China is again experiencing record-breaking heat early in the crop cycle, impacting Yunnan and several other tea-growing provinces.
The country has experienced several heat waves since March, with Yunnan in Southwestern China recording 40 Celsius highs. Northern provinces Jinan and Tianjin are seeing temperatures soar to 37C (about 98 degrees Fahrenheit).
Kunming, the capital of Yunnan, had recorded only 8 millimeters of rain through April. According to state broadcaster CCTV, the province has seen only 35 millimeters of rain since the first of the year, the lowest total since record-keeping began.
In its latest assessment, the World Meteorological Organization, WMO predicts a strong likelihood of the El Niño weather pattern returning later this year. The current La Niña pattern has moderated temperatures over the past three years. WMO said the change would most likely lead to a new spike in global heating.
A study published in Nature Reviews Earth found that sea surface temperatures and variability increased after 1960 in the Southern Oscillation (ENSO). El Niño and La Niña events are more frequent and more extreme. The CSIRO study found that El Niño events have doubled, and strong La Niña increased nine-fold.
Lead researcher Wenju Cai said that “Global warming makes the impact of these events more extreme because a warmer atmosphere holds more water, so when it rains, it rains harder, and evaporation is higher, making droughts more severe, their onsets earlier and harder to get out,” he said.
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Caption: India is concerned about chemical residue levels in auctioned teas.
Virtually all the world’s tea is grown between the latitudes 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of the equator. Rising temperatures in this narrow band threaten tea yields and force growers to consider planting “upslope” at higher elevations where cooler temperatures prevail. Unfortunately, subtropical tea cultivars perish in a hard frost, expected above 7,500 feet. The Zhornyna Experimental Tea Plantation in western Ukraine, is located near 50 degrees north latitude. Planter Maksym Malygin is successfully growing tea under forest cover that has survived heavy snow during prolonged winters at temperatures 26 below zero Celsius.
Caption: Maksym Malygin at his home near Kyiv
Cold-resistant Cultivars are Key to Expanding Tea Lands
By Dan Bolton
The Zhornyna Experimental Tea Plantation is in western Ukraine near Mukachevo, a city of 85,000 located near the borders that Ukraine shares with Hungary, Slovakia, and Poland.Known as the Transcarpathia, this hilly region south of the Carpathian Mountains in ancient times was a part of Kyivan Rus. It was ruled by the Hungarian Empire for 1100 years until World War I and was part of Czechoslovakia until 1945 when it was ceded to Ukraine. The plantation is situated on high ground known as Chervona Hova or the “Red” Mount.
Dan Bolton: Thank you Maxim for joining our podcast. Your first recordings were interrupted by air raid sirens following intense missile attacks near Kyiv where you make your home. What has been the impact of the invasion on Ukraine’s only tea garden?
Maksym Malygin: We planned to carry out classical formative pruning of tea bushes in three seasons, from 2021 to 2023. After the first two years of pruning, we planned to test the winter hardiness of the skeletal branches of the bushes and not cover for the winter. This was planned to be done on 300 bushes that grow on the cleared part of the plantation. Pruning last year showed excellent results, the vegetation of the bushes increased from 15 cm after pruning to 70-80 cm at the end of the season. This April, we planned to cut at a height of 20-25 cm.
We will not do this and lose at least one year. Also, we will not be able to organize the collection of leaves to produce more tea.
Dan: It is good to know that you and your family remain safe. I speak for a global tea community that wishes your work will continue without war.
What is the future of Zhornyna as it produces only experimental tea in small batches?
Maksym: We have organized through ways for the development of the Zhornyna project. The first one is gaining experience directly on 300 bushes of the plantation. It’s not possible to make industrial production there, but it’s possible to consistently produce some tea for large tea tastings. The second is the vegetative reproduction of the unique winter-resistant tea. The third is a cooperation with colleagues in Europe on the transfer of tea and growing technologies in harsh climates. The most ambitious project at the idea stage is creation of a new two-hectare tea plantation in Ukraine, but right now it’s completely frozen on hold.
Dan: Listeners in Europe and northern regions that are experimenting with plantings will be interested in your experiments with temperature resistant cultivars. Will you describe the experiment in greater detail?
Maksym: Analyzing cold-weather characteristics and cultivars is an interesting question. And it’s not that easy to answer.
The history of unique Ukrainian tea plantation began in 1949 when non-varietal Georgian and Krasnodar seeds were sown, as well as seeds of the varieties Georgian No. 2, Kangra and a Japanese-Indian hybrid. This is described in the scientific literature.
We made a map of the entire plantation area with the help of the GPS. The total area is 1.4 hectares (about 3.5 acres). Most of the original farm has been destroyed. The surviving tea plants are located in five places. Each has different morphological features. Unfortunately, we still have not been able to find specialists in the post-Soviet years who could establish a tea variety according to the morphological characteristics of plants.
In this case, we need to use DNA analysis, but for comparison, we need to have data from old Soviet cultivars. My personal opinion is that the 300 bushes in the restored area descend from the Georgian No. 2 variety.
