• Need to Know News

    Tea News for the week ending May 27

    | Coca-Cola Discontinues the Iconic Honest Tea Brand
    | FAO: Embracing Sustainable Agriculture is Essential for Tea Smallholders
    | Starbucks Exits the Russian Market after 15 years, closing 130 locations
    | PLUS On the northern shores of Lake Superior, in Ontario Canada, Anishinaabe tea blenders of the First Nation’s Obijwe clