• A Taste of the Wild

    Tea Biz traveled to Sri Lanka in May to the foot of 7,359-foot Adam’s Peak, known locally as Sri Pada (the Budda’s Footprint), a conical sacred mountain ideally suited to tea. Forest Hill Tea founder Buddika Dissanyaka narrates a hike he is leading to a forest of 900 tea trees growing wild on an estate abandoned 140 years ago.

    • Caption: Forest Hill founder Buddika Dissanyaka at the edge of Sri Lankan tea forest.
    Forest Hill Tea Founder Buddika Dissanyaka
    Dan with Forest Hill founder Buddika Dissanyaka
    Dan with Forest Hill founder Buddika Dissanyaka

    An Abandoned Estate Transforms into a Tea Forest

    By Dan Bolton

    Millions of tea trees, first Introduced in 1867, can be found along the 268-mile length of Sri Lanka, a tropical paradise of tea estates that employ 1.5 million people today. The trees at Warnagala Tea Estate, established in 1890 by Scottish planters, today rise 40 to 50 feet into the rainforest canopy on the slopes of the sacred Sri Pada Mountain range. Pluckers climb into the trees to retrieve green leaves for tea making.

    We’ve traveled a long winding road and crossed narrow bridges over fast-moving streams to reach a forest of tea trees 2,900 feet above Sri Lanka’s shores. Joining us to talk about opportunities in specialty tea is Buddika Dissanyaka, one of many smallholders that have energized Sri Lanka’s tea sector. This new generation of rural entrepreneurs produces much of the tea grown in Sri Lanka, one of the world’s top tea-producing countries.

    Dan Bolton: The tea forest is quite remarkable, Buddika. Will you share your story with our readers?

    Buddika Dissanyaka: Thanks for coming all this way to hear from us.

    I’m a professional planter. After schooling, I joined the planting sector as a junior assistant superintendent, and I continued my career for 15-16 years to become one of the youngest superintendents in Sri Lanka.

    And then, I thought of starting something extraordinary. I have a good knowledge of tea and did a lot of research into what I might do. I figured out that there is a potential for making artisanal handcrafted teas. So here we are, speaking, just below the tea forest.

    While attending school in Kandy, I used to go down here with my friend to hike at this place. I noticed that it had very big tea trees growing in the forest. So I thought to start handcrafting artisanal wild tea for the first time in the history of Sri Lanka from this source.

    Since then, we have officially registered under the Sri Lanka tea board to start a micro tea factory. And now, we are proud to say that we are handcrafting artisanal tea and circulating it around the world. And we won some gold medals. We showcase that Sri Lanka can actually produce very good quality teas compared to the other countries that make very high-quality tea.

    Buddika identifies a 40-foot Assamica tree growing in a dense forest.

    Dan: Will you describe the pristine waterfalls and steep hillsides and explain how the dense forest that surrounds us, with its diversity of wildlife, animal life, and plant life, improves the tea?

    Buddika: This estate was originally planted by Scottish planters. They originally brought seeds from Assam, India, and Yunnan Province in China. So we have both varieties growing in the forest. One is Camelia sinensis, and the other is Camelia sinensis assamica. About 140 years back, the founders just abandoned it. The forest has reclaimed the estate over a century without human touch.

    The forest has reclaimed the estate over a century without human touch.”

    – Buddika Dissanyaka

    During our century, the tea estate developed a thick biodiversity where animals are roaming, different species are growing, and spices are growing. So it gives a different character to our wild tea. The root structures are such that the taproot has gone down and down and down where it absorbs top-quality minerals for its leaves. We focus on very high-quality leaves to craft our teas. So our tea has very different characteristics.

    Dan: So this is a tea blended by nature. The two species often don’t grow side by side, but because of the unique nature and microclimates in Sri Lanka, we can see mature teas joined together to create a bio-fauna. It’s a situation in which the teas live together in harmony.

    Buddika: Yeah, it’s actually very unique.

    Dan: We proceed two kilometers, climbing a wash that serves as a service road until we reach the edge of the tea forest.

    Buddika: Now we are in the forest.

    This is Camellia sinensis, the assamica type of tea tree. These are small tea trees. So we have a lot of big tea trees. We have plenty of assamica, but we have lesser amounts of Camellia sinensis sinensis. So, these trees are living in harmony with the forest. You can see this one is a Camellia Sinensis sinensis. We make a lot of green teas from this variety, which is a very subtle, smooth tea.

    Dan: In this area, there are wild-grown spices, right?

    We know many of the species growing in the forest are original plants. So, we know what is wild pepper, wild cardamom, wild clove, and wild cinnamon. We also saw stores offering lots of artisanal natural spice blends. So, we began sourcing our spices in a very sustainable manner. We don’t disturb the diversity in the forest. We harvest only small quantities in the proper season and return to our factory and do our blending. And that is how we preserve this nature.

    Dan: When we returned to the small two-story factory in Kuruwita, I asked Buddika to tell us more about his technique of hand-processing these teas in small batches.

    Buddika: We craft only wild forest-grown tea without damaging the environment and are becoming an example to others. We can work within the forest without destroying it. All our artisans are very skilled, and we always guide them to develop their skills, as we are so concerned about the quality. We are making a small profit in our retail business, so we would like to expand our retail business since the profit margins go to all the stakeholders including artisans, farmers, and the local community.

    Dan: Will you share details about how you market your teas overseas?

    Buddika: We can ship our teas worldwide by DHL, and EMS customers can reach us through our Facebook and INSTAGRAM.

    See: Wild Forest Grown Ceylon Tea

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  • International Tea Day Makes a Splash

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

    • Caption: Tea is celebrated worldwide on International Tea Day (Sunday, May 21, 2023).
    Overview of International Tea Day Activities

    Bringing People Together Over a Cup of Tea

    By Dan Bolton

    The United Nations designated International Tea Day to encourage sustainable production and consumption of tea. This year’s theme is Bringing People Together Over a Cup of Tea. The online and in-person event at the FAO Atrium and tea tasting in Flag Hall is Sunday, May 21, from 2 pm to 3:45 (Rome Time Zone) and will focus on smallholder tea producers, reaffirming the FAO’s commitment to help overcome the challenges they face. Smallholders now produce 60% of the world’s tea, employing millions. The UN website offers several useful reports on how the industry can support the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Reports include International Tea Market: Market Situation, Prospects, and Emerging Issues; Tea Outlook 2027 and Emerging Trends in Tea Consumption.

    The European Speciality Tea Association announced a Zoom fundraiser to support women in tea. Promoted as the world’s biggest sipping event, the online gathering begins at 2 pm (British Summer Time) on Sunday, May 21.

    “We plan to invite more than 1000 people worldwide to raise a cup in unison to celebrate this amazing beverage generating 1000 pounds sterling before and during the event to empower women in tea management. Women have been marginalized in the tea-making process and other management leadership roles within the tea industry, and we want to be a catalytic force to initiate change there. The hour-long event will be recorded for viewing on demand. Visit www.specialityteaeurope.com to register.

    Line up

    • Paola Cruz is a wellbeing influencer @practicewithpaola will talk about tea and wellbeing and how to infuse this in your life.
    • Virginia Lovelace, author and tea scientist, will talk about improving your tea experience at home.
    • Nepal tea collective sisters will talk about their life in tea.
    • Muskan Khanna will talk about being one of the youngest women tea makers.
    • Madelaine Au will talk about organizing a successful tea event in Oregon.
    • Lucy (Mynt Mynt) Shwe from Mother’s Love Tea in Myanmar will speak about the uniqueness of Burmese tea culture.
    • Bernadine Tay from Quinteassential is a Founding Director of the European Speciality Tea Association and will host and moderate the event.

    Expo Té Argentina, in Posadas, Misiones, is a three-day event marking the 100th anniversary of commercial tea production. The event is May 25-27 and includes garden tours, a tea business conference, an exposition, and a tea fair. Learn more…

    • Tea product business round: May 26 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. 
    • Expo May 25 and 26 from 4 to 9 pm 
    • Tour with Producers of the enterprises: May 27

    Download Conference Program: Day 1 | Day 2

    The Chinese Tea Culture Center in Antwerp will host a tea meditation and tea circle from 3-6 pm on Sunday, May 21. The Belgium Chinese Tea Culture Association is a non-governmental and not-for-profit culture association whose mission is to promote peace, harmony, and respect for the ECO nature and humanity in society through tea and tea serving.

    The Tea and Herbal Association of Canada will host its 4th annual Sofa Summit on Friday, May 19, from 8:30 am to 7:30 pm (Eastern Daylight Time). Join THAC President Shabnam Weber for 11 hours of conversations with tea experts, tea association representatives, and growers worldwide.

    The inaugural Eugene Tea Festival will be held at the Farmer’s Market Pavilion in Eugene, Oregon, from 10 am to 4 pm (Pacific Daylight Time). Organizers invite participants to enjoy tea tastings, educational workshops, and a vibrant marketplace. Learn more…

    Download Workshop Program | Sponsors

    Listen to the interview

    Jessica Woollard discusses Eugene Tea Festival with organizer Madelaine Au

    The Tea Day theme for this year’s German Tea & Herbal Infusions Association events is The Whole World in My Cup.

    Teeverband board member Annemarie Leniger explained the ambitious goals of the industry: “Teas, in all their diversity, are not only part of a highly developed culture of enjoyment, but they are also becoming increasingly important as a valuable, natural food in this country. As a commodity, tea builds bridges between the continents, connects young and old tea fans, and should further promote economic developments in the countries of origin if German tea manufacturers have their way.” 

    European Tea Day organizers announced the inaugural June 2 celebration in Brussels with panel discussions describing the European tea market, new ways of attracting next-generation tea drinkers, and a tasting session. Learn more…

    Key Takeaways

    • Tea export earnings help to finance food import bills, supporting the economies of major tea-producing countries.
    • The tea sector contributes to socioeconomic development, representing a major source of employment and income for millions of poor families worldwide.
    • Tea thrives in specific agro-ecological conditions and environments, often impacted by climate change.
    • In order to ensure benefits for both people and the environment, the tea value chain must be efficient and sustainable at all stages, from field to cup.

    Did You Know?

    • Tea cultivation provides employment and income to millions of smallholder growers, who supplement or even replace the production of larger tea estates in many countries.
    • While three-quarters of the tea produced is consumed domestically, tea is a widely traded commodity.
    • Over the past decades, the global tea industry has grown rapidly, with rising consumers globally.
    • Despite the increase in tea consumption in the major producing countries, per capita consumption remains low, suggesting considerable growth potential exists.

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  • Eugene Tea Festival

    This year’s International Tea Day, Sunday, May 21, will be remembered for tea lovers near Eugene, Oregon, in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Advanced tickets are $10. Day-of tickets are priced on a sliding scale. The event is from 10 am to 4 pm at the Farmers Market Pavilion and Plaza.

    Inspired by other regional festivals — like the Northwest Tea Festival and the Portland Tea Festival — Madelaine Au founded the event to bring the “awe and wonder” of tea to the community. Madelaine chatted with Tea Biz about what it’s like to organize her first tea festival.

    Organizer Madelaine Au on preparations for the inaugural Eugene Tea Festival

    Inaugural Tea Event to Reveal the Awe and Wonder of Tea

    By Jessica Natale Wollard

    Planning a tea festival from scratch is a major undertaking, but thankfully there are great examples worldwide. Madelaine, where did you draw inspiration for your inaugural Eugene Tea Festival?

    Madelaine Au: I was inspired by the Northwest Tea Festival, which I attended for the first time in 2017, and I was really blown away by how much diversity there is in the tea world and just the magic of tea.

    And from there, I started looking for as many tea opportunities as possible; I ended up volunteering for the Portland Tea Festival as the volunteer coordinator, which really cemented my love for tea festivals.

    When I moved to Eugene, Oregon, and realized that there was no festival there, and there was also not as strong of a tea community, I was really motivated to start the tea festival. I had encouragement from local businesses, and that was the start of it all.

    Jessica: The festival will have tea tastings, a marketplace, and educational workshops. Are the vendors and educators attending from around Eugene or beyond?

    Madelaine: We have diverse vendors coming from different locations, the furthest from New York. It is mostly local vendors, and I am wanting to really highlight folks that are in the Eugene area because I think we’ve got a lot of amazing local businesses, but we do have different vendors from Washington, California, and a couple of other places.

    Jessica: It sounds like your circle of tea acquaintances is expanding rapidly. Any tips for our listeners on attracting sponsors and vendors when you’re holding a brand-new event?

    Madelaine: I am lucky that I work in the tea industry, and many of our sponsors are people I’ve worked with in different capacities. Honestly, just reaching out is the best thing you can do: calling, emailing, putting together a pitch. And not being afraid just to put yourself out there.

    Jessica: Can you tell us about the workshops that will take place at the festival? Are they for tea professionals, tea enthusiasts, or both?

    Madelaine: We do have a mix of educational workshops. It really does range from Tea 101, which is really for the public, for people who are not as familiar with tea, to tea bag manufacturing, which is 100% a mostly-for-professionals workshop that we have. But I’m excited, and I hope that the general public also attends those types of workshops to learn a little bit more about the industry because it is fascinating.

    Jessica: How did you select those topics?

    Madelaine: I reached out to different people I have connections with within the tea industry, and I let them select their topics because I wanted them to speak and give workshops from their place of expertise.   I asked some of the vendors to do Tea 101 workshops because I think that’s a really important workshop to have, but we do have diversity.

    Some examples of our workshops are Tea Time for Your Grief; Tea as Art; Tea as Medicine; Tea as Culture; A 5000-year History of Tea; and the Origins of Nepali Teas.

    Jessica: Can you say a little more about the tea and grief workshop?

    Madelaine: So this is a topic that is being led by my friend, who owns her own business, Melissa Ulven Coaching. She’s been doing a lot of research and work on death planning.

    It is an entry-level workshop that will describe the use of adaptogen teas and tips for establishing a tea ritual for times of grief and bereavement. It’s essentially using tea as a vehicle for processing grief, which I think is really beautiful. I can personally attest that tea has allowed me to find healing.

    Jessica: What do you hope festival attendees take away from the event?

    Madelaine: I hope that people who attend the festival are inspired to connect with other people, to build community, to be a part of the community, and that they feel a general sense of awe and wonder. Because I think that that’s what tea festivals are really capable of inspiring, and also that people learn about tea and that they learn about the history of tea and different cultural practices.

    We’re going to have a variety of tea ceremonies happening in the marketplace. I hope everyone can participate in a tea ceremony because there’s much to learn from it.

    It sounds like Madelaine and her team have created a fascinating line up for this International Tea Day, which will inspire “awe and wonder.” Find out more about the inaugural Eugene Tea Festival at eugeneteafest.org.

  • Global Tea Forum Makes a Splendid Return

    Panels explored tea production, trade, logistics, innovation, and sustainability

    Tea News for the week ending April 28

    | The Global Dubai Forum Makes a Splendid Return
    DMCC Executive Chairman and CEO Ahmed bin Sulayem commits to a biennial schedule for future conferences

    | South India Planters Name 18 Golden Tea Leaf India Award Winners

    | Indian Tea Association Presses for a Tea Price Floor Indexed to Rising Production Costs Borne by Smallholders and Made Leaf Producers

    PLUS This week, Tea Biz discusses a range of revealing consumer trends and beverage insights with Siân Edwards, Group Insights Manager at Finlays. She says the outlook for the beverage industry is positive, with consumers making good choices for the planet and themselves.

    Hear the Headlines

    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Teas News Recap

    Dubai Remains World’s Top Tea Re-Exporter

    A five-year pandemic-forced hiatus lent this year’s gathering of tea executives the atmosphere of a reunion on April 25-27. Three hundred attendees got reacquainted with each other and the impressive expansion of services at the Dubai Multi Commodities Center (DMCC).  

    Director of Agri Commodities Saeed Al Suwaidi, named to the post in January 2022, said that the DMCC Tea Center played a major role in positioning Dubai as the world’s largest re-exporter of tea.

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  • A Billion People Support Earth Day

    Earth Day Activities
    Click to view the Earth Day video

    Tea News for the week ending April 14

    | A Billion People Participate in Earth Day Activities
    Earth Day Organizers Honor Just Ice Tea Founder Seth Goldman

    | Iran Snubs India Suppliers as Tea Exports Set Record

    | Long-Running Drought in Kenya Depresses Tea Yields

    | PLUS Vahdam Tea founder Bala Sarda is launching a new line of 25 Indian spices grown free of adulterants and pesticides and manufactured without artificial colors. Initially, Vahdam spices will be sold directly to consumers and later offered in grocery stores.

    Hear the Headlines

    Hear the Headlines | Seven Minute Tea News Recap
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