• TeaFit: Unsweetened Iced Tea and Herbal Goodness

    Jyoti Bharadwaj launched TeaFit in 2021, offering a range of unsweetened iced tea and herbal blends. She has since added unsweetened premixes to the portfolio. For India, a country with a large population suffering from diabetes, she says, unsweetened beverages were needed, and tea offered the perfect vehicle. More recently, Jyoti was featured on Shark Tank India, where celebrity entrepreneurs agreed to invest INRs 50,00,000 rupees (USD $60,000) in the brand. Jyoti talks about functional, condition-specific, and ready-to-drink tea and how her brand is helping tea shed its fussy image. 

    TeaFit founder Jyoti Bharadwaj
    Joyti Bharadwaj, TeaFit, Shark Tank
    Joyti Bharadwaj and family pitch TeaFit on the Shark Tank TV program

    Aravinda Anantharaman: Will you share the story of how TeaFit came to be?

    Jyoti Bharadwaj: I have had a rather longer route to entrepreneurship. I wasn’t born to be an entrepreneur, nor do I come from a family of business people. We are the typical service-class India that focuses on education, focuses on grades, and you become an engineer, get into consulting, and do MBA, so that’s the route I had for myself as well. So I am an engineer. And then, I did my MBA from the Indian School of Business. Somewhere in the middle, for a couple of years. I did work in a large IT company. But I think that taught me what I don’t enjoy or what I’m not cut out to do. And thankfully, I learned that fairly early in life. After that, I did my MBA and have been building startups. So after two successful startups, I was honestly beginning to get a bit bored. Liabilities were taken care of, I had paid off my huge education loan, and I had a nice house in Bombay. And that was pretty much it. I was taken care of in that sense. So that itch to do something meaningful beyond the next job, I think, was gnawing at me a little bit. And also, my kids were really young. I was not enjoying staying away from my young ones for so long every day. 

    I have traveled to Japan quite a few times. And I really enjoyed the unsweetened beverage space of Japan. And just the pride the Japanese folks have in traditional cuisines that somehow pick up or resonate from their traditional teas, herbs, and botanicals. And so for every Cola or sugary beverage, you will find in vending machines 20 different types of teas that are made from greens, from oolong tea to matcha, you name it. And I was blown away by the kind of selection there and the access people had to good products or products that are good for you.

    When I visited the beverage aisle here back home, there were just three broad categories: Cola, fruit-based/sugar-based beverages, and energy drinks, and somewhere in the middle is where you have to make a choice. The whole game is pinned on the idea the Indian consumer wants things sweet. When you look at the options, they are so limited that you can’t really blame the typical consumer for picking what they do.

    Aravinda: So, what is TeaFit all about?

    Jyoti: I come from a diabetic family. My parents are diabetic, and I am borderline diabetic. India now has ten crore (100 million) diagnosed diabetics. It’s a serious number, and somewhere I felt that the responsibility lies with irresponsible brands in pushing such products. Mainstream marketing and kind of, making it cool to have this ten times a day, and associating it with aspiration, with happiness, and with, you know, all of the other strokes of marketing. So, like, the seed was there in a way to build something responsible, to build something intentional, where it’s not just less bad for you, things that are good for you that can be bottled up. 

    There are many herbal recipes from our own Ayurveda. We selected tea as a base to make the blends flavorful and light on the palate and not douse everything with loud flavor and sugar. So that’s where it came from, a very personal place, but I’m glad it found resonance in the larger customer base. 

    I would also like to say that with all the destruction that COVID caused, I think a small glimmer of hope that it gave everybody was that people got conscious of what they were consuming overnight, and label awareness grew. They wanted to read the back of the label slightly more than they did previously. So if earlier you saw a product that says ‘Good for you,’ or ‘Increases height,’ or ‘Loses weight,’ they would pick it up, but today, they flip the bottle around and see what’s actually there in the nutritional panel. So that’s, in a rather big nutshell, my journey. I’m glad that I’m representing responsible brands in the space, and it’s an absolute privilege to do what I do and to survive the early days of difficult days of the business to be here to be talking to you today.

    Aravinda: How difficult was TeaFit to formulate and produce? And what did you have to do to achieve healthful flavor? In India, I also feel that we have become so used to things being slightly exaggerated in flavors, right? More spice, more sweet, deep fried, and we tend to associate those with better taste. I think that’s sort of what we’ve been given. So, on the production side, what did you have to do to ensure you still retain the integrity of what you wanted the product to have without compromising on flavor?

    Jyoti: I would like to take a minute to highlight that I was clueless. I was as clueless about the business as the next person on the street. So it did take me longer to figure out. I literally Googled on day one of quitting my job, ‘How do you make iced tea at scale’? Everything started with Google. And then, very soon realized there was no way I could do this myself; I needed to find people who knew more than me playing Einstein. So I would say that whatever success I’ve achieved, I think that’s more to do with the kind of talent I have been able to convince to come on board than being able to solve things quickly myself. 

    So I researched the top leaders in Ayurveda, who are the product heads of large companies like Himalaya Herbal, and then I went and knocked on their door and begged them to come on board and work on this idea with me. My broad stroke problem statement was that the product we want is a healthy beverage with no sugar and a base in tea. It features herbs blended in combinations that help you fight the stresses of modern life. You’re always on the go; you’re always ordering in food, something that would, you know, that could help you with digestion, that could help you feel light, energizing, that doesn’t add to the sleepiness. 

    The initial journey was difficult until I found the right people to work with. I feel that when you start out with the right intention, you find good people to work with. So, I would like to highlight a pharma company in the Ayurvedic space they are based in Nashik called Rev Pharma. I was a one-woman army, they could just shut the door in my face, but they didn’t; they respected the idea. And they allowed me and my team to utilize the facility to do the entire product development, do the tinkering on Ayurvedic formulation, and see what kind of extracts we would need. Would we need powdered extracts, liquid extracts, or spray-dried extracts? But we did struggle to come to the right flavor initially in the absence of sugar because first, you take out sugar, then you add, you know, a blend of 15 herbs.

    Some herbs are as bitter as noni fruit. I’m not sure how aware you are, but it’s really bitter. You can’t really take even a spoonful of it. We wanted the benefits. We didn’t want the bitterness. That took a lot of time to get right. It did taste bitter for, I think first three productions. And I knew if it didn’t taste great or how good for you it is, nobody’s going to drink it. We added licorice to it, and we added cinnamon to it, which kind of fools your mouth into making the flavor palate a little more rounded, with a faint hint of sweetness. A lot of iterations are what it took for us to get to the product. 

