| Omicron Cancels Restaurant Reservations | Sri Lanka Barters $5 Million of Tea Monthly to Settle Iran Oil Debt | Foodservice Tea Still Recuperating, a TEAIN22 Forecast
Caption: Two years of COVID reset tea consumption at restaurants and cafés, initially reinforcing traditional expectations of comfort and warmth but evolving to permanently disrupt delivery, takeaway, menu choices, and celebratory occasions with tea.
This week Tea Biz travels to the Republic of Ireland to visit Teacraft founder and research scientist Nigel Melican who explains the necessity of mechanical tea harvesting and describes an innovation in two-man harvesters that features a rotating head that simulates a “selective” pluck without shearing leaves.
This week Tea Biz travels to Asheville, North Carolina to meet teaware potter and ceramist Mary Cotterman who discusses the artisan spirit and state of mind of those embracing native clay and how COVID-19 lockdowns focused her attention like a monk…
…and then to Assam, India to hear Part 2 of the series Frugal Innovation. In this segment, Aravinda Anantharaman explores the application of Frugal Innovation in the tea garden and factories. Shekib Ahmed of Koliabur Tea Estate explains that “Objective data changes the conversation in the factory from vague concepts to thresholds and parameters. It makes operations scientific so that we can improve.”
Aritisan Teaware Born from Native Mud
By Dan Bolton
Mary Cotterman was 12 when she learned to throw clay on a potter’s wheel. In the decades since, that wheel has never stopped spinning for this accomplished teaware artisan. She describes the foundation of her work as functionality, “because for me, no matter how it looks, if I’m making a piece of teaware it needs to be a precise tool for pouring tea, so a lot of my design I take from traditional Chinese vessels, but I have learned small techniques and vernacular from all over.” Read more…
Listen to the interview
Embracing Simple Technology with Scalable Impact
By Aravinda Anantharaman
Frugal innovations utilize simple technology to address some of the most vexing challenges facing the tea industry. It’s an umbrella term for innovations that do not require much capital, carry a low financial risk, and can be done safely with high reliability. Abhijeet Hazarika, former head of process innovation at Tata Global Beverages, describes several innovations that have moved from the drawing board to become successful pilots at partner estates. explores the application of frugal innovations in the tea garden. Shekib Ahmed of Koliabur Tea Estate in Assam talks about experimenting with frugal innovations in the field, but it’s in the factory, he says, where these simple technologies show the biggest impact. Read more…
Listen to the interview
In Part 1, Aravinda Anantharaman explores the application of Frugal Innovation in buying and selling tea with Abhijeet Hazarika, former head of process innovation at Tata Global Beverages. Listen to Part 1 in Episode 47 of the Tea Biz Podcast
TEAIN22: Bulk and Specialty Tea Prices Diverge
By Dan Bolton
The combined annual growth rate (CAGR) predicted for tea in 2022 suggests consumer preference for health enhancements and premium taste will widen the profitability gap separating bulk CTC (cut, tear, curl) from whole leaf and specialty grades.
The fortunes of the tea industry are cyclicalwith better prices ahead.
Demand in recent decades has been resilient, including during the Great Recession – some would say relentless. During the five years ending 2019, demand grew at around 4.5% per year. The pandemic slowed that pace but consumption in 2022 will top 6.5 billion kilos, enough to make three billion cups a day. Until recently growers managed to quench that thirst.
What disrupted that equilibrium in 2020 is that tea output declined for the first time in 20 years. The resulting scarcity in domestic markets including India and China boosted prices. ICRA, a division of Moody’s Financial Ratings, in October 2020 predicted correctly that the bulk tea segment would report the highest operating profits in recent history.
In 2021 the situation reversed as more tea became available and prices declined.
Compounding the supply-demand equilibrium is the fact that consumer behavior rapidly changed consumption habits as office drinkers vanished, foodservice sales plummeted, and health and well-being became a daily concern.
