

    What makes a tea book special? asks Tea Book Club founder Kyle Whittington. Rare book collector Donald A. Maxton says that he first considers the age of a published work, which often reflects the culture of the time, and then interesting and unusual designs, and, finally, the use of color. Here Maxton describes a label from his collection:

    ‘Another interesting one was for Silver Eagle Tea. This label is off-white with a red border embellished with tea leaves at the corners. The text, printed in red and black, reads, “U.S. Registered No. 766 Silver Eagle, Carefully Selected Formosa Oolong.” An eagle carrying a chest of Silver Eagle Tea in its talons is centered on the label.

    Rare Tea Books and Ephemera

    As founder of Tea Book Club, I was immediately intrigued when Dan Bolton suggested interviewing Donald A. Maxton, collector, and dealer in rare tea books and ephemera for the Tea Biz Podcast. As Donald wasn’t able to record,  I’ll be voicing his answers for you here.

    Listen to the interview

    An interview with rare tea book collector Donald A. Maxton

    Kyle Whittington: What got you into dealing in rare tea books and related tea ephemera?

    Donald A. Maxton: I’ve been collecting books, primarily English and American literature since I finished college. Years later, when I wanted to learn more about the tea I drank every day, I bought a few books about the subject, which added to my knowledge and enjoyment of the beverage. Eventually, I discovered that a large number of books had been published about tea and its rich history. This was before eBay, Amazon, and the many websites we now have where you can easily locate and purchase collectible books. At the time, I found that many used and out-of-print books about tea were available at reasonable prices at used bookshops, usually in their cookbook sections.

    Donald A. Maxton

    So, whenever I hunted for books in my areas of interest, I also searched for tea books with the intent of setting up a small mail-order business. I started attending book shows that included dealers in ephemera: posters, postcards, magazine advertisements, trade cards, sheet music, etc. When I had sufficient stock, I created a mail-order catalog, advertised in “Tea, A Magazine.” I soon had quite a few customers: tea enthusiasts, owners of tea rooms, tea firms such as Harney & Sons, and even public libraries.

    Kyle: What is the most unusual or interesting tea book or piece of ephemera that you sold/have in your collection?

    Donald: One of the more interesting books I sold was titled Jinrikisha Days in Japan, written by Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore and published in 1902. It’s a first-hand account of Japanese culture in the late 1800s with vintage black and white photos and illustrations. It’s filled with interesting facts about teahouses and tea tasters. There are some wonderful anecdotes, such as one about chi ni yotta, or “tea tremens:” The author asks a Japanese friend if drinking large quantities of tea makes him nervous, and he responds, “I do not drink enough of it. I am very careful. but when my friends begin the study of English, they must stop drinking it. The English seems to bring into action many nerves that we do not use, and the drink is probably exciting enough in itself.” It had a lovely white and gilt pictorial binding and sold for $50.

    Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore
    Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

    I purchased several delicate rice paper labels at a book and ephemera show that tea shippers and merchants once used to identify their products. I believe they date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They’re very attractive when framed. The labels I offered included one that reads, “Pacific Mail; No. 50. EXTRA CHOICEST GARDEN PICKED JAPAN TEA; FRAZAR & CO JAPAN.” The label is off-white with text printed in red, green, and purple, framed by a purple border, and illustrated with trees and pagodas. Another interesting one was for Silver Eagle Tea. This label is off-white with a red border embellished with tea leaves at the corners. The text, printed in red and black, reads, “U.S. Registered No. 766 Silver Eagle, Carefully Selected Formosa Oolong.” An eagle carrying a chest of Silver Eagle Tea in its talons is centered on the label. Recently, I’ve seen framed examples of similar labels priced as high as $1,000. I’ve kept two favorites for myself, one advertising gunpowder tea and the other Formosa Oolong.

    Kyle: Be they rare or otherwise, what are your top three tea books?

    Donald: James Norwood Pratt’s The Tea Lover’s Treasury, published in 1982, introduced the noted food writer M.F.K. Fisher is my favorite. This was the first tea book I purchased, and it’s a superb introduction: it’s comprehensive, informative, entertaining, and a pleasure to read and re-read.

    I think that Alain Stella’s The Book of Tea, published in 1992, is a very attractive volume and a favorite of mine. A large “coffee table book,” each section is written by a different authority on tea. It’s exquisitely designed and illustrated throughout with beautiful photographs, most of them in color. It’s a real treasure house of tea information and lore.

    These books are easy to find, but I also was fortunate to find another favorite, William H. Ukers’ All About Tea, published in 1935. It is quite scarce and expensive on the rare book market. It’s also very out of date but still one of the most thorough and comprehensive works about tea cultivation, manufacture, history, and culture. Fortunately, reprints have appeared.

    Kyle: What do you look for in tea books (or ephemera)? What makes a piece interesting or special to you?

    Donald: I consider the age of a piece, which often reflects the culture of the time, interesting and unusual designs, and use of color.

    Kyle: I believe many of the pieces of tea advertisement and ephemera you collected appeared in the book “Tea Art” – can you tell us more about how that came about?

    Donald: I had purchased a number of items to place in my catalog. Before selling them, I showed them to Gregory Suriano, a friend who was writing a book about tea graphics and advertising for Schiffer Publishing. He decided to photograph and publish them in the book, which was published in 2008. The full title is Tea Art: A Modern Look at Vintage Tea Graphics.

    Suriano, who lives in western Pennsylvania, is a historian of popular culture with a masters’ degree in art history who worked as author, editor, illustrator, graphics designer, copyeditor, and senior editor at Random House. He is a dealer in rare books, prints, and paper collectibles.

    Kyle: And what was your favorite piece included in that book?

    Donald: A pyramid-shaped folding poster display with colorful illustrations, circa 1880. When opened flat, there are brief descriptions of “Morning Tea,” “Afternoon Tea,” and “After-Dinner Tea.” When folded into a three-dimensional pyramid, the sides read, “The Secret of a Really Good Cup of Tea is Quality as supplied by the Tea Planters & Importers Co., London.”

    Kyle: How do you think the focus of tea books has changed over time? Has it changed, or are we just using contemporary words and context to talk about the same things that have been written about for centuries?

    Donald: The content of many tea books published in the last 20 years tends to be repetitious and a rehashing of what has already been written; but they often provide more information than earlier works about countries—in addition to the obvious ones, China, Japan, and India—where tea plays a significant role in their economies and culture, such as Indonesia, Africa, Russia, and South America.


    As tea lovers and fellow bookworms, it’s been a pleasure to hear Donald’s thoughts and get a glimpse into the interesting tea books and ephemera that have passed through his hands over the years. Thank you, Donald.

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  • Why Ancient Tea Appeals to Young People

    William Liu is a 20-year-old sophomore at Wake Forest University so inspired by tea that he and his classmates established the World Tea Association on campus and online. The group offers tea discovery and tasting sessions weekly and hosts occasional tea panels with presentations by tea professionals, tea scholars, and tea explorers. The events bring together many who are new to tea, says William, “we aim to redefine the tea experience through an interdisciplinary approach and expose the true leaf to a greater audience.” In this segment he describes why tea appeals to young people and explains his view that tea learning is ongoing. “The tea journey has no destination,” he says, “it involves only intention and lifelong learning.”

    William Liu, a student at Wake Forest University, discusses why tea appeals to young people.

    A joint meeting of the Anthro Club and World Tea Association at Wake Forest University.

    Tea Awakening

    Traveling with his mother to China awakened in William Liu a strong interest in gong fu style preparation of single-origin teas. When the 20-year-old sophomore returned to the Wake Forest University campus he discovered others were also eager to explore tea. Crawford Wheeler, who grew up in London, and Roxie Ray, who grew up in a Persian household, joined him in establishing the World Tea Association, a group that hosts weekly tastings and occasional panel discussions. William hosts a podcast on behalf of the association and continues his education in tea.

    Dan Bolton: Thanks for joining us on the podcast William. Tell us the story about how you first discovered fine tea.

    William: My family on my mom’s side is from Yunnan but my mom only started drinking tea in recent years. I only started drinking tea a year ago. The inspiration was a trip back to China where I was first exposed to gongfu tea. My mom brought me to various tea shops in Chengdu and Yunnan, and it was for me personally a way to connect with my cultural roots. Growing up in Canada as a Chinese Canadian, that wasn’t something that I was really aware of and so I found a greater appreciation and I realized that tea is so much more than a drink. 

    I realized that this type of brewing and single-origin tea isn’t common at all in the West, at least not now.  I really wanted to share with my fellows on campus and that’s what led to the creation of The World Tea Association.

    Dan: What is it about tea that appeals to young people?

    William: A few things really capture the attention of young people, it’s new, it’s very new for a lot of young people and also the nature of tea is that it’s very healthy and the trend with our current generation right now is that we are becoming much more aware of what we are putting into our body. In other words, we’re becoming a lot more health-conscious and we’re seeking mindful practices. Brewing tea is one of those things that provides an experience that teabags are not able to do. Quality tea allows you to really sit down and reflect on life and become more mindful with the tea.

    Our society right now is growing a lot more diverse and globalized. People are seeking different cultures and people are seeking new ways to do things that might be different from what they’re accustomed to and also with COVID, especially with COVID, I’ve seen a lot more young people get into tea because with COVID everyone has been forced to reflect and isolate and pretty much contemplate our life. Tea is the perfect activity to practice mindfulness and to become much more aware of ourselves. 

    Dan: Are they also drinking herbals and tisanes?

    William: A lot of my friends consume a lot more of the tisanes and herbal tea mainly to help them to calm down. I also noticed a lot also drink, for example, chamomile to help sleep at night to get in the mood to level down. These teas usually are a lot more floral, so people like the scent, people like the sweetness of it, and that’s what attracts them.

    Dan: Talk to me about the appeal of bubble tea.

    William: We don’t have a lot of bubble tea shops. I do notice that bubble tea is already really big and a lot of people do gravitate towards bubble tea because it’s accessible, it’s convenient and it’s also very sweet, and so that’s one of the things that probably attracts a lot of people. It’s also a way for them to bond and to connect together similarly to how we have gone through tea as a way to socialize and to, you know, discuss what’s going on in our lives. Tea has that same purpose with a lot of people our age. 

    Dan: What can tea professionals do to bring more young people into the tea community?

    William: I think the best way for tea professionals to bring more young people into the community is essentially just through exposure, reaching out to universities in your local cities and establishing collaborations with various groups and student organizations.

    What I see right now is that a lot of people have not been exposed to it, but once they do become exposed to tea, it’s something that a lot of people become interested in. So I would say tea professionals reach out to the young people that they know, find something to connect. For example I noticed that some local tea shops would host weekly nights playing chess and serving tea. People can come in and they will sit down and while they’re playing chess they would be exposed to the environment in the shop. The tea that they consume will be the tea from the tea shop. 

    The World Tea Association is committed to building community, promoting health and life long learning.

    Bringing People Together Through Tea

    The culture of tea today is present but faint and wrongly perceived. The World Tea Association redefines the tea experience through an interdisciplinary approach to expose the true leaf to a greater audience and community.

    We believe that strong bonds are formed through intentional activities done together such as having tea. Conversations around tea are always insightful and introspective. We hope to create a community where tea is just as much the center as it is not.

    Promoting the health benefits of tea is a core principle. Tea is more than a dose of caffeine. The physical and mental health benefits of consuming tea will always be felt.

    Our vision extends beyond just drinking and sharing. To create a successful community with tea, the learning aspect must be continual and mutual. Advancing our knowledge of the leaf and keeping an open mind is important as it cultivates the quality of humility. Nobody at the World Tea Association knows everything about tea nor does anyone claim they are a “Tea Master.”

    The tea journey has no destination, it involves only intention and lifelong learning.

    William Liu, Founder and President
    Crawford Wheeler, Vice President & Director of Coordination
    Roxie Ray, Director of Marketing & Public Relations
    Tyler Pruitt, Faculty Advisor & Treasurer

    ? World Tea Association

    To Tea Together Logo

    The TO TEA TOGETHER podcast celebrates and promotes artisanal tea culture by engaging in conversations that bring diverse minds together and bridge cross-cultural gaps over a pot of quality tea. TO TEA TOGETHER shares insightful conversations from the next generation of leaders, athletes, artists, entrepreneurs, and scholars while cultivating a new era for the appreciation of artisanal tea culture.

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