    We also didn’t want to lose the delicate flavor, the notes of the tea. We use our tea from a single-origin farm in Assam called Zendai Tea Estate and another similar state in Kerala for green tea. Initially, the tea would be too strong, and it would just be very astringent. It would have lost its finer top notes. So then we redid the entire fabrication of the brewing process. The manufacturing plants in India are typically made for either carbonated beverages or they’re made for fruit-based beverages. So for our tea brewing and herb brewing, we had to set up a whole different line wherein you do it outside the filling line at the temperature you want and then introduce the brew into the main filling line. So it did take a while for us to figure it out. Lots of failed experiments where an entire batch was on the floor because the filter got choked. So we’ve also had a journey where because we have done things from the ground up, seen every possible thing that could go wrong, and therefore, you know, we are now doing it right.

    Aravinda: So how long did it take from you know the point when you started the R&D and to, say the first batch that you said, Okay, I think we’ve cracked it?

    Joyti: Fourteen months is what it took, from the sketch of the product. And I also was a little bit ziddii*, in the sense that I didn’t want to take shortcuts, so I didn’t want a bottle that existed. So this bottle, you see, was designed by the Indian School of Design and Innovation, so it did take me some time to figure out who would do the bottles for us. And when you’re new, you don’t know the limitations of the industry. So I didn’t know that if you have a bottle like this, it’s hard for you to do hot fill because the bottle collapses so I also figured out a lot of things along the way like I said, I’ve made every mistake I could have made, and I am still alive.

    Aravinda: That itself calls for congratulations. Why tea? Why was your starting point tea?

    Joyti: I felt the kind of products I wanted to make was hard to do in a fruit-based beverage, and power drinks I didn’t want to touch in the beginning because, like I was anti-everything that carbonated drinks stood for. And also like I’m a tea person. I like tea. So it started as a pet project of mine, I used to do it in the kitchen, you know, hibiscus tea, and all sorts of tea, barley tea when I came back from Japan, and people started liking it. So I was like, this is one thing I know how to do. And let me work on this. I also felt like it allowed for the botanicals to find a good home for being effective and finding a synergized flavor. If you put the same thing in juices, it just tastes very off.

    My Nanaji (maternal grandfather) used to make black lemon black tea, which is legendary in our whole locality. He’s no more; God bless his soul. But I think I was hooked on that. So the first two or three things I wanted: I wanted his lemon black tea. And also, Aravinda, from a business perspective, the drink itself was alien to the Indian consumer. There was no unsweetened drink per se like there was an odd water or a couple of other drinks like that, but there was no drink with a personality of its own and was unsweetened. So there was a bit of unfamiliarity to begin with. And we didn’t want to make it further unfamiliar, like adding two steps of alienation by creating a flavor that’s not mainstream. We wanted to go with the two most mainstream flavors which are lemon and peach in iced tea, and give that to customers saying, “Look, your lemon and peach iced tea could be this.” So that’s what we wanted to go ahead with, just making it less complex as an introduction or making it less complex to decide on the first purchase, the first trial.

    As a business owner, your holy grail is trials and then eventually the beats. So for a bootstrapped brand, if you have to pursue trials, either your packaging has to be phenomenal, the brand has to be really catchy and simple for you to understand, or the product has to be really simple for you to understand. So for all of these reasons, we wanted to keep the complications kind of as minimum as possible. We made lemon black tea, and we did a peach drink tea, and we did barley tea which was something that I personally liked a lot it has immense health benefits, and it will be tragic if people don’t get to try it. These are the three products that we started with.

    Aravinda: Would you say health is still the main marketing angle for tea? Do you think people respond to health and wellness as in the marketing conversations, or is it flavor?

    Jyoti: As a product-first company, I will say if you don’t have a strong product, no amount of positioning of the product will really get the customer pull. So first, the product has to be incredibly strong, which means it has to check all the boxes. If you ask me what is important – is the health angle important, is the flavor important, is the price point important, is the availability important – I would say all of these four, if they are in place, only then there’s a hope that you know the customer will discover you, will decide to part with his money to try your product. So in my case, I was hell-bent on finding the right flavor. We wanted customers to come for the flavor. You flex on the flavor, you know? Health is something we take care of, it’s something that is in the product, but you come for the flavor. 

    Even the premixes that we have launched, milk tea premixes, are unsweetened, but if you drink the product, it is phenomenal. We could have put fillers in it or done all kinds of shortcuts to arrive at a cheaper product that probably would appeal to a wider range of audiences. But we didn’t. We were like, this is what we’ll do, we’ll find our consumers, maybe everybody’s not my customer. It’s important to know how wide a net you want to cast because that will determine what kind of product you will develop.

    Aravinda: And with marketing, have you relied heavily on online and digital, or have you gone for a bit of both?

    Jyoti: We knew that we have to be present in the offline touchpoints, wherever impulse buying happens. And so we our first point of sale was not online or on our website. It was Nature’s Basket stores in Mumbai. We started with a few of them. And in the longer view, if I take a longer view of things, I would say that distribution is probably more important than anything else regarding the beverage business. By that, I mean trade, finding the right channels, setting up distributors, and ensuring your product is available. Because even after Shark Tank, I feel like I lost a lot of customers, or maybe I advertised for my competitors in that sense because our distribution was not there. If somebody in Delhi went to buy a TeaFit after watching us on Shark Tank, we were not available. A lot of marketing without distribution is marketing for the competitor. So we’ve not done a lot of marketing; we are looking to focus on building deeper distribution within Mumbai, within Pune, and then spread radially from there. And online and commerce, we are pretty much everywhere today, on Big Basket, Blinkit, and these platforms. So we want to be wherever the customer is, in the best, most cost-efficient way. And most of our marketing is organic, we do some marketing on the platforms where they’re on. Like, if you’re an Amazon, we’ll do some Marketing on Amazon. And similarly, for the e-commerce platforms, we do some marketing in stores where we are, we do sampling activities.

    A big blitz will get you trials, right? It will get your eyeballs, will definitely make people curious, and make them try. But if you don’t have the right product, they will not return. So I always insist that it is not the first PO or the first order that matters, but it’s also the second PO, right? The second order, or, you know, the second time the distributor calls you and says, I need to talk. And those are the real markers of where the business is going.

    TeaFit Youtube Channel

    Aravinda: Tell me about the Shark Tank experience. Why did you choose to go? What happened? How was it? And how has it been post that?

    Joyti: I don’t think I chose it. I think it chose me because there were so many people who applied for it. And all great businesses. Many far ahead in the journey than me. In fact, I applied last year, also. I was like two weeks, two months into the business, I had done a sum total of Rs 20,000 in revenue and applied. So the guts were always there. And I did get through all the rounds, even in the first season. But I was traveling when they wanted to come, so I had to skip it. This season, I didn’t apply with any hopes. Honestly, I’ve seen all 85 episodes of Shark Tank to know that it’s almost a fluke that you make it or it’s a stroke of luck. So I would say that probably my story resonated with them. There are a couple of rounds of applications wherein they ask what’s your big vision? What’s the big idea? What is it that you’re building? And if you get shortlisted for a second round, which is also written down but fairly detailed in terms of revenue, product market fit, and your footprints, all of that. And then, you have to submit a three-minute video pitch to them. If they like it, they call you. And that day, I didn’t have any baby care at home. So I took my kids with me on the day of the auditions. So whoever is in the audition must attend the final shoot. So I had to take them on the final shoot even though I was unsure how the kids would behave. But I guess it went well. I am generally not a very camera-friendly person. I prepped for it, and then I went. I had done the business in and out from day one alone. So those answers you will always have, and I felt like that came through well in the show. We got a lot of love. Our phone didn’t stop ringing for weeks. We had 300-350 distributor inquiries overnight; sales skyrocketed, and the website shut down… so all of the good things a business faces, we faced all of that, and it has given us like catapult us into a different stratosphere.

    So I was playing at a very small business level, now I would say that, you know, we are fighting bigger problems. I have a bigger team overnight now. I was doing a couple of interns and a friend. Now I’ll have like a legitimate team of people. More than anything, people know about the brand. People know what we do. So the kind of exposure the brand gets makes up for any inhibitions you have as a founder. If you’re a consumer brand, if you’re at a stage where your product is available for people to buy, I think you should absolutely do everything in your power to try and get your 15 minutes on TV.

    Aravinda: Are you still riding on the success of that?

    Jyoti: It doesn’t sustain in the way, it becomes 100x in the first month, right? And then it slows to 50-60x, but that 5-6x would have taken you that long to get there on your own. Honestly, it’s hard to quantify everything that comes your way. Sales are one way to quantify, but just the number of opportunities that come up… brands like Zepto, Blinkit, and other e-commerce platforms. If I were nobody, which I was before Shark Tank, it would be much harder to get into closed-door conversations like that. And platforms like that, just access becomes a lot easier. I’ve been meeting people like Harsh Mariwala, and just being able to pick their brains for even a five-minute conversation, it’s a whole different mindset that it puts you into. You start to think about what’s possible and think of bigger possibilities for yourself, the brand, and what it can do. And, you know, you start to believe in leapfrogging and not just building brick by brick. This was one such milestone for us.

    Aravinda: Do you want TeaFit to be seen as a tea brand? One of the things within the industry I hear is that coffee is cool; tea hasn’t been able to crack that and get younger customers. Something like TeaFit would, I imagine, interest younger people. So how does TeaFit fit into the larger developments shaping Indian tea?

    Joyti: So we feel like there’s a ton of scope to make tea cool, and tea associated with the elderly is, I think, an idea of yesterday purely because it has not been presented in the way with the amount of cool as that coffee does. As a tea-drinking country, I feel like there is an absolutely wide open gap to create a brand that is intentional that is responsible that is cool that is that aligns with the value systems of the young buyer today, and we absolutely consider ourselves to be a tea band before you know any other brands so There’s a lot of innovation that we are currently working on, to innovate on different products and incorporate tea in it. Maybe chocolates. We are working on not just a vertical extension of the product but also taking it horizontally and seeing what else we can do with tea and what other products we can incorporate tea into. I feel like we are at a stage where discerning young people want more than traditional cola/ energy drinks. You do see a lot of experimentation in the cocktail space, in the cocktail/mocktail space, the party space, so to speak. I feel like no innovation has happened in the tea and RTD beverages. So we’re glad to be going after that space and building a brand that resonates with the youth and hopefully makes tea drinking as cool as coffee.

    *Ziddii: Adjective. Headstrong, stubborn, obstinate, intractable, adamant, obdurate, intractable. Rekhta Dictionary

  • Revised TRA Standards Promote Tea Sustainability

    Growers worldwide adhere to the Tocklai Tea Research Institute’s Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) standards. The standards, based on decades of research and development, date to the early 1900s, with frequent updates. The latest update, titled TRA-Tocklai GAP-GMP Standard, will be available January 2023. The revisions are necessary to help growers and manufacturers improve soils, protect natural ecosystems, encourage diversity, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and establish a more climate-resilient tea industry, according to TRA. The new standards closely align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.

    Listen to the Interview

    Joydeep Phukan discusses revisions to TRA’s ag standards to improve tea sustainability
    Joydeep Phukan, the Principal Officer and Secretary of India’s Tea Research Association

    New Tea Policy Emphasizes Quality Evaluation

    India is seeking ways to improve tea quality. In January, the Tea Research Association (TRA) will implement a unified agricultural standard for tea fields and factories. Introduced in September, the revised standards align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, explains Joydeep Phukan TRA’s Principal Officer and Secretary. He said that India’s tea sector is experiencing environmental and social changes that impact the livelihood of 10 million people, including 1.2 directly employed in the regulated tea gardens (RTG). Phukan has managed the research institute for the past 16 years. Before that, he was Assistant Secretary of the Indian Tea Association and Asst. Secretary at the Guwahati Tea Auction Center. He graduated with a degree in History and has a master’s in Management studies.

    Dan Bolton: Will you share some details about TRA’s new ag standards?

    Joydeep Phukan: Certainly. Tocklai is in its 111th year of non-stop operations. Over the years, we have come out with many different agricultural and manufacturing advisories, which have become the standard for the tea industry in India, and elsewhere.

    It’s two-way traffic. We learn from the practical problems faced by the industry in the field through our vast advisory network spread out in nine Indian states, our scientists work on that, and then we come out with solutions to the industry. These advisories are documented in the TRA Field Management Book, TRA Planters Handbook, and the Tea Encyclopaedia of TRA

    Since the advisories were spread out and extensive, we considered summarizing them into a few chapters to create a Bible for the industry. We began by collating the pillars of our advisories and condensed them into seven chapters aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals covering 2, 4, 13, and 15 of the SDGs

    Tocklai’s Good Agricultural Practices GAP and GMP are based on hardcore research on tea done by our scientists over the last 111 years. We added a few more chapters primarily to address the industry’s sustainability issues.

    GAP is a dynamic document; as we go ahead, we will add on things and discard what is no longer beneficial. We are doing it through a consultative process with the industry. A standards committee within our organization reviews our standards from time to time.

    “This is a dynamic document; as we go ahead, we add on things and discard which are not beneficial. We are doing it through a consultative process with the industry. A standards committee within our organization reviews our standards from time to time.”

    Joydeep Phukan

    Dan: How do these standards differ from third-party certification by organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance, which introduced a new sustainable ag standard in June 2020?

    Joydeep: The main difference between our standards and those developed by third-party certifiers is that our standards are backed by scientific research carried out by our scientists. There is scientific evidence for every practical recommendation that works well in the tea industry.

    Sustainability has been a buzzword for the last 25 years. When you look at the Indian tea industry, you see that we at TRA Tocklai have been researching and publishing advisories to make tea more sustainable for more than a hundred years.

    Third-party certifiers bring in many things which are not based on their own work and or scientifically backed. Many certifications use a fit-all model where tea is put in the same basket as other commodities. 

    Initially, we are concentrating on the TRA GAP GMP standards for the regulated sector in India, but gradually we will include advisories specific to small growers so that there is one standard for the industry. Assam’s Government has mandated TRA Tocklai to provide R&D support to more than 200,000 smallholders in Assam.

    The Central Research Facility, occasionally referred to as the New Research Building, was constructed in the year 1999. It houses the major research departments of Biochemistry, Plant Physiology & Breeding, Biotechnology, Soils, Entomology and Mycology & Microbiology.
    The Central Research Facility, which opened in 1999, houses the major research departments of Biochemistry, Plant Physiology & Breeding, Biotechnology, Soils, Entomology, Mycology & Microbiology. Photo courtesy TRA.

    Dan: When farms and factories adhere to these standards, are they recognized for their effort? Do they receive a certificate attesting to the fact they adhere to TRA’s best practices?

    Joydeep: Yes. Our advisory network is spread out across Northeast India. They visit every TRA member’s gardens twice a year. They have to review each aspect of their operations against these standards. Once they are fulfilled, the gardens will be certified annually and receive a certificate for adherence to the adoption of best practices. There is no additional cost for the TRA members.

    Member estates of TRA comprise almost 90% of the organized sector in North India, covering nine Indian states in East and Northeast India.

    Dan: After inspections are completed, do growers and manufacturers receive a report indicating what they’ve achieved and what improvements to focus on?

    Joydeep: Yes. They will receive a report indicating how they have fared vis-à-vis the standards. If there are shortcomings, we will help them improve the estate’s compliance with the standards. Most of our members implement the TRA recommendations, and some go beyond, by implementing new ideas. We also plan to share the best practices followed by certain estates/companies within the code if the concerned company agrees to share the same.

    Dan: Gardens that conform to various standards may tick the boxes and demonstrate lowered emissions, but standards alone do not ensure better tasting tea. Will you discuss the importance of teaching growers how to improve the quality of their pluck and the fundamentals of manufacturing good tea?

    Joydeep: That’s a very good question. It is not enough to lay standards and certify them on paper. We must walk the talk to teach our members better plucking and manufacturing. Although the perception of quality differs, the basic standards of plucking and manufacturing must be maintained. At TRA we have organized hundreds of onsite workshops for small tea growers on good plucking standards. Parallelly, we are aggressively organizing cold weather and early weather workshops for all our member estates on the care they should take for better plucking standards. 

    TRA has a dedicated tea manufacturing advisory service. The TMAS team which consists of a biochemist, a tea taster, and a tea technologist will hand-hold tea makers in tea factories and train them on quality manufacturing. Apart from our model tea factory at Tocklai, we are coming up with another model tea factory at Nagrakata in Dooars for gardens to experiment with quality tea manufacturing. We are also considering training estates on Orthodox tea making which should see good demand amongst our industry.

    Soil plays a significant role in long-term sustainability, and the method of regenerative agriculture developed by TRA will go a long way in addressing soil health issues at a much lower cost.

    Tocklai Tea Directorate

    Dan: Truly sustainable production is profitable, which, due to today’s costs, demands the additional revenue generated by value-added tea, right? Will you talk about how India can add value to generate more revenue?

    Joydeep: Tea is a commercial business for everyone in the organized sector, including the small grower. To produce truly sustainable tea, you must be economically sustainable. Ultimately if the venture is not commercially sound, no one will invest the money to make a plantation sustainable.

    Indian tea is sold mainly as a commodity; accordingly, as each commodity has its own cycles, it also has its ups and downs. It’s high time tea producers see merit in their produce and market directly as a brand. Today we have many channels to sell our products and many consumers. The pandemic was a blessing in disguise, and many tea companies tried out their own selling and distribution platforms. We need to scale this up fast to have visibility across the digital platform.

    However, with all efforts, if we can’t increase tea consumption, these measures will not bear fruit. Attracting millennials and GenZ to drink more tea is crucial. The tea industry needs to have a well-thought-out plan and execute it meticulously to attract them.

    Interestingly, the young generation, whom we target to drink more tea, are conscious of the environment and like to experiment. They have a strong digital footprint. We from the industry need to act together to position our product with the right message. The young generation surely will pick up the threads and make tea their preferred drink. If the new generation feels for a cause or a product, money is not an issue for them. So that’s how we can get our value from the tea.

    Download: Tea Research Association Vision 2030

    Tocklai Tea Research Institute

    Tocklai Small Tea Growers Training & Research Centre, Jorhat, Assam

    Good Agriculture Practices (GAP)

    Agrotechnology developed by Tocklai is primarily based on GAP principles and implemented through a strong network that provides advisory services. The network covers all of Northeastern India. One area of research is optimizing process parameters for black tea processing. ECM (Environmentally Controlled Manufacturing) and Model tea manufacturing enable tea processors to achieve ECM objectives. Fertilizers are checked for the presence of hazardous substances before application, and recommended pesticides are sprayed on tea bushes to ensure that no pesticide exceeds the permissible limit of MRL (maximum residue levels). Meeting the regulatory requirements in domestic as well as global markets under Sanitation and Phytosanitation (SPS) measures under WTO are one of the challenges to be dealt with appropriately in the coming years. TRA research efforts need to be continuously focused on ensuring quality at the farm gate. Research data is regularly updated to help develop quality standards for conformance.

    Assam’s Proposed Tea Policy

    Assam’s chief minister has proposed financing several activities to further develop the tea industry in terms of quality, and valuation, not only in tea but other by-products like tourism. Group A initiatives offer incentives for all gardens. Group B initiatives are exclusively for small growers. Together they will help establish brand identity for the state.

    Similarly, the central government of India is also promoting quality, product diversification, and market access. These initiatives require substantial money to be allocated both by the state government and the central government.

    The focus is on quality evaluation and new markets, a combination that will re-energize the sector and make it sustainable.

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  • Grassroots Tea

    Equifarm tea is a new brand with deep roots. In 2017 New Delhi-based Grassroots Tea Corp. first shared its vision for transforming the livelihoods of 250,000 of India’s small tea growers (STGs) by processing and marketing well-made chemical-free teas. Subsistence growers with generations of experience understand how to cultivate tea but are held back by their inability to add value. Few advance beyond a time-bound role as raw leaf suppliers. Grassroots helps secure financing and then aggregates, repacks, wholesales, and retails authentic teas supplied by collectives. Tea Producer Companies then partner with the collectives to operate mini-factories that process 2,500 kilos of green leaf a day.

    Photo caption: From left, Sabin Narzary,  Sanibar Boro, Assaigra Boro, Thapsa Boro, Baburam Daimary, Pijush Goyary, Ajith Boro, Bijoy Boro, Kukhol Boro,  J. John, Minto Goswami,  and Sanjwrang Basumatary.

    Smallholders in Assam supply green leaf to locally owned mini-factories. Photos courtesy of J. John.

    Assam Smallholders Express Pride of Ownership

    By Roopak Goswami

    Tea grower Sabin Narzary, 32, is proud and brimming with confidence, as are 260 small tea farmers in the Udalguri and Biswanath districts of Assam.

    All are shareholders in a tea producer company, a new business model that enables subsistence growers to finance mini-factories and create local brands collectively. Their new equifarm tea is now on sale on Amazon. The Grassroots Tea Corporation (GTC) launched the product during a virtual meeting on Oct. 8.

    Two weeks later their teas debuted on Amazon.in priced from INRs 360 to 605 (US$4.85-$8.15 for 250 grams).

    Sabin Narzary

    In 2017 New Delhi-based Grassroots Tea Corp. first shared its vision for transforming the livelihoods of 250,000 small tea growers (STGs) by processing and marketing well-made chemical-free teas. Subsistence growers with generations of experience understand how to cultivate tea but are held back by their inability to add value. Few advance beyond a time-bound role as raw leaf suppliers.

    “I have not heard about growers becoming shareholders in the small tea grower sector,” says Narzary, a father of two who was raised in Khasiapather. Small tea growers now produce more than half of the millions of metric tons of green leaf grown in India. Producer-members of the Swmkhwr Valley Tea Producer Company contribute green leaf and are granted shares in the venture.

    Smallholders in 2020 produced 52% of India’s tea, primarily for production as black CTC (cut, tear, curl) but with a growing segment of specialty tea producers.

    The equifarm brand’s tea range includes Premium Orthodox Whole Leaf, Premium Orthodox packaged in stand-up pouches, and orthodox tea and green tea in teabags. Initially, it will be available online on major e-commerce portals like Amazon, Flipkart, and selected cloud kitchens.

    Shortly after it was founded, Grassroots Tea encouraged a group of 260 indigenous Bodo small tea farmers in Assam’s Udalguri and Biswanath districts to set up four manufacturing units to process green tea leaves sourced from their farms. Each unit required an investment of INRs 1.3 crores (about US$175,000) to purchase the property, structure, tea-making machinery, and other equipment. The four factories raised the required capital – as equity and as a term loan from Financial Services Limited (NABFIN), a subsidiary of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

    Ten years ago “We were not getting good prices as we used to sell our leaves individually [to bought leaf factories],” explains Narzary. One of the biggest problems and worries of small tea growers in Assam are getting low prices for the green leaf as they are dependent on bought leaf factories.

    Protests and demonstrations are ongoing. The Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA) says that bought leaf factories pay an average of INRs 15-17 (US$0.20 – 0.23) per kilo for green leaf growers in Assam and West Bengal. Growers say the cost of producing green leaf has increased as much as INRs 19 (US$0.25) per kg due to shipping expense and a tightening supply of fertilizer and other inputs increasing the cost of production.

    He said the entry of Centre for Education and Communication (CEC) New Delhi and J. John changed all that, and the growers formed a society to get a higher price for the leaf they supply to the processing factories. The collective leaf trade fuelled the leadership and entrepreneurial aspirations of kindling their desire to move up the value chain. The societies brought their active members as shareholders to constitute producer companies.

    While taking advantage of a ‘Company’ registration, like raising capital and sharing profit, the Producer Company framework has the advantage that it runs based on cooperative principles. The shareholders are ‘active producers,’ which means only those who contribute to the supply of green tea leaves can participate. Each shareholder has one vote irrespective of the number of shares owned.

    “Our lives are now completely transformed as we are getting good prices for the green leaf and have learnt a lot about tea,” he says.

    Kukhol Boro says one of the most significant learning has been the advantage of being united. “Earlier we were selling our green leaf only by ourselves and did not get good prices, later when we became a society, we got better prices,” he says.

    “We had difficulties in getting compliances, but now, we can proudly say that we have a factory of our own where we manufacture tea all by ourselves, a dream that we have been chasing for the last eight to 10 years.

    Today after many ups and downs, we could make it happen,” he said.

    Equifarm tea

    “We have many more miles to go, but today is the beginning, today is the day of farmers, today is the day of GTC. Let the small tea growers of the world unite and be active part of the value chain,” Kukhol Boro said.

    “We could never imagine that one day the growers would be owning factories as members of societies,” added Kukhol Boro.

    Grassroots Tea has a packaging unit in Barpeta, Assam.

    “It is a market linked to the farmers’ movement in which farmers own and govern various stages of value accrual of an ethical product and obtain a reasonable share of the value accrued. It also establishes a direct connect between farmers and consumers by making available high quality ethical, ecologically sound and traceable natural tea,” said J. John, managing director of Grassroots Tea.

    GTC provides support at three distinct stages: empowering small tea growers (STGs) to cultivate chemical-free tea; assisting STGs in raising equity to set up Tea Producer Companies (under the Company Act, 1953) to build processing factories that manufacture high quality, certified orthodox tea; and when the tea is made Grassroots aggregates and markets the tea to conscious consumers under the joint ‘equifarm tea’ brand.

    Teas are natural, traceable, single-origin (subsumed within geographical indicators); made and owned by small tea farmers, ensuring a sustainable livelihood and an optimum share of the profits, he said.

    “Our long term vision is to transform socio-economic outcomes for 250,000 small tea growers at risk, in India. We want to ensure dignity and economic justice for all STGs by enabling fair compensation at multiple levels of value accrual throughout the value chain,” John says.

    India needs an alternate model for the tea-value chain as a core strategy to drive systemic change. In this model, subsistence tea farmers organize in collectives that own and actively participate in the value-creation and value-sharing processes, he explains.

    “As part of our long-term vision, we will facilitate the setting up of more STG owned tea producer companies (TPC) across India, directly impacting larger number of STG households and worker households,” he added. In time big brands and retailers will recognize and execute, the principle of fair compensation at value accruals.

    At the virtual launch event, Adina Pasula, Supply Chain leader, IKEA, Sweden, commented on the distress faced by small-time farmers across the world: “Social entrepreneurship like the equifarm tea is contributing in addressing their plight,” she said. Initiatives of this nature lead to systemic change and would have a collective impact across stakeholders at various levels, she said.

    NABARD General Manager Baiju Kurup praised the GTC model. He said that during the “last couple of years, NABARD’s major focus has been in the facilitation of the aggregation of farmers to a farmers’ producer company, or FPO, where better share of the price can be transferred to the producers so that they enjoy better price realization.”

    CISTA president Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty said, “in equifarm tea, we see the prominent footprint of the small tea growers in India.”

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  • Folklore Tea

    A recent development in tea in India has been the rise of new brands, many that have their roots in tea regions. Almost all of them seek to bridge producers and consumers. Most rely on the narrative that accompanies a product from its place of origin. For consumers, it’s in part vicarious living and a window to another world. This is as good as it gets for those who want to know who made their tea and where it comes from.

    Listen to the interview

    A conversation with Subhasish Borah, co-founder Folklore Tea, Assam

    Birinci Borah at Folklore Tea

    Exceptionally Local Teas that Connect with Consumers

    By Aravinda Anantharaman

    Emphasizing the local characteristics of Assam (instead of crafting tea to the expectations of export markets) shows respect for the land, customs, and artisanal craft, according to Folklore Tea co-founders Subhasish Borah, an urban planner, and Bidisha Das, a business management grad.

    Folklore Tea founders Bidisha Das, left, and Subhasish Borah

    Folklore Tea, based in Guwahati, actively works with farmers to become something more than a marketing platform for their teas, explains Borah, 30, and Das, 29. The couple run the Kohuwa Collective, a space that comes with a slow food café and tea room, with rooms for collaborative clothing and pottery workshops – concepts that seem to drive their work. They launched Folklore early in 2020 and, as a brand, are keen to carry the farmers’ stories.

    Folklore is anchored in the idea of storytelling and connecting to consumers intimately. Each tea acknowledges the farmer who grew it. Each tea is given a name, and a poem accompanies it.

    Each eco-friendly packet is numbered with a handwritten note addressing the recipient. And while this helps connect with the drinker, it’s not Folklore’s unique sales proposition. That lies in the experiments and work they do with their farmers.

    Folklore works with three small growers, Beeman Agarwalla, Birinsi Borah, and Tarun Gogoi, who collectively cultivate about three hectares (seven acres) of tea. They also run Prithivi, a farmer producer company that now includes 56 members with farms ranging from 0.2 to 3 hectares in size. All the growers are geographically located close to each other, making this a community enterprise. Beeman, Birinci, and Tarun have chosen organic farming and work with the other members to convert inorganic farms to organic. The process takes a long time, up to five years, during which farmers have to face a loss in yield and income. The association supports them by way of small scholarships for children and providing compost from a small vermicomposting unit.

    Beeman Agarwalla and Tarun Gogoi. Behind it all, there are real people – small tea growers whose innovation improves the craft and whose land stewardship protects the environment and the quality of your tea.

    “Behind it all, there are real people – small tea growers whose innovation improves the craft and whose land stewardship protects the environment and the quality of your tea. It is their passion that makes the tea taste better.” – Folklore Tea

    In Assam, small tea growers sell their green leaves to bought leaf factories that manufacture and sell tea. Most of these factories make CTC tea, which is bought and blended for the domestic market. Farmers adopting organic cultivation find no advantages in price as CTC factories are not always organic. Here, the tea is mixed, and the source and style of cultivation are lost. With no advantages to producing organic tea, the farmer has no incentive to stay the course. And this is something that Folklore is trying to address.

    Subhasish describes a proposed project for a mini-community factory that will be used to manufacture organic CTC with leaves sourced from their own farmer community. Currently, they have six small units where their tea is made. These units are not heavily equipped with machinery, and even the CTC is made using traditional wooden tools.

    Related: A Local Movement is Brewing in Assam

    “Right now, there are 56 growers who have joined us. So, collectively, whenever we will be able to set up the factory then we have a huge leaf bank. If we get this funding, which I’m not sure we will get, then of course we go for CTC as it will help not only these three people but all 56 families. That means almost 180 people will be benefited with this factory, it will be huge change in the village,” he said.

    “Whatever we can do in terms of packaging, design, or marketing will help them,” he said.

    Folklore’s association with Prithivi is a close and mutually beneficial one. Prithvi and its farmers brought knowledge of cultivars and tea making, along with market intelligence. Says Subhasish, “Most of the small tea growers with whom we are working started back in the early 1990s. They planted whatever tea bushes they could get from nearby tea gardens. The knowledge of cultivars was not very prominent at that time.”

    The Folklore team decided to study tea and brought knowledge and the willingness to experiment in tea making. Their experiments are with clones, leaf-to-bud ratio, and processing methods such as pan-roasting and naturally scenting tea. Only a small volume of made tea, not more than 300-350 kilos, is sold under the Folklore brand, primarily black and oolong whole leaf tea and some CTC.