Better tasting teas triumphed
Once content with commodity offerings at the office and in restaurants, the pandemic accelerated growth in the residential segment. Sales of botanicals and blends in grocery and online spiked. In Germany for example, per capita consumption of teas and botanicals increased by an average of two liters to 70 liters per person per year.
Market research firm Techanvio writes that “consumption of tea for residential use is significantly growing as consumers are continuously seeking changes in their lifestyles and food habits and experimenting with cuisines & beverages. Moreover, the rising at-home consumption of tea is expected to grow at a steady rate owing to increasing urbanization and the changing eating habits of consumers across the world.”
Technavio predicts recent growth rates of 3% to 4.5% per year will accelerate to 6%+ (or greater) for the specialty tea market through 2026. The segment will add $5.5 billion in sales from 2021-2026, according to Techanvio.
In contrast, bulk tea is predicted to have a challenging year, according to ICRA and The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India (ASSOCHAM). In a joint report titled Tea Industry at the Cross Road, ASSOCHAM predicts that declining prices and increasing energy and labor costs will be a drag on financial performance.
ICRA Vice President of Corporate Sector Ratings, Kaushik Das says, “Players who are focused on producing quality teas are likely to witness a much lower decline this year as average auction prices of teas manufactured from own garden leaves of the top 50 estates of Assam and Dooars have witnessed a decline of only 8.5% against 25% for the overall auction average during the first half of the fiscal year 2022.”
In North India prices during the first half of the fiscal year declined 23% year-over-year, a drop of 60 rupees per kilo on average compared to 2020. Declines are even more severe in the bought leaf segment, dominated by smallholders. Averages in that segment fell 77 rupees per kilo, down 33% year-over-year. In Kenya, auction prices dropped 8% to $2.18 per kilo in the 12 months ending July 1.
Globally tea production has now returned to pre-pandemic totals, increasing 13% during the first six months of 2021 as growers in India and Sri Lanka adjusted to the pandemic. Output in 2021 is expected to top 15% in Sri Lanka and India has so far produced 100 million more kilos of tea than during the same period last year. Output declined by 10% in Kenya but exports grew 19% helping keep demand and supply in balance.
Biz Insight – The Economist Intelligence Unit first reported tea deficits in 2019 and 2020 and now forecasts demand will exceed supply in 2022 and 2023 by 427,000 metric tons. Warehouses are filled with tea so a shortfall of a few hundred thousand metric tons will not lead to shortages in the grocery aisle, but when combined with the cumulative harm from climate change and with food inflation at record levels, disrupting the long-standing equilibrium will certainly firm up prices that had fallen well below the long-term average of US$2.85 per kilo.
TEAIN22 is one of a dozen New Year Tea Biz forecasts
Sotheby’s Inaugural Tea Sale
Legendary auction house Sotheby’s concluded its first rare tea and teaware auctions in Hong Kong this week. Sales totaled HDK$4 million for the teas. Reserve prices approached $1 million Hong Kong dollars for Puerh, some aged for more than a century. Teaware as old as 1000 years was featured in a parallel auction titled Echoes of Fragrance: Tea Culture from the Tang to the Qing Dynasties. Sales of teaware totaled HDK$4.3 million (about $552,000 in US dollars)
The online catalog included a 1900 Chen Yun Hao puer cake and a 1950 Jia Ji Blue Label Tea that sold for HKD562,500 ($72,000). Bids for a 1937 basket of Sun Yi Shun (aged Liu An) opened at HKD $240,000 and sold for HDK300,000 ($38,000). A bid of $500,000 Hong Kong dollars is equivalent to about $65,000 US dollars and while that threshold was met for only the rarest of teas, all but two of the 24 lots were sold. Several of the more recent teas including a 1985 Snow Label sold for $112,500 Hong Kong dollars (about $14,000 US).