During the past 70 years, tea plants on the plantation have experienced snowy winters when the minimum temperature was minus 26 degrees [see map depicting Hardiness Zones, above]. Last winter, the minimum temperature was minus 15 degrees with virtually no snow.
Until 1999 “Zhornyna” was the most northern tea plantation in Europe. After the Tschanara Tea Garden in Germany emerging (the owners are my friends and colleagues Wolfgang Bucher and Haeng ok Kim) “Zhornyna” lost that status, but remains the most frost-resistant culture of tea worldwide (surviving winters with temperatures down to -26 C).
Given the age and adaptation to the local climate, this tea is likely a Ukrainian frost-resistant subpopulation of Georgian tea. It is my opinion.
In 1949 a team from the All-Union research Institute of Tea and Subtropical Agriculture in Georgia, after surveying much of Transcarpathia south of Kyiv, decided that conditions in western Ukraine on Chervona (Red) Hora Mount near the town of Mukachevo were ideal for planting cold-resistant tea.
Dr. I. I. Chkhaidze supervised development of the experimental tea garden which was one of six in the region. The initiatives were part of a greater project of the National Academy of Sciences of the USSR that in 1950 funded attempts to acclimatize tea on territories including Moldova, Transcarpathia, Crimea, Primorsky Krai, and in the far west the islands of South Sakhalin and Kunashir.
At Zhornyna non-varietal Georgian and Krasnodar seeds were sown, as well as seeds of the Georgian No. 2 variety; along with a Kangra cultivar from India and a Japanese-Indian hybrid.
Photos of the plantation taken during the early 50s were lost. “All we can show is one photo from the archive in Russia and three photos from a book written by Dr. Chkhaidze, who led the team of scientists,” writes Zhornyna tea garden owner Maksym Malygin.
The main goal of the project was “…full satisfaction of Soviet people’s needs for domestic tea.” In Georgia the Soviet Union implemented a similar project during the period 1930-1940 that ultimately supplied 30% of tea consumed in the USSR.
Tea was first planted along the Black Sea coastline in 1885 near Batumi. In 1915 there were 170 Georgian tea plantations covering an area of 1,000 ha. By 1932 the state had established 19 state-run tea plantations and nine factories. The area under tea increased to 25,500 ha. By 1993 Georgia growers farming 56,000 ha annually produced 75 million kg of tea at 70 state run factories.
Scientists considered the Transcarpathia to be the second most favorable region next to Georgia for producing tea, said Malygin. Fifty hectares on the collective were developed and 1.5 metric tons of high quality “Chervona Hora” tea was harvested in 1952
The project was canceled in 1953.
After canceling financial support for research, the plantation was abandoned. Lots of tea bushes were dug and cut out, only their roots remained. Thanks to the efforts of plantation workers tea bushes still grow, but there is insufficient capacity to develop the plantation, Malygin explains.
Among the experimental areas established in the Transcarpathian region only Red Mount’s persisted. Fifty years after the original 50 acres (20 hectares) were planted, only two hectares thrived. In 2000 there were several hundred tea plants still growing, blossoming and fructifying, he said. The bushes stood 1.5 meters high, said Malygin.
Tea bushes over generations grew resistant to constant freezes and give new branches in the spring. Skeletal branches do not have time to grow on their own, he explains.
Before 1999 Zhornyna was the most northern tea plantation in Europe. Plantations established in Germany and Great Britain are now the farthest north but Zhornyna is the site of the most frost-resistant tea cultivars worldwide, he said.
“In December 2013, my wife and I visited the plantation for the first time and fell in love with this place. So was started the Zhornyna tea plantation conservation project that we call “Tea Grows in Ukraine.”
The first step was to develop technology for the production of terroir and demonstrate that the leaves could produce quality tea. Experimental developments of semi- and full-fermented teas, were done from 2015 to 2021. The results demonstrated the great potential of the Transcarpathian teas, according to experts’ opinions.
The second stage came in 2019, when part of the plantation was cleared. Our attention was then focused on the 300 small bushes. Shelters were built and the tea plants survived the cold winters.
| Fairtrade International Predicts Climate-Related Disaster for Small Tea Farms | Chemical Fertilizer Supplies Disrupted | Holiday Helpers are in Short Supply
India Tea Price Watch
After a missed week of the auction, North India saw good demand in Kolkata, Guwahati, and Siliguri. Last week saw the highest weekly sale volume for 2021. In Kolkata, 83% of Orthodox tea on offer was sold, and the Middle East remained the top buyer. However, Darjeeling tea saw less uptake. In Guwahati, the market showed good demand for CTC and Orthodox teas, and major blenders were active. In Coonoor, buyers from North India were active, reportedly due to demand during Diwali, one of the biggest Indian festivals. Read more…
This week Tea Biz travels to Lincoln, England for a visit with Will Battle, author of “The World Tea Encyclopaedia” and managing director of Fine Tea Merchants, Ltd., a wholesale tea import and export venture that supplies tea merchants with mainstream offerings as well as rare teas and herbals.