    On average a small tea grower can pluck 6-7 kilos of unprocessed tea daily to make 3-4 kilos of finished tea.

    They are experimenting with rolling techniques to improve appearance, experimenting with blending to get the right flavor. And they have also taken on the immense challenge that oolong brings to tea making.

    Artisanal tea making is still has a niche market within India. Folklore seems conscious of this, taking a B2C approach for India and a B2B platform that caters to a global market, with customers in the US, Canada, UK, and Australia. Since the scale is still small, the brand can sustain its relationship and customer base.

    As Subhasish says, there are two main challenges and opportunities of Assam’s tea industry: people who live in the tea areas of the state don’t know enough about loose leaf teas. The irony of producing one of the finest teas and yet sending them to faraway markets is the story across India’s tea-growing regions.

    “It’s very sad,” says Subhasish, “because people in their own region, especially in the villages and towns that are surrounded by tea gardens, the people don’t know much about loose leaf teas. It’s absurd that mainstream media is promoting the concept of green tea in Assam. Green teas have been grown here for years. It is supposed to be the other way around,” he says.

    “Paying 500 rupees for a kilo of tea is not a thing here,” he says. The economic status is not very high. Assam’s annual per capita income is INRs 119,155 ($1,700 compared to the all-India average of $2,100 per capita).

    “People collectively have less money so marketing loose leaf teas at a higher price is difficult. It takes a lot of effort to make loose leaf tea and if you’re selling it for let’s say INRs 300 to 400 rupees per kilo then it’s not giving me anything.

    “Consider that you can get a kilo of CTC for INRs 90 to 100 rupees ($1.20). In this scenario everyone is going to buy CTC but it’s weird. In Assam the culture of water-based tea is also very high but that water-based tea is made using CTC, not loose leaf teas.

    “Most of the growers face difficulties here, they don’t have the human resources or the financial resources to do marketing or packaging. Many people who start making teas go back to selling fresh leaves so that they don’t have to think about marketing again. And many people go back to inorganic because if they ultimately have to sell the leaves to bought leaf factories then then there is no point in maintaining organic because the factories are not certified to process organic tea,” he said.

    Due to financial limitations, few of our growers can afford the expense of the organic certification process, but the growers are far beyond it. They preserve ancient processing traditions and care deeply about their environment. They put their heart and soul into the teas they make naturally, says Subhasish.

    As much as the conversation is on branding and experimentation, ultimately, what will make a brand like Folklore work is its impact on the community. Already there are plans to set up a bamboo cottage on one of the tea farms open for experiential travel. Assam has a lot on offer, from textiles to food, and of course tea. “We want to bring people,” says Subhasish. We want to show the things that are going on here. That it’s not only tea, but a lot of associated cultural elements too.” He talks about the vision to make the area an open museum, where “the entire place can act as a museum, all the houses can act as a museum and the traditional tools which are used in the processing are living heritage.”

    Subhasish describes Folklore as a “passion project.” Perhaps that’s what Assam needs more of, passionate marketers who can join hands with farmers to create quality teas and find a market for them for the greater good of the community. And if it includes nudging local preferences towards better tea for their consumption, that’s a bonus. 

    Trouville Black Tea

    People have spun stories on my genesis.
    Was it a monk who discovered me? or
    Was it a king who dropped me in boiling water?
    Yet my origin is unknown
    Since then, I have grown
    And grew and grew some more
    Moving across spaces and borders
    A living chronicle of several cultures.
    I’m Trouville. I was found through pure chance.

    Subhasish Borah

    Birinci with his wife. Small holder farms ranges from a half an acre to seven acres.

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  • Adapting to Climate Change

    New study recommends motivational campaigns, demonstrations, training, and extension work to encourage growers large and small to adapt to climate change.

    Rosekandy Tea Estate
    Reservoirs conserve rainwater harvested at Rosekandy Tea Estate. Photo courtesy Rosekandy TE.

    Tea Garden Managers in Assam Confront Climate Change

    The threat of climate change looms large in tea. “There is increasing evidence that climate change will strongly affect tea cultivation,” concludes a study of growers in Assam, the world’s top tea producing region.

    Garden managers in Assam are responding to the threat with adaptive measures that growers will find useful in many tea lands. These include rainwater harvesting to enable irrigation during dry spells, reforestation, conservation of biodiversity, soil mulching, and the creation of wind barriers that combine to mitigate the threat.

    To better understand the seriousness of the situation and to discover local adaptations, two scientists at the Tocklai TRA (Tea Research Association) in Jorhat sent questionnaires to growers in four regions of Assam – Upper Assam, South Bank [of the Brahmaputra River], North Bank and Cachar. Combined, these regions produce about 12% the world’s tea, supporting the livelihood of 1.2 million workers.

    The study Perception of Climate Change and Adaptation Strategies in Tea Plantations of Assam India analyzed tea growers’ awareness of climate change, its impact on tea, adaptive approaches undertaken and future strategies. The study was recently published in Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, a peer reviewed, scientific journal published by Springer. The work was authored by Dr. Pradip Baruah and Dr. Gautam Handique at Tocklai.

    The scientists note that climate change is a global concern with impacts that vary at the farm level. The majority of respondents were aware of changing climate conditions and the effect on tea production. How farmers respond to climate change needs to be precisely understood if the government, policymakers and researchers are to effectively support adaptive and mitigative approaches for the tea crop. Data was received from 83 tea estates.

    The impact of higher temperatures, erratic and often torrential rains are evident, according to Dr. Baruah, monitors weather and growing conditions and regularly shares his findings and advice online like in this March 15 tweet: “Rainfall has been quite scanty so far this year in Assam tea areas. Irrigation is still on in a Golaghat area tea estate today, which is mid of March.”

    Rainfall has been quite scanty so far this year in Assam tea areas. Irrigation is still on at a Golaghat area tea estate today, which is the mid of March. – Dr. Pradip Baruah

    The study revealed that most respondents (85.5%) were ‘deeply concerned’ about climate change, 9.6% were ‘somewhat concerned’ and only 4.8% were ‘unconcerned’ regarding climate change.

    Three quarters of respondents (78.3%) reported a decline in productivity while 12% were uncertain. Only 9.6% of the respondents suggested that tea production was not vulnerable to climate change. Respondents from gardens along the South Bank of the Brahmaputra River report the greatest impact, followed by North Bank growers and those in the Cachar region. A majority in every region confirmed that climate change, visible as spikes in temperature, drought, and variations in rainfall, was significantly affecting their crop production.

    Tea depends greatly on rainfall for optimal growth. Leaf productivity and the bushes are harmed by either an excess or shortage of water. Respondents said adverse conditions such as prolonged drought during winter and/or periodic heavy rainfall in recent years pose a threat to the sustainability of the crop. 

    The study pointed out that rains have become unpredictable with some regions suffering from prolonged dry spells, while other experience incessant rain particularly during the monsoon months. Respondents said climate change has also led to an increase in insect and disease infestation.

    In July 2020 the Brahmaputra River inundated around 26 districts, driving 2.8 million from their homes and killing 123. 

    Assam recorded 1,164mm of rainfall compared to a normal monthly average of 894mm during July 2020, an excess of nearly 30% (see map). The catchment areas of nearby states, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim also received excess rainfall 16% and 45%. – NASA Earth Observatory

    “As future management strategies, tea growers have opted to gradually replace synthetic fertilizers with organic manures and pesticides, construct anti-erosion measures along river sides and embankments, and generate awareness programs” according to to the study.

    Adaptive Measures

    The Rosekandy Tea Estate in Cachar in South Assam anticipated the local impacts of a changing climate as early as 1982.

    Ishwarbhai Ubhadia, general manager at Rosekandy TE, told Tea Biz, “We have created rainwater harvesting ponds all over the estate. We now have a 100 hectare area under water,” he said. “Wind belts have been created and we have maintained 500 hectares of reserve forest to maintain micro-climate and ecological balance,” he said. Installation of 70- kilowatt powered solar plant is underway. The generator will be commissioned by April, he said, adding that hunting of birds and animals on the land is now prohibited. 

    Garden managers expressed optimism in applying strategies to mitigate climate change. Rainwater harvesting and irrigation are now common in Upper Assam and along the South Bank, North Bank and Cachar. Adaptive measures like reforestation programs and the creation of wind barriers were mostly implemented in Cachar as compared with Upper Assam. Cachar and South Bank gardens are more likely to practice of soil mulching compared with the North Bank.

    In-situ water conservation largely consists of constructing artificial ponds and lakes and developing existing natural water bodies such as streams, rivulets, swamps, and low-lying areas. “Rainwater harvesting increases the amount of water per unit in cropping areas, reduces drought impact and enables the use of run-of beneficially,” according to the study.

    Rooftop harvesting at Heeleakah Tea Estate is low cost and effective. Water is stored and used for consumption, tea tasting, dehumidification, etc. In the garden, rainwater ponds and reforestation programs establish a microclimate ideally suited to growing tea. Photo by Dr. Pradip Baruah.

    Photo by Dr. Pradip Baruah.

    Mulching conserves soil moisture, reduces surface runoff and soil erosion and lower soil temperature. To minimize the impact of wind speed, respondents are constructing wind barriers to deflect high velocity of winds that increase evapotranspiration and desiccation, lodging in young tea plants, uprooting of shade trees, etc.

    Dr. Baruah says the impact of climate change is readily evident. “The first and second flush tea is getting affected. More needs to be done with regard to ecological micro-management by planting various types of trees,” he said.

    “Climate change is dynamic, impacting all but it needs a total approach at global and local level,” writes Dr. Baruah. “The good thing is that the tea estates have the capability of doing it to a great extent in different topographical and agro-climate conditions. Results are absolutely visible in Cachar area tea estates and in other areas of the state,” he says. “It is never too late but trying to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change is the only way ahead,” he said.

    The study says coal and natural gas are extensively used in tea production and can be gradually replaced with new, cleaner technologies. “However, the cost economics, availability and energy efficiency standards of such ‘green energy’ will have to be properly worked out before essentially implementing in tea plantations. Similarly, the gradual replacement of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides with organic ones will be a welcoming step, but at the same time, one has to look at the practical feasibility and cost economics of such implementation” the scientists involved in the study say. 

    Plan of Action
    The proportion of tea plantations proposing future strategies like planting of tolerant/resistant tea cultivars and awareness and training programs among workers and associated people is higher for South Bank and North Bank as compared with that of Upper Assam. The  proportion of tea plantations proposing future strategy of awareness and training programs among workers and associated people were in favor of South Bank and North Bank, respectively.

    Scientists say the present study will be helpful to make more informed future strategies regarding best practices for tea cultivation under a changing climate for tea-growing regions all over the world.

    The Way Forward
    During a virtual International Tea Day panel discussion last year, FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, cited the importance of achieving greater sustainability in the tea sector. Panelists agreed on the need to develop strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation, promote market transparency and sustainability of the tea value chain and develop policies for sustainable tea production benefiting, first and foremost, smallholder farmers. FAO has since launched projects to develop carbon-neutral tea cultivation (see below).

    FAO’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea when it last met formally in 2018, warned that tea cultivation and production globally is facing climate-related challenges which need to be addressed. Delegates concluded that “Climate variability, incidents of frost and prevalence of pests, also have an influence on tea production, and are beginning to affect productivity.”

    The Assam study calls for motivational campaigns, demonstrations, training and extension work to encourage adoption of climate change. “The implementation of long-term policies for climate change by the government needs to be strengthened so that the benefits reach every tea plantation and if necessary, subsidiary schemes can be developed by the government to encourage more adoption of such techniques” the study says.

    Rainwater harvesting
    Developing rainwater catchments creates a micro-climate ideal for growing tea. Photo by Dr. Pradip Baruah.

    FAO Launches Carbon-Neutral Tea Project in Kenya

    The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is working with tea growers in Kenya to pioneer carbon-neutral tea.

    The program attempts to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at each stage in the tea value chain.

    The project will use carbon-neutral tea production methodologies developed in China by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) as well as new technologies to tackle climate change through energy efficiency, tried and tested in the Kenyan tea sector by the German Development Agency (GIZ).

    Scientists will prioritise energy and resource efficiency in tea factories through technology transfers, implementation of effective monitoring management, green procurement guidelines and factory automation.

    The project will also address the first stages of the tea value chain and the cultivation of tea bushes using low carbon practices including the reduction of fertilizers and pesticides, the support of carbon sequestration and soil conservation.

    Energy Live News

    Resource Links

    International Trade Center
    Mitigating Climate Change in Tea Sector (2014)
    Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
    Carbon-Neutral Tea Production in China (2019)
    FAO Intergovernmental Group on Tea (23rd Session)
    Fostering Sustainability in Tea Production (2018)

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