The companion teaware auction featured 63 lots including a Jian black-glazed bowl dating back eight hundred years to the Song Dynasty and a rare iron-red crane cup dated to the reign of Emperor Jiajing in the 1500s. Temmoku patterns include a “hare’s fur” (that sold for HDK189,000) and a “partridge feather” (that sold for HDK403,200). Also purchased were celadon cups and stands, Yixing teapots, and a carved Tixi lacquered tea bowl that sold for HDK529,200 (about $70,000 in US dollars). During the Tang Dynasty, beginning about 1,400 years ago, tea was boiled and served as a soup with condiments. Examples from that period include conical tea bowls, unique utensils, tea caddies, trays. Winning bids ranged from HDK 25,000 to HDK50,000 (about $6,000 US)
? By Dan Bolton
France Will Pay €1 Million to GI Certify Ceylon Teas
The four-year grant finances technical assistance to enable the Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) to protect its national brand from counterfeiters while assisting the Ceylon tea value chain “to become more productive, inclusive and sustainable,” reads the AFD press release.
Eric Lavertu, Ambassador of France to Sri Lanka, said that “France has been a pioneer in the establishment of Geographical Indications to create added value to its quality products and to preserve the reputation of French gastronomy over the world. I am confident that the solid experience of CIRAD in partnership with the… [tea board] will allow a broad endorsement of the Geographic Indication by all stakeholders, based on high-level product quality, together with sound environmental and social standards.”
Currently, Ceylon tea does not have protection to uphold and authenticate its quality, resulting in counterfeit sales in various consumer countries.
Biz Insight – Sri Lanka is Heading for a Fall | Fertilizer banned earlier in the year is now available but the cost has risen from SLRs1500 rupees a kilo to SLRs6600 rupees, about $33 US dollars per kilo and rising. A ban on the herbicide Glyphosate that was eased in November was reversed in December. Output recovered in 2021 but that recovery is highly unlikely to continue due to ongoing economic problems with widespread protests by farmers over the cost of food and unions pressing for a big wage increase. Sri Lanka, where tea is hand plucked, has the highest cost of production in the world, averaging SLRs 269 ($1.33) per kilo.
– Dan Bolton
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Kolkata Sale 49 saw good demand for all teas. The Middle East was active for orthodox tea. Sales of Darjeeling and Dust relied on local buyers. Hindustan Unilever was active in Dust. Prices dropped marginally when compared with Sale 48; Darjeeling saw the biggest price drop of INRs 50. However, there were fewer out-lots of Darjeeling this week, compared to Sale 48. In Guwahati, the market opened to good demand with major blenders active for both CTC leaf and dust. Read more…
January 2022 Tea and Beyond! | GTI 7th Annual Colloquium | January 13 | UC Davis | Day-Long Virtual | Tea and Beyond: Bridging Science and Culture, Time and Space, exploring differences between tea and herbal infusions around the world and in terms of medicine and health, ceremony, traditions, sustainability, marketing, and more.| Program | Register FREE (Zoom)
| Economic Forecasters Predict Higher Tea Prices in 2022 | As Holiday Orders Ease, a Delivery Crisis Looms | Germans Tea Drinkers Set a Consumption Record
PLUS Frugal Innovation, Part 1
Caption: Scanning tea fields at different wavelengths to assess plant conditions. Using cameras to monitor crop conditions, in order to identify threats from disease and pests at an early stage, enables a more targeted (and effective) use of pesticides, lifting productivity and profits.
Tea Biz this week travels to Assam, India to explore “Frugal Innovations” that utilize simple technology to address some of the most vexing challenges facing the tea industry. In Part 1 of the series, Aravinda Anantharaman talks with Abhijeet Hazarika @TeaSigma, an IT analyst and former head of process innovation at Tata Global Beverages, and with growers Saurav Berlia and Shekib Ahmed on cost-efficient experiments and pilots that demonstrate why tea producers should embrace simple technologies with scalable impact.
