• Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 34

    Tea Biz Podcast Logo

    Listen on your favorite player

    Hear the Headlines

    | Sri Lanka Tea Yields Feared to Decline
    | McLeod Russel Settlement Resolves Insolvency
    | Bangladesh Tea Sector Returns to Pre-Pandemic Production Levels

    Seven-minute Tea News Recap

    Tea Price Report
    Sept 4 – Sale 35

    India Tea Price Watch

    The South India Tea Exporters Association, led by Chairman Dipak Shah, identified twin problems that have continued to be a significant challenge this year: one is the rising cost of ocean freight, and the second is the problem of pesticides in tea where the onus of testing for permissible residue levels lies with the producers. But the liability – should tea be rejected by the buyer – rests with the exporter. Learn more…. – Aravinda Anantharaman


    This week Tea Biz visits with Rare Tea Lady Henrietta Lovell whose passion for tea is exceeded only by her commitment to bettering the lives of those who make it.

    … and then we travel to Banbury, UK to learn how the Tea History Collection is digitizing tea history one tome at a time.

    Rare Tea Lady
    Since founding The Rare Tea Co. in 2004, Henrietta Lovell has charted her own course in tea.

    Henrietta Leads the Way

    By Kyle Whittington | TeaBookClub

    Since founding the Rare Tea Co., in London in 2004 Henrietta Lovell has traveled the globe sourcing direct for the world’s five-star dining rooms and developing relationships at the farm level where her commitment to fair pricing for the finest tea and charitable work set a standard. “If I can make people appreciate tea, it will change the world,” she says. Rear more…

    Listen to the Interview
    Rare Tea Lady Henrietta Lovell.
    Tea History Collection founder Denys C. Shortt OBE

    Tea History Collection

    By Dananjaya Silva | PMD Silva & Sons

    The Tea History Collection in Banbury, UK, founded by Denys Shortt OBE has hosted a full calendar of events since opening in May. This tea industry resource is now undertaking the daunting task of digitizing bound volumes recording the trademark and ownership of colonial gardens from the early days of tea. Listen as Shortt discusses the importance of preserving tea company heritage online to be shared by all. Learn more…

    Listen to the interview
    Denys Shortt on the importance of digitizing tea history for all to share.


    A monument known as the Tea Daughter at the entrance of Moulvibazar district at Srimangal, Bangladesh. Photo courtesy Faizi Tea Estate, credit: Shomoyeralo.com

    Bangladesh Tea Rebounds

    By Dan Bolton

    The tea sector in Bangladesh is expected to return to near pre-pandemic production levels after setbacks in 2020. Like neighboring Assam, Bangladesh experienced a spring drought, high temperatures, aggressive pests, and the onslaught of the pandemic. Despite these challenges production through July is ahead of last year’s totals and estimated to reach 86 million kilos. Read more…

    Spring bounty could become a fall shortfall as synthetic fertilizer supplies dwindle. Kandy tea garden in morning light by © Luboslav Ivanko | Dreamstime.com

    Sri Lanka Tea Yields Feared to Decline

    By Dan Bolton

    Sri Lankan tea growers are experiencing the first effects of the country-wide ban on chemical fertilizers and plant protection chemicals (PPC).

    After a productive spring, the fall harvest is predicted to decline beginning in October.

    Herman Gunaratne, one of 46 experts picked by President Gotabaya Rajapaksa to guide the transition to organic-only inputs told Agency Press France (AFP) that “The ban has drawn the tea industry into complete disarray.”

    Gunaratne who manages the Ahangama Tea Estate, said “The consequences for the country are unimaginable.” was removed from the Green Socio-Economy after disagreeing with the president, according to AFP.

    President Gotabaya ordered a halt to inbound shipments of fertilizers used to cultivate food crops such as rice and cash crops including cinnamon and pepper. Growers are concerned that plants accustomed to a rich diet of nitrogen and phosphate will take time to adjust to organic compost and manure.

    Tea is the nation’s highest-earning export, generating $1.25 billion in foreign currency from the sale of 300 million kilos of tea annually. Sri Lanka harvested 187.8 million kilos through July. Mid-year crop yields were 20% ahead of the half-year mark set in 2020 but prices were higher on average last year.

    Meanwhile, the fiscal crisis facing the country worsened as the Sri Lankan rupee depreciated 20% against the US dollar and British Pound. Food inflation is at 11.5% and long queues at food markets signal shortages. The government has invoked rules that fix prices and prohibit the hoarding of staples such as paddy, finished rice and sugar which briefly increased to SLRs 200 per kilo.

    Sri Lanka’s economy, heavily dependent on tourism, declined 3.6% in 2020 and foreign reserves are at record lows.

    Biz Insight During the next month Tea Biz will interview several key decision-makers, tea researchers, and non-government agricultural experts to discuss the pros and cons of switching Sri Lanka to organic-only cultivation.

    McLeod Russel Settlement Resolves Insolvency

    India’s largest bulk tea producer has settled with creditors to resolve financial peril.

    PP Gupta, managing director of Techno Electric & Engineering, agreed to terms for repayment of a delinquent INRs 100 crore ($14 million) loan by McLeod Russel India, saying “this is now behind us, and we wish the company good luck.”

    Techno triggered the insolvency on Aug. 6 by filing a formal application with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) for redress.

    McLeod borrowed the funds in 2018 and failed to make timely payments due to shortfalls in revenue from tea. The company sold several tea gardens to meet its obligations, but the sums were insufficient to satisfy creditors. McLeod currently owes its lenders approximately INRs 1800 crore (about $245 million). A resolution process, led by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will now proceed.

    The company operates 31 tea estates in Assam and two in West Bengal, producing a combined 44 million kilos of Indian tea annually with additional holdings in Africa and Vietnam.

    — Dan Bolton

    • Read more… links indicate the article continues. Learn more… links to additional information from sources.

    Upcoming Events

    September 2021

    Level Up, Virtual
    September 29 | The Tea & Herbal Association of Canada will host a mid-year Meet-Up from 10 am to noon. Admission $55 (CAD) Members $50. Agenda | Register

    Click to view more upcoming events.

    Share this episode with your friends in tea.



    Avoid the chaos of social media and start a conversation that matters. Subtext’s message-based platform lets you privately ask meaningful questions of the tea experts, academics and Tea Biz journalists reporting from the tea lands. You see their responses via SMS texts which are sent direct to your phone. Visit our website and subscribe to Subtext to instantly connect with the most connected people in tea.

    Subscribe to Subtext

    Subscribe and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.

  • Bangladesh Tea Rebounds

    The tea sector in Bangladesh is expected to return to near pre-pandemic production levels after setbacks in 2020. Like neighboring Assam, Bangladesh experienced a spring drought, high temperatures, aggressive pests and the onslaught of the pandemic. Despite these challenges production through July is ahead of last year’s totals and estimated to reach 86 million kilos.

    Caption: A monument known as the Tea Daughter at the entrance of Moulvibazar district at Srimangal, Bangladesh. Photo courtesy Faizi Tea Estate, credit: Shomoyeralo.com

    Pluckers at Finlay Tea’s Consolidated Tea Plantations. Photo courtesy Mohammad Musa.

    Tea Gardens Benefited from Timely Government Actions

    By Dan Bolton

    Mohammad Musa, manager at Finlay Tea’s Consolidated Tea Plantations in Habigonj, and Moulvibazar, Bangladesh, writes that “Plantation work never stopped during the Pandemic. Workers were kept isolated in the tea estates itself and there were many more safety programs. Government support was encouraging, which really enabled plantations to continue running of the tea estates activities safely during the pandemic.”

    Cyrus Anushirvan Faizi, Executive Director at Faizi Tea Estate, reports that the first seven months of the year brought favorable weather.

    “Tea production has been consistently increasing thanks to the favorable weather and initiatives undertaken by the [Bangladesh] Tea Board,” he writes. “The distribution of fertilizer at subsidized prices started in the gardens at the right time this year,” Faizi explains.

    In spite of the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, data from the Bangladesh Tea Board shows the nation’s 167 large and small tea gardens produced 86.4 million kg of tea last year, exceeding the 75.9 million kg targeted. During the past 10 years annual production has increased from 60 million kilos to a 166-year record of 96 million kilos in 2019.

    The International Tea Committee in London ranks Bangladesh 9th among the tea producing countries. The industry employs 100,000 permanent workers and 30,000 casual workers. There are approximately 5,000 small holders producing tea. Exports by value fell 5.7% to $3.2 million, according to World’s Top Exports which reports International Trade Center data.

    Early this year the Bangladesh Tea Board projected tea production will reach 77.8 million kilos. Halfway through the harvest year growers are optimistic they will exceed that total. “About 51% of the target has already been produced in the first seven months,” writes Faizi.

    In 2020 production was greatly hampered due to the pandemic, a severe drought and insect attacks. A nationwide lockdown was imposed by the government in March 2020 to curb the spread of COVID-19 resulting in a drop in crowds in hotels, restaurants, and tea shops as well as a precipitous decline in tea sales. 

