Shantha Chhetri, a former parliamentarian from Kurseong, has written to the offices of the Prime Minister of India and the Commerce Minister, raising concerns about Tata Consumer Products’ consumer packs. She said the company blends its tea with those from Nepal, which is unsafe for consumption and does not meet safety standards. She has urged the food safety regulator, FSSAI, and the Tea Board to test their tea for MRL levels of banned pesticides. The company responded that they do not import directly from Nepal. And that any Nepalese tea in blends is sourced from Indian traders. Tata explained that their teas are rigorously tested within the company and are deemed safe. In 2021, Tata Tea and Darjeeling were at loggerheads when the Tea Board prohibited blending imported teas with GI-protected Darjeeling, Assam, Kangra, and Nilgiri teas. A year later, this ban was lifted. The Telegraph
Indian Government Requires 100% of Dust to be Sold at Auction
The amendment of the Tea (Marketing) Control Order, 2003, will come into force from 1st April 2024. One of the directives is that 50% compulsory sale of tea and 100% sale of dust grades must be sold through public auctions starting 1st April. This order is targeted at estates in North India, including Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Uttarakhand, and West Bengal. Dust grades account for 25% of Assam and West Bengal tea production. Retail prices for CTC dust are currently Rs 160 to Rs 190 per kilogram (IndiaMART). The move is thought to support greater compliance of tea towards boosting exports. The mandate does not apply to many small-volume mini-tea factories. Industry stakeholders are divided in their opinion on this new move.
Atul Asthana, MD, Goodricke Group Resigns
Atul Asthana, Managing Director and CEO of The Goodricke Group Ltd., has resigned after 39 years with the company. The Goodricke Group includes 18 storied gardens, including Thurbo, Badamtam, Barnesbeg, Nonaipara, and Hope across Darjeeling, Assam, and the Dooars. Asthana led the company to years of profitability, retaining its position as a top producer in the tea market. Asthana also actively supports the tea industry and is currently Chairman of the Indian Tea Association. The decision to resign, he has said, was for personal reasons.
Assamica is One of Five Distinct Genetic Tea Populations
By Roopak Goswami
A study published in the Journal of Plant Beverage Research reveals new Camellia sinensis assamica varietal traits. Researchers from India and China have worked on this study using 150 SNP markers and population genetics tools to conclude that Assam tea is unique. Researchers identified five distinct genetic populations independently domesticated from a western cluster of wild tea trees rather than introduced from a single origin. The varietal grown in Assam differs from the eastern cluster grown in Yunnan. This new understanding presents new possibilities for cultivating new hybrids bred from Assam tea.
While there is a reasonable consensus regarding China type (var. sinensis) and Assam type (var. assamica), the classification of Assam tea needs to be clarified. Scientists associated with the study say it is essential to understand further the genetic diversity and population structure in c. assamica for efficient conservation and use of Assam tea germplasm in crop improvement programs. The objectives were to understand the genetic diversity and population structure in the Assam tea germplasm from India and China and to assess the efficacy of the current classification system for tea.
The present study used 150 Single Nucleotide Polymorphism (SNP) markers to analyze a representative set of Assam tea sampled from Assam, India, and from four ancient tea gardens in China. SNP markers are the most efficient molecular markers, helping scientists locate genes associated with essential characters. A total of 252 teas sourced from Assam, India, and China were used in the investigation.
Scientists from China, the USA, and India employing cutting-edge techniques and population genetics tools have shown at least five distinct var. assamica populations in their primary gene pool. These include:
1. India var. assamica, which is distributed in Assam, India, 2. Cambod type from Indochina, but the exact origin and distribution are not yet identified, 3. China var. assamica from Southwest Yunnan (leaves from Jingmai and Mangshi), 4. Jingping, Honghe district, Yunnan and 5. Malipo, Wenshan district, Yunnan.
Assam growers contribute around 12% of the world’s tea annually and are known for the large quantities of second flush leaf harvested in May-June. Made tea is characterized by its boldness and robustness and is topped with classic malt and woody astringency flavors. It is valued for its rich taste and bright liquors and is considered one of the world’s choicest teas. Because of its high caffeine content, Assam tea is marketed as a breakfast tea.
The study says that despite the joint adoption of the two botanical varieties (C.s. var. sinensis and C. s. var. assamica) by the tea research community, the genetic basis for the current classification system for Assam tea germplasm has yet to be comprehensively clarified. Several studies based on molecular markers have provided contradictory results.
In general, tea in India Assam is known for its high polyphenol content, broad leaf, and adaptability to hot and humid climates. In contrast, the Chinese small-leaf variety is well known for its hardy adaptability to many environments, high theanine content, and small leaves.
“The main finding is that Assam tea is unique and has separate centers of origin. Although the Assam tea available in Yunnan in China has a bigger leaf size, it is different from the Assam tea available here in Assam,” writes Dr. Devajit Borthakur, a study co-author. Borthakur is a tea breeder and was the principal investigator at Tocklai when he did research in the USA.
“The specialty of Assam tea lies in its unique genetic architecture,” says Borthakur, who holds a doctorate from Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
“A thorough understanding of the genetic architecture of the popular Assam clones, including 154 garden series clones and at the same time, their blending compatibility need to be worked out to exploit the uniqueness of Assam Tea. TV-23, the most popular tea clone, does not reflect the true Assam character as the clone is a hybrid between the Assam and Cambod types, he says.
“The diversity among the Assam type tea in different tea growing countries is yet to be exploited. In tea, 80% heterosis (the superior performance of a hybrid progeny over the parents) is reported. Thus, there is a huge potential to improve tea’s yield, quality, and tolerance capacity if the breeding program includes the diverse tea germplasm available in different tea-growing countries. “Mutual exchange of germplasm between Yunnan in China and Assam in India and inclusion of this germplasm in tea breeding program may open up new possibilities,” he said.
“In conservation of genetic diversity, the important issue is that there should not be any duplication. Otherwise, the population size will be too big, and expenses and time will be well spent on maintaining the duplicated germplasm. To avoid duplication, it is essential to understand the exact genetic architecture of the germplasm. The panel of 150 molecular markers developed in our investigation is sufficient to avoid duplication in germplasm conservation of tea,” Borthakur said.
There is no doubt that China is the first center of domestication for tea, which can be traced back more than 2000 years ago. However, the hypothesis was that new studies, including the present one, did not support domesticated tea dispersed from China to India and Southeast Asia. Local people in Northeast India and Southeast Asia also domesticated tea using their indigenous wild tea populations.
“Our result confirmed that the wild trees found in Assam are indigenous to Assam and ruled out the possibility that they were introduced from Southeast Asia or China,” researchers say.
The study showed that research is still needed on the wild teas in Assam, the neighboring Northeast Indian states, and the countries extending south of China. “The distribution of genetic diversity in the Assam tea germplasm must be systematically collected and analyzed. The panel of 150 SNP markers developed in this investigation will help accomplish the task efficiently,” Borthakur said.
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
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.
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.
Hampson said, “We need more research on commercially available tea bags in the USA to determine the degree to which PFAS contamination in tea bags is an issue in the USA. Based on our findings and the findings from other researchers, we are currently performing a study to test for PFAS contamination in tea bags from the US market.”
Seafood, fruit, and vegetables, even the air you breathe, have been shown to contain microparticles of toxic polymers known to irritate lungs and cause headaches, asthma, and possibly cancers.
BIZ INSIGHT – A research paper published in 2019 calculated a single tea bag, when brewed in boiling water, releases up to 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics in a single cup. The plastics implicated were nylon and PET particles found at levels in tea “several magnitudes higher” than plastics in other foods. A 2021 study suggests that microwaving tea bags further amplifies the release of nanoparticles. Many brands have since switched to paper teabags, most of which are sealed with plastic.
Flavor Enhancing Microbes Are at the Root of Quality Tea
Enhancing the underground community of microbes surrounding tea roots significantly improves tea quality even in poor soil and sickly plants.
Researchers at the Fujian Agriculture and Forest University in China found that microscopic microorganisms that regulate nitrogen intake are essential to the production of theanine. The amino acid, found only in tea, imparts a distinctive umami flavor and mouthfeel. Their study published last week in the scientific journal Current Biology attributes improved taste to a delicate balance known as nitrogen homeostasis.
Lead researcher Wenxin Tang writes, “The initial expectation for the synthetic microbial community derived from high-quality tea plant roots was to enhance the quality of low-quality tea plants.
“However, to our astonishment, we discovered that the synthetic microbial community not only enhances the low-quality tea plants but also significantly promotes certain high-quality tea varieties.
“Furthermore, this effect is particularly pronounced in low-nitrogen soil conditions,” he writes.
The Hindustan Times writes that by analyzing microbial populations in the roots of various tea plants across seasons, researchers developed a synthetic microbial community as a “custom-built team working together towards a common goal. In this case, the goal is to mimic the beneficial microbial environment of high-theanine-producing tea plants.”
“The researchers found that their synthetic microbial community significantly increased theanine content in tea plants (at least for the tea strains they tested). This indicates there might be a new way to improve tea quality by managing soil microbes rather than using chemical fertilizers,” writes Anirban Mahapatra.
He cautions this doesn’t mean we’ll see the use of this technique overnight. There are legitimate questions about how scalable using microbial communities to enhance tea flavor might be when discussing extensive gardens. But if these results hold out after further testing, we might have high-quality artisanal batches of tea from more sustainable cultivation practices that prioritize quality and environmental health.
Tea producers who adopt microbial management techniques to improve tea quality would be able to differentiate their products to open a whole new segment of the premium tea market.
Retail Tea Prices Remain High as Inflation Eases
Inflation is easing, but the cost of making and packing tea is higher than ever because of spiking distribution costs and rising fertilizer prices.
In the UK, prices are up 6% compared to last year but are rising more slowly. The inflation rate for milk and tea dropped to 2.9% in December. In January 2024, tea costs 10.6% more than it did in January 2023.
Last October, tea cost 15.1% more than in October 2022, according to the Office for National Statistics. Coffee is up by 9.5%, and cocoa and powdered chocolate are up by 12.3%. Sugar spiked 49.6%, according to the Guardian.
Analysts are concerned that foods that normally transit the Suez Canal will be impacted as virtually all container ships are now routed past Cape Hope, a detour that adds 10-14 days of transit expenses.
In January, the FAO Food Price Index* (FFPI) stood at 118, down 1.2 points (about 1%) from its December level. The index is 13.7 points (10.4%) below its corresponding value one year ago.
Eating at home and eating out continues to cost more for Americans. The US Labor Department data show restaurant prices were 5.1% higher in January than in January 2023. Grocery costs are up 1.2%.
A report in the Wall Street Journal advises relief isn’t likely to arrive soon. “Restaurant and food company executives said they are still grappling with rising labor costs and some ingredients, such as cocoa, that are only getting more expensive.”
In 1991, according to data from the U.S. Agriculture Department, U.S. consumers spent 11.4% of their disposable personal income on food. At the time, households were still dealing with steep food price increases following an inflationary period during the 1970s.
More than three decades later, food spending has reattained that level, USDA data shows. In 2022, consumers spent 11.3% of their disposable income on food, according to the most recent USDA data available.
Americans typically spend less than 10% of their disposable income on food.
Keemun’s Hong Cha Revival
By Dan Bolton
Lilian Xia and her staff in Canada offer a seven-level curriculum for adults and teens. The organization, she says, “is committed to popularizing tea knowledge, using tea as a link to strengthen cultural exchange among all ethnic groups, all classes, and all ages.” The society hosts educational tea parties, tea-themed activities, and tastings, including a public introduction to Runsi Qihong (Keemun) sponsored by the Anhui Guorun Tea Co. Lilian and I met at the Toronto Tea Festival in January. Here, she tells the of hongcha (red tea), which is experiencing a revival in China as millions line up daily for their milk tea. Keemun has a special place in the story of black tea as it is the first modern market-driven tea. Tea fragrance has always appealed to tea drinkers. Jasmine is one of the oldest and the most famous scented teas globally. However, European royalty and upper-class preference for milk and sugar, crumpets, and dainties limited sales of green tea, creating an opening Keemun quickly filled. Read more…
Share this Post Episode 156 | Researchers Link Diets that Include Tea Brewed in Teabags to High PFAS Levels | Flavor Enhancing Microbes are at the Root of Quality Tea | Retail Tea Prices Remain High as Inflation Eases | PLUS In 1875, European Royalty and upper-class preference for milk and sugar, crumpets, and dainties limited sales of green tea, creating an opening Keemun quickly filled | 23 Feb 2024
A hundred and fifty years ago, tea exporters in China faced a dramatic shift in demand due to conflict on the high seas and fierce commercial competition. The emergence of India as Europe’s black tea supplier disrupted almost three centuries of Chinese dominance in the world’s most lucrative black tea market. China needed something new, a cream and sugar-friendly alternative to smoky old-fashioned Lapsang Souchong. That tea was Keemun (pronounced Chee-mun), a modern marvel rivaling Darjeeling at breakfast and the fragrant black Uva teas used in Ceylon breakfast blends.
Invented in 1875, the aromatic “qi hong cha” or Keemun black tea, grown in Qimen County, 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.
Keemun, the Most Famous of China’s Black Teas Returns to Prominence
By Dan Bolton
Lilian Xia grew up in Shanghai, China, a region that has been the commercial hub of tea export for centuries. In China, tea artists are certified by local government officials who test their competency. Lilian is the first batch of senior tea masters and became the instructor at Shanghai Tea Institute and, simultaneously, the chief evaluator at the Shanghai Municipal Bureau of Labor. She helped compile the textbook “Senior Tea Artist” and lectures widely. She and her staff in Canada offer seven-level courses for adults and teens. The organization, she says, “is committed to popularizing tea knowledge, using tea as a link to strengthen cultural exchange among all ethnic groups, all classes, and all ages.” The society hosts educational tea parties, tea-themed activities, and tastings, including a public introduction to Runsi Qihong (Keemun) sponsored by the Anhui Guorun Tea Co. Lilian and I met at the Toronto Tea Festival in January.
Dan Bolton: Hongcha is experiencing a revival in China as millions line up daily for their milk tea. Keemun has a special place in the story of black tea as it is the first modern market-driven tea. Tea fragrance has always appealed to tea drinkers. Jasmine is one of the world’s oldest and most famous scented teas. European royalty and the upper classes preferred tea with milk and sugar, crumpets, and dainties, limiting sales of green tea and creating an opening that Keemun quickly filled. Will you share the history of this fascinating tea?
Lilian Xia: Let’s first talk a little bit about the history of black tea. In the early Qing Dynasty, around 1650, the Dutch and English first brought Chinese tea to the West. Most of the tea was from the Wuyi Mountains, near the eastern coast of Fujian Province. Exports were mainly green tea or oolong tea.
The tea, called bohea (an English pronunciation of Wuyi), is dried in wooden sheds, taking on a smoky flavor. Less well understood is that after pan-firing and rolling, the larger coarse leaves from the plant are pressed into wooden barrels and covered with cloth or bruised in cloth sacks to ferment before being fired a second time. During this step, the tea develops a unique “Keemun” aroma. The dark black leaves are then finished in bamboo trays suspended above smoking fire pits filled with hot coals from locally grown Pinus massoniana and slash pine. Adjusting the height of the tray influences the intensity of the aroma.
The tea known as zhèng sh?n xi?o zh?ng became rapidly famous within China as well, driven by the immense profits from its export. The English pronounced it Lapsang Souchong after the Fuzhou dialect for lap (pine) sang (wood) souchong (meaning small sort).
The tea had been traded for two hundred years by 1875 when Yu Ganchen was promoted to junior Mandarin (tax collector) in Fujian. He frequently dealt with tea exporters there and knew of the large quantities of black tea exported to the West.
Unfortunately, he was dismissed as unfit by the emperor. On returning to his hometown of Chizhou in Qimen County, in Anhui Province, he saw a nice environment spanning thousands of hectares where he could get good quality Zhuye tea leaves, so he asked himself, ‘Why not make black tea?’ Yu Ganchen returned to Fujian to study tea-making.
Using the hometown trees, Yu Ganchen invented a process for withering and pan-firing similar to that used in making Wuyi tea. He extended the withering and slowed oxidation to yield a more nuanced aroma, producing a better tea to sell to the West. Variations include Keemun Mao Feng, made from small leaves from the early harvest, and Keemun Hao Ya and Keemun Congou (broken leaf), which are more intense. Keemun Gongfu is preferred for use in tea ceremonies. Today, the best Keemun tea is made in Qimen County in Huangshan City, Anhui province, from leaves grown in Guichi, Shitai, Dongzhi, and Yixian.
Ganchen understood the needs of the Western people who begin their day with tea. The key modalities were color; Keemun is a deep red amber and distinctive fragrance with layers of flavor. Nowadays, many black teas are made in China, but Keemun remains the most popular.
Dan: The strong trade between China and the UK, dating to 1664, entered a rocky diplomatic period beginning in 1839 through 1842 as the first tea gardens were planted in Assam and Darjeeling and again in 1856 through 1960 when victory in the Second Opium War gave Western powers unfettered access to Chinese goods. Keemun marketers understood that winning competitions in the West and celebrity endorsements by royalty would appeal to Europeans and colonial tea drinkers in North America.
Lilian: He was quite familiar with the tea growers, exporters, and Importers from Western Fujian Province in Fuzhou City, so he contacted them and sold them to Western buyers. He opened a store in Yaodu to sell tea in Fuzhou and began marketing Keemun black overseas, where Indian black teas and Sri Lanka black teas were prominent.
A breakthrough occurred in 1915 in San Francisco at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition (an early World’s Fair). Keemun, competing with the finest Indian black and Ceylon teas from Sri Lanka, won the gold medal and became the number one choice of many Westerners, including the British and Americans.
The Queen and the royal family popularized Keemun in manuals describing the proper etiquette and preparation of afternoon tea. In London, it was known as the “queen of black tea” and is listed as one of the three most fragrant teas in the world. Keemun became quite famous in blends re-exported from London worldwide. The tea also won many national medals in China over the years. Download: Original Exposition Visitor’s Guide
Dan: The tea was so popular that Keemun became the main component in English breakfast blends. In 1879, more than 70% of the tea sold in London was from China. Darjeeling was an expensive luxury until the 1930s. People acquired a taste for Keemun during the years when Darjeeling was scarce. By 1900, China’s market share at the London tea auction had declined to 10%, but even then, the most popular Ceylon and Indian blends of Assam weren’t considered complete without at least 10-12% Keemun. Early mass-market blends, including Lipton and Twinings, featured African teas to give them color. Blenders added Assam tea for astringency. Why was Keemun so popular?
Lilian: Keemun Tea was popular because of its characteristics, like its unique aroma — it’s very special. Even now, in China, we distinguish black tea as either Keemun or not. So, what is Keemun’s aroma? It combines a floral note, a fruity note, and a honey-sweet taste.
Dan: The process that yields that aroma is very interesting.
Lilian: Yes, it starts with withering, then rolling, then fermentation and drying, all the uniform processes of black tea. So, how do we get this unique Keemun aroma?
There are two reasons. The first is definitely because of the tea tree breeds and where they are planted. The proper place is Qimen, a tea-growing region between the cool, fog-enshrouded Huangshan (Yellow) Mountains and the Yangtze River. The cultivar is called Zhu-ye-zhong. It is the same plant used to make Huangshan Maofeng, a grassy and vegetal full-leaf green tea plucked from old-growth trees.
Other critical steps involve slow fermentation and attention to drying. There’s a high-temperature step to reduce the moisture; then, it goes through lower-temperature drying, always 80 to 90 degrees. That low-temperature drying process develops those aromas.
We know that all those tea breeds produce aromatic compounds. Lower-temperature drying facilities develop those aroma compounds to bring out fruity and floral aromas.
Sugar substances and amino acids undergo the Maillard reaction, generating substances with a honey aroma. Many substances with fruity and floral aromas, such as lactones, terpenes, and alcohols, are generated, contributing to the distinctive Keemun black tea aroma characterized by hints of flowers, fruits, and honey. This unique scent is called Keemun aroma.
Dan: One of the reasons Keemun is so important to the traditional Assam and Sri Lanka blended breakfast teas is because they are fired at a very high temperature in a furnace, which drives off aromatic compounds. Keemun adds a distinctive and pleasant aroma as you pour the hot water. Keemun tea drinkers describe the scent of honey, apple, and orchid.
Lilian: Yes, yes. Keemun is unique. Among all those Chinese varieties, more than one hundred black teas, Keemun remains the number one because of its unique aroma.
Dan: Will you tell listeners about the Runsi Qihong (Keemun Tea) brand? I was very impressed tasting the tea at the Toronto Tea Festival, and so were many others at your crowded booth.
Lilian: The tea is from what used to be a state-owned company and the biggest producer. It is called Anhui Guorun Tea Company Ltd. Mr. Yu Ganchen, who invented Keemun, owned the tea house that was the predecessor of the Guorun Tea Company. Runsi Qihong is their brand.
Before 1949, tea was mainly handmade and primarily sold to tea houses. But afterward, around 1950, China’s modern tea factories increased production, increasing exports. From the 1990s to the early 2000s, Chinese tea factories experienced another important reform, moving from state-owned to limited liability companies. In 2003, with the restructuring of its joint stock, Guorun became the most prominent company specializing in Keemun black tea. It is also the only factory producing diplomatic gift teas for official guests such as the Prime Minister from Britain or Queen Elizabeth.
Runsi Qihong has 12 EU-certified tea gardens and enjoys the title of national standard in China. So, as Keemun black tea is frequently chosen as a diplomatic gift, the highest grade is not premium; there is another grade called gift on top of the premium. Diplomats consistently choose Keemun black as the national gift.
Dan: That’s a prestigious role. According to the China Tea Marketing Association, 7,300 metric tons of Keemun tea are produced annually on 12,600 hectares of land. The tea is primarily for export, generating 5.52 billion yuan (about $808.6 million in US dollars in 2022). Will you explain the role growers play in the process?
Lilian: Guorun Co., Ltd. boasts significant productivity, employing highly mechanized tea garden management, plucking, and processing methods. However, producing the highest-grade teas involves meticulous handpicking and processing to ensure their unique, superior quality. For this, the company hires tea farmers skilled in the delicate task of tea picking, compensating them with labor fees. This blend of automation and traditional craftsmanship ensures the excellence of their tea.
Dan: Thanks for explaining that. So, let’s talk briefly about the Canada Tea Institute and its mission.
Lilian: We created the Canada Tea Institute in 2017 as a not-for-profit organization. We want to improve the tea culture and tea education. These days, we’re also trying to improve the economic development of tea. Most of our members are tea professionals and tea enthusiasts. We have our guiding principles. They are traditional spirits of tea masters, such as harmony, humility, genuineness, and equality. Those are the four guiding principles of our institute. So, we organize tea-related events and activities, such as tea master training programs and sometimes study trips. We have organized tea trips to some tea-producing areas in China, and hopefully, we can organize trips to other tea-growing countries, such as Japan.
During the past six years, CTI has organized over 100 tea-themed events involving more than 4,000 participants. By taking these steps, we’re working to diversify the Canadian tea market, making it more vibrant and dynamic.
Dan: I was happy to see all the young people at your booth. Will you briefly discuss your impression of young people and your role in educating those interested in your teas?
Lilian: I found many people of different ages interested in tea, and I was surprised that there are so many young people. I’ve noticed their enthusiasm for tea in the tea courses I’m giving young folks. They might not know all the ins and outs yet, but their interest is sky-high. They’re not just into the taste; they’re curious about blending their own, which is pretty much like creating something new, and they’re super keen on diving into the tea culture. It’s not just about, “Hey, this tea tastes good,” but more about, “What’s the story behind it? Why do we drink it this way?” They’re eager to explore different types of tea, how to brew them to get that perfect taste, and even which teawares best complement each tea. Honestly, it makes me really happy to see their passion for all aspects of tea, not just the flavor but the whole culture and creativity behind it.
Usually, in China, we use a gaiwan, a covered cup for brewing green teas, flower teas, etc. I also demonstrated Gaiwan brewing in class. Young students use those clear, translucent glasses because it lets them see the tea right inside; it piques their curiosity about the brewing process and its cultural significance.
I think it’s very, very amazing that since ten years ago, or even seven years ago, tea lovers have been aging. I mean, they love tea because they can feel the beauty of calm and simplicity. They are like 40 years old or 50 years old.
At that time, young people liked sweet drinks such as coffee and Coca-Cola, But now I see maybe it is because of the popularity of milk tea and bubble teas that many young people started to drink tea. Tea has become integrated into the daily lives of young people. From the bubble tea, they will pay attention to “This is green tea. This is black tea. This is oolong tea.” Then, they will seek more information about blended teas or different straight teas, I think it’s very good.