Bringing Technology into the Tea Value Chain
By Aravinda Anantharaman
There are few entry barriers to tea. It does not demand heavy infrastructure. But a complaint shared by smallholders selling raw leaf to large-scale tea producers operating multiple factories is that for the past decade, farmgate prices are not commensurate with costs. Now the economics of the tea trade is gradually shifting from oversupply to scarcity. At the same time, some quiet work underway in India is yielding encouraging results that lower the cost of tea production, improve quality, and ease a shortage of labor. The most powerful driver for change is revenue. Prices globally, on average, increased by $0.21 cents per kilo during 2021, according to Trading Economics. Abhijeet Hazarika, IT analyst @TeaSigma and former head of process innovation at Tata Global Beverages, observed that “Tea is not a very high profit yielding commodity and will not be so in the foreseeable future until some tech breakthrough happens.” The frugal innovations described in this series, combined with higher prices may herald that breakthrough. Read more…
Listen to the interview (Part 1)
In Part 2, Aravinda Anantharaman explores the application of Frugal Innovation in the tea garden and factories. Shekib Ahmed of Koliabur Tea Estate explains that “Objective data changes the conversation in the factory from vague concepts to thresholds and parameters. It makes operations scientific so that we can improve.” Listen to Episode 48 of the Tea Biz Podcast
Higher Tea Prices Forecast for 2022
By Dan Bolton
Globally tea export prices are edging upward, driven by combined spikes in transportation and logistics, more costly fuel and petroleum-derived fertilizer, and increased labor expense.
Regionally the trend is mixed. Exports through September are down 10% by volume but up in value in India, which produces 20% of the world’s tea. India reports falling domestic prices following a pandemic year that boosted prices through the first half of 2021. In November, auction prices for CTC in Kolkata fell to an average of $2.78 (INRs209) per kilo, down from $2.97 during the same period in 2020.
In contrast, last week Kenya auctioned tea at a five-year high of $2.40 (KSH271) per kilo, according to the East African Tea Traders Association (EATTA). Production there is also down 10% overall.
Declines in production are an early sign that the economics of the tea trade is gradually shifting from oversupply to scarcity. The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) predicts output globally will increase slightly to 6.279 million metric tons (6.3 billion kilos) while consumption rises to 6.538 million metric tons, creating a deficit of 260,000 metric tons. That deficit will increase to 363,000 metric tons in 2022.
There remains a glut of low-grade tea, but demand for inferior tea is slack.
Globally, tea prices, led by China, have increased by $0.21 per kilo since the beginning of 2021, up 7.32% according to Trading Economics. The analytics firm, using macro models and analyst expectations, based on benchmark CFDs, predicts tea will trade at $3.30 per kilo in 2022. A contract for difference (CFD) is an agreement between a buyer and seller stipulating that the buyer will pay the seller the difference between the current value of an asset and its value at contract time (if the difference is negative, then the seller pays instead). Trading Economics forecasts tea prices could reach an average of $4.10 per kilo by year-end.
If that comes to pass it will be only the second time tea has crossed the $4 per kilo threshold in the past decade. More likely is that rising prices will trigger increases in production. A study by the Indonesian Board of Trade using United Nations FAO data calculated the impact of increased production on prices.
“If there is an overreaction to recent high prices which, for example, would result in a 5% increase in production, the results can be quite different…. the clearing price would be 17% less than the baseline price at $2.54 per kg,” writes Iwan Cahyo Suryadi, Chairperson, Board of Commissioners Indonesia Board of Trade
“If the reaction to the current high prices is even stronger, resulting in a 10% increase in production over the baseline increase, then prices could be 38% lower,” according to Suryadi.
EIU estimates a price increase that is close to the long-term average, “we expect concerns about supply and a gradual recovery in demand in some markets (particularly in Europe and North America) to provide some support to prices in the remainder of 2021. We estimate that prices will average $2.69 per kilo in full-year 2021, representing a 0.5% decline from 2020. We are forecasting an 8.7% increase in average prices in 2022, to $2.92 per kilo.”
Biz Insight – The long-term average price of commodity tea at auction is $2.85 per kilo. Quality tea is more likely to be sold direct and at significantly higher prices. Sales of tea exported by all countries totaled $7.1 billion in 2020, down 4.3% by value since 2016. Year-over-year the value worldwide of tea exports declined an average of 8.6% from 2019 to 2020, according to the website World’s Top Exports. China (dominant in green tea) accounts for 29% of global sales of tea exports by value followed by Kenya with a 16% market share (dominant in black tea), Sri Lanka 10%, and India 9.7% both have about a 10% share.
Germany Reports Record Tea Consumption
The German Tea & Herbal Tea Association (Teeverband), based in Hamburg, reports that consumption of tea grew by two liters per capita in 2020 to a record of 70 liters per capita. East Frisians averaged an astonishing 300 liters per capita during the stay-at-home year. These totals include the consumption of black, green, herbals, and fruit teas. The report’s authors write that declines in out-of-home consumption, “triggered by the pandemic-induced closure of hotels, restaurants and canteens, were offset by increased demand in food stores, chemists and specialist shops.”
Hamburg is a global hub for the tea trade, importing 41 million kilos and shipping 22 million kilos of teas to 108 countries. India is Germany’s most important tea trading partner, sending 6.7 million kilos so far this year, China and Sri Lanka follow. The tea association’s managing director Maximilian Wittig said that organic certified black teas now account for a 12.9% share of the market. Organic herbal teas increased their market share to 13.5% a 2.5% gain compared to 2019.
Black tea is favored by 73% of Germans with 90% steeped in tea bags. Germans buy 57% of their tea in grocery and department stores and 12.4% at tea shops with the biggest increase in channel purchases online at 8.2%.
Download the 20-page Teeverband report on the Tea Biz blog.
As Holiday Orders Ease, a Delivery Crisis Looms
Logistics experts in November who predicted everything that could possibly go wrong ? were right.
Jason Walker at Firsd Tea, the US office of the world’s largest green tea exporter, writes that “the burden of moving holiday retail goods has shifted from the ships to the warehouses and trucks. Major players and industry experts still do not anticipate any significant, overall easing of rates and more reliable delivery speed until at least Q1 of 2022.”
Until then buyers are advised to place their orders months in advance, be willing to pay exorbitant rates ($10,000 for a 20-foot trans-pacific container), and order tea in much larger quantities than in past years to ensure sufficient inventory. Wholesalers report waiting 62 days for shipments to arrive from China. Bloomberg writes that ports serving Southern California by November had offloaded a record 17 million 20-foot equivalent units and then loaded 3.3 million empty containers for the return trip. Los Angeles has 2 billion square feet of warehouse space that is now renting at a 30% premium. An additional 20 million square feet is under construction.
Deliveries that took truckers two days in 2019 now take up to 10 days before arriving in Chicago as congestion at ports and warehouses and a shortage of drivers combine to more than double delivery times. Walker cites a shortage of warehouse workers and the added expense of overtime as the ports, as requested by President Biden now operate 24/7. On-time arrival is virtually impossible unless delivered by air freight, in which case it’s unaffordable.
When will it end? Ship jams are now visible at ports in Japan, Taiwan, and Mexico. November marks a turning point. But experts predict the transport crisis will remain through spring and once again ? they’re probably right.
– Dan Bolton
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India Tea Price Watch | Sale 48
Responding to the tea producers’ concerns over rising imports against declining exports, the Tea Board of India passed an order on November 11, by which tea importers are mandated to mention the origin of the tea on the sale invoices. Importers cannot blend imported tea with GI-protected Indian tea (Darjeeling, Kangra, Assam (orthodox), Nilgiris (orthodox)) and pass it off as Indian-origin tea. Producers of Darjeeling tea have been asked not to procure green leaf from outside the GI area. This is expected to act as a clampdown on cheap imports into India from Nepal and Vietnam, and allow Indian exports to keep their quality, markets, and prices. Read more…
January 2021 Tea and Beyond! | GTI 7th Annual Colloquium | January 13 | UC Davis | Day-Long Virtual | Tea and Beyond: Bridging Science and Culture, Time and Space, exploring differences between tea and herbal infusions around the world and in terms of medicine and health, ceremony, traditions, sustainability, marketing, and more.| Program | Register FREE (Zoom)