The Cost of Producing Specialty Tea
By Dan Bolton
Growers are taking initiatives on quality at all levels, blurring the lines between the everyday and specialty sectors, says tea wholesaler and author Will Battle. But is manufacturing specialty tea worth the effort?
“Frequently it probably isn’t considering the amount that growers need to invest from a financial and human resources perspective to make the very best teas,” he says.
The costs of producing the distinctive taste of the authentic, transparent, eco-friendly, clean-label formulations that are so popular with Millennial and Gen Z cohorts are significantly higher than what growers spend supplying conventional tea. A preference for chemical-free cultivation, third-party certifications, energy-efficient, carbon-neutral processing and transport, and recyclable and biodegradable packaging further erode margins along the length of the supply chain. Consumers who pay a premium at retail for specialty tea often leave growers to foot the bill. This raises a fundamental question: Is anyone making money making specialty tea? Read more…
Listen to the review
Fairtrade International: Small Tea Growers Face Climate-Related Financial Disaster
Limited access to capital will make it difficult for farmers to finance adaptations to changing climate that will generally lower yield, reduce tea quality, and lead to more instances of catastrophic failure in tea “hotspots” globally.
By Dan Bolton
According to Fairtrade International, a hotter and drier climate poses a severe financial threat to millions of farmers in major tea-growing regions.
The third-party certification organization released a 148-page report ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland (COP26). Fairtrade CEO Nyagoy Nyong’o called the study’s results “extremely alarming and a clarion call for immediate and comprehensive climate action.”
The study assessed climate impacts on bananas, cocoa, coffee, cotton, sugarcane, and tea producers. Juan Pablo Solis, Fairtrade’s senior advisor for climate and environment, said, “the way climate change affects the planet is extraordinarily complex.” He cited “mounting challenges that they [Fairtrade International certified farmers] face if the international community continues to fail them.”
In summarizing the impact on tea, the authors state that tea-producing locations will be subject to considerable increases in the number of days of extreme temperatures, especially under the high emissions scenario.
Closure of fertilizer manufacturing plants in the UK and record-high prices approaching $1,000 per short ton in North America foretell cutbacks as global food prices reach a 10-year high. There are ample stocks and capacity, but timely arrival is a concern due to the shipping crisis and fertilizer prices are prohibitively high for some applications due to rising energy costs.
China, the world’s largest agrochemical manufacturer by tonnage, cut output due to rising energy prices but has since allowed manufacturers to maintain high operating rates to meet domestic food security requirements. Fertilizer exports surged in 2021 with a total of 10.8 million metric tons during the first eight months of the year, an increase of 46% compared to the same period in 2020. In July China suspended phosphate exports and in August exports declined by 26% to 2.78 million metric tons.
As prices spike across a broad range of plant nutrients European growers say they may be forced to idle croplands or plant less fertilizer-dependent crops than corn, for example.
In the US the price of urea increased 26% in the past month reaching $0.80/lb.N [per pound of Nitrogen] with anhydrous at $0.57/lb.N., an average $940 per ton. Potash is up 15% compared to September.
Biz Insight – The disruption is troubling because tea is a very demanding plant requiring 300-450 kilos of Nitrogen per hectare for high-quality shoots plus three secondary nutrients and 10 trace elements. No soil in any part of the world can continuously provide full nourishment for plants producing economically significant yields without fertilizer.
Holiday Retail and Delivery Workers in Short Supply
Workers in US retail and warehouse fulfillment are in high demand and short supply as major employers’ staff up for the holidays.
Seasonal culinary workers, delivery drivers, and retail clerks are among the 4.3 million “missing workers” unable or unwilling to return to work, according to the Wall Street Journal. Money Magazine notes that 10% of seasonal job postings on Indeed.com include the description “urgent.”
Amazon expects to hire 150,000 seasonal workers (up 50% from 2020) and is paying an average of $18 per hour. Supervisors can qualify for $3,000 signing bonuses in key slots. UPS is advertising warehouse and package-handler jobs at $22 per hour. Walmart, Target, and FedEx round out the top five seasonal employers with a combined 600,000 slots to fill.
In response, smaller retailers and cafés are offering additional hours and more stable work hours to existing employees, investing in staff training, and promising to transition the most promising new hires to full-time work in 2022. New hires are requesting more flexibility and benefits. The shortage means seasonal and full-time job seekers have greater leverage this year to negotiate bonuses and benefits and wages greater than $15 per hour.
Biz Insight – There are 10 million US job openings as workers quit at the highest rates on record. Nearly 50% of US adults in a recent LinkedIn survey said the pandemic has changed how they feel about their careers. Of those who view their careers differently, 73% said they felt less fulfilled in their current jobs. The greatest decline in the eligible worker participation rate is among women, workers without a college degree, and those in low-paying service industries such as hotels, restaurants, and childcare, according to the Wall Street Journal. Pandemic accelerated early retirements among those 55 and older is a trend that economists say is unlikely to reverse.
— Dan Bolton
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