Photos courtesy Canada Tea Institute | Runsi Qihong Tea
Share this post Invented in 1875, the aromatic “qi hong 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. | Episode 156 | 23 Feb 2024
Maritime Security Concerns Worsen in Suez and The Red Sea as Two Missiles Disable British Ship | Rising Operating Costs Close a Third of Uganda’s Tea Factories | Hydration Concerns Motivate Consumer Purchases
“New tools and approaches are changing the game from always looking backward through the rear-view mirror to giving everyday tea professionals a new crystal ball that allows us to look around the corner and predict what’s coming,” observes Liam Brody, the new Committee on Sustainability Assessment CEO. Brody explains COSA’s role in intelligence-gathering and developing strategic tools that advance sustainable practices with “sound business” underpinnings. He also shares his vision of how artificial intelligence will revolutionize and influence consumer behavior and perception of sustainable practices.
Listen to the Interview
Liam Brody, CEO Committee on Sustainability Assessments (COSA)
By Dan Bolton Shipping company executives see no sign of improvement for vessels transiting the Red Sea, leading UK retailers and tea companies to take steps to minimize shortages.
As shipping costs surge, suppliers in Kenya and India face a more daunting challenge. Rates from Asia to Europe are up nearly five-fold, rising to $5,000 per 20-foot container. During the height of the pandemic, the expense of shipping containers of tea long distances exceeded the value of bulk tea within.
Three months into the crisis triggered by the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists, Yemen’s Houthi rebels continue their drone and missile attacks in both the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. On February 18, twin anti-ship missiles disabled a British-owned bulk cargo ship, forcing the crew to abandon the ship, which was taking on water and in danger of sinking.
Bloomberg reports that last week, ship arrivals in the Gulf of Aden were down about two-thirds compared to early December, according to Clarkson Research Services Ltd., a unit of the world’s largest shipbroker.
Executives of the largest shipping companies told Bloomberg TV that threat levels continue to escalate. The disruptions could last an entire year.
Maersk Chief Executive Officer Vincent Clerc told Bloomberg, “The amount and range of weapons being used for these attacks are expanding, and there is no clear line of sight to when and how the international community will be able to mobilize itself and guarantee safe passage.”
Half of the tea consumed in England is shipped from Kenya and India via the Suez Canal. This week, executives at Yorkshire Tea and Tetley Tea reassured the public they had implemented measures to minimize any disruption of the blending and manufacturing due to shipping delays.
A spokesperson for Tetley told the BBC, “At the moment, it’s much tighter than we would like it to be, but we’re pretty confident we can maintain supply levels. Our priority is to maintain our consistently high levels of service based on ordered and forecasted demand. We believe we can continue to deliver this, but acknowledge that this is a critical period which requires our constant attention.’
Spokesman Tom Holder of the British Retail Consortium, representing 200 retailers, reports temporary disruptions in the scheduled arrival of some black tea, but delays thus far amount to no more than a “blip.” Companies are adjusting orders and inventory to account for 10 to 14 additional days at sea. Sainsbury’s website assured customers of adequate supply but expressed concern should shipping firms experience lengthy delays.
According to Reuters, more ships are re-routing via the Cape of Good Hope than transiting the Red Sea via the Gulf of Aden.
BIZ INSIGHT – Britons drink about 100 million cups of tea daily, according to Sharon Hall, chief executive of the UK Tea and Infusions Association. The UK is the world’s fifth largest tea importer. Tea imports from outside the EU amounted to 104 million kilos in 2021. UK blenders export about 9.5 million kilos of tea valued at two million British pounds ($2.5 million in US dollars) annually, mainly to the European Union.
Nine of 28 Uganda tea factories close, idling thousands of smallholders
Rising Operating Costs Close a Third of Uganda’s Tea Factories
Uganda’s tea sector is in crisis with the closing of nine factories, about a third of the 28 in operation. Excess stocks of lower-quality tea following an aggressive expansion of acreage under tea are holding down prices amid spiking costs for electricity, which led to the closures.
Tea is an important crop supporting 80,000 smallholder families in 17 tea-growing districts. Each factory that closes jeopardizes the financial welfare of 7,000 to 10,000 families.
Trade minister David Bahati told the local press that the Prime Minister is personally chairing a cabinet-level committee that has drafted policies to address requests for immediate subsidies to lower the cost of electricity. Uganda has a low per capita consumption of electricity and one of the highest average unit electricity costs in the sub-Saharan region. Rural factories currently pay 3,470 shillings per kilowatt compared to an average cost of 1,900 shillings per kilowatt in industrial areas.
The policy recommendations will then be presented to the house, he said. In addition to immediate subsidies, Dickson Kateshumbwa, NRM, a member of the Parliament representing Sheema Municipality, urged the government to implement policies enabling Uganda to compete better in the international market.
He told New Vision, “People pluck the leaves without guidance. That is why Uganda fetches the lowest amount of tea in the region, but not because we do not have fertile soils. We need that policy to improve our quality,” Kateshumbwa said.
Members of Parliament representing tea-growing regions are calling for a bailout like that, given sugar producers are facing similar high production costs. Tea is the fourth most important agricultural export after coffee, maize, and fish.
Synergy Hydration Revolution | Click the image to download the graphic
Hydration Concerns Motivate Consumer Purchases
Tea marketers should take note of studies showing rising consumer thirst for hydration.
Consumer interest in hydration intensified post-COVID, with 56% of US adults in 2023 reporting “they were better at staying hydrated this year.” Forty-eight percent did so because of increased physical activity, reports Synergy, a global manufacturer and supplier of flavorings, extracts, and essences.
In the US, 32% of adults feel more motivated to live a healthy lifestyle now than before COVID-19, which has led to a greater focus on self-care and overall wellness, according to Synergy.
“In the UK, 58% of bottled water users would like to learn more about their hydration needs, and 54% of French adults think drinking fortified water is an excellent way to boost your vitamin and mineral intake.
Sixty percent of Millennials, the most of four cohorts, are engaged with functional hydration drinks. According to Mintel International, Generation Z and Generation X follow, each with a 58% engagement rate, with Boomers indicating 44% engagement. Female Gen Zs are the biggest users of functional hydration beverages.
Consuming beverages fortified with electrolytes, first introduced in the 1960s, is top of mind for all four cohorts. Gen Z drinkers seek protein, while Millennials, GenX, and Boomers want multivitamins. The younger generation wants fat burners, while Boomers seek omega-3 and glucosamine.
Eighty-five percent of US bottled water drinkers say that staying hydrated keeps them productive at work. Seventy-three percent of UK Adults say optimal hydration is essential for mental performance.
BIZ INSIGHT – Water bottles have become a status symbol, a vital accessory to daily life, writes Synergy. Stanley’s Quencher has seen a 275% year-over-year increase in sales and has experienced a 215% increase in its best-selling category, hydration, according to Retail Dive. What you are most likely to find inside those bottles are citrus, summer fruits, and berry flavors, according to Synergy.
The Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) was established to measure the massive quantity of precise data and the impact of harder-to-quantify, pragmatic ways of measuring sustainability, such as living income calculations, gender inclusion, and next-generation training.
In 2005, sustainability pioneers at the United Nations identified the need to harmonize sustainability metrics with science-based credibility. Seven years later, COSA became a not-for-profit public research organization to complete that work.
Daniele Giovannucci co-founded COSA to counter what he called “the fluff and ignorance masquerading as development and the colossal sums wasted by well-meaning funders.” He championed the “democratization of data,” devising standard metrics for the coffee industry in 2018.
COSA, supported by discerning philanthropists from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the InterAmerican Development Bank, has standardized sustainability metrics for leading brands, global frameworks, cutting-edge technologies, and governments for two decades. Giovannucci retired in mid-2023, and Liam Brody was named his successor. Liam explains COSA’s role in intelligence-gathering and developing strategic tools that advance sustainable practices with “sound business” underpinnings. He also shares his vision of how artificial intelligence will revolutionize and influence consumer behavior and perception of sustainable practices. Read more…
Listen to the Interview
Liam Brody, CEO Committee on Sustainability Assessments (COSA)
Share this Post Episode 155 | Maritime Security Concerns Worsen in Suez and The Red Sea as Two Missiles Sink British Ship | Rising Operating Costs Close a Third of Uganda’s Tea Factories | Hydration Concerns Motivate Consumer Purchases | PLUS Committee on Sustainability Assessment (COSA) CEO Liam Brody says “New tools and approaches are changing the game from always looking backward through the rear-view mirror to giving everyday tea professionals a new crystal ball that allows us to look around the corner and predict what’s coming.” | 16 Feb 2024