    “However, even during the pandemic, the tea estates were fully staffed and running smoothly which helped the industry to meet its production target,” writes Faizi.

    The online tea auction at Chattogram saw good volume recently as favorable weather brought increased yields after a difficult 2020. Prices at Sale 16 in Chittagong averaged $2.25 to $2.55 per kilo for leaf grade teas, dust grades use to make tea bags reached $3.42 per kilo. “Sale averages are still tolerable for the industry considering the COVID situation,” writes Mohammad Musa. Photo courtesy Faizi Tea Estate.

    “Plantations are mostly in isolated from the city or localities,” explains Musa who oversees 8000 hectares of tea producing 12 million kilos annually. “Workers were kept isolated in the tea estates itself and there were many successful safety programs against the COVID at the tea estates. Plantation management arranged harvesting on daily basis by observing all safety measures for the workers against the COVID and continue to make sure that workers wear masks, wash hands before and after starting the work,” he writes. Safe distances were enforced during leaf weighing and in the factories all sorts of safety precautions were strictly maintained and continued manufacturing of tea, writes Musa.

    Musa writes that “logistic and supplies were interrupted during the pandemic though the plantation management somehow managed timely payments for the workers. Tea plantation really faced acute difficulties about the materials for the estates day-to-day activates.”

    Masks were mandatory at Finlay Tea, workers wash frequently and keep a safe distance during leaf weighing. Factory workers were strictly monitored.

    Tea production was also hampered by unfavorable weather and insect attacks during the first five months of the 2021, resulting in a 10% decrease compared to the previous year. 

    Musa writes that “one of the main adversities is drought. During the past couple of years tea plantations in Bangladesh experienced the equivalent of six months of rain less days every year.”

    “This tropical region climate is already hot, sometimes it goes beyond tolerance for the tea bushes,” he explains. “To tackle this situation most plantations in Bangladesh are using shade trees to block at least 40% of sunlight over the tea bushes. During the drought plantations used irrigation systems ( mostly overhead sprinkler irrigation systems of various sizes). These irrigation sets were mostly used with the perennial water.  Plantations also use mulching to reduce evaporation of water from the soil. Some are using subsoil watering to minimize damage,” writes Musa.   

    Tea producers in Bangladesh are now at a crossroads, according to Faizi. Improving their marketing performance in both the domestic and export markets has become crucial for survival and growth, he writes.

    “Old saplings have been removed and new saplings have been planted. The tea planters have increased the scope of tea cultivation by making new investments,” writes Faizi, adding “If the trend of increasing production continues like this time, then there will be no need to import tea in large quantities.”

    “The tea sector has lost its name and fame in recent years, but in light of such challenges, strategies have been adopted in the coming year to meet the demand for tea in the domestic as well as global market.”

    — Cyrus Anushirvan Faizi
    Faizi Tea Estate, Bangladesh

    Faizi Tea Estate

    Tea was first sowed in 2015 at the Faizi Tea Estate in Kulaura, a small village in Moulvibazar District in Sylhet, not far from where the first commercial tea garden was established in 1855 at Malinchhara Tea Estate.

    Faizi, the garden’s executive director, is a lawyer and consultant with a degree from the University of London. He writes that “tea is a potential export product of the country with high demand abroad. There’s a lot that can be done for the development of the tea industry and the welfare of tea workers. The production will increase if the necessary support is provided, exchanging views with entrepreneurs in the tea industry.”

    Faizi explains that “the tea industry has undergone a number of changes in the last decade. The government and tea planters have taken a number of steps to achieve record production in tea (2019). The government announced a roadmap in 2016 for the development of the tea sector, setting a production target of 140 million kilos annually by 2025.”

    He writes that “The tea industry is currently making a significant contribution to the country’s economy through export earnings, contributing to a trade balance as well as generating employment. New tea estates have been established in new areas where the climate is suitable for tea plantations. Large corporate groups have begun investing in tea plantations in response to the rise in consumer demand. Bringing large corporate groups into tea farming is helping to increase production, as well as introducing more knowledge and technology. “

    Dan Bolton

    Bangladesh is famous for its Seven Layered Tea also known as Seven Colored Tea. The recipe is a secret. Every year tourists visit the city of Srimangal in Moulvibazar just to taste this tea paying from 70 to 100 Taka ($1) a glass.

    Seven layered tea
    Bangladesh is surrounded on three sides by India and shares a border with Myanmar. Source: Banglapedia


    Share this post with your colleagues.

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.

    Never Miss an Episode

    Subscribe wherever you enjoy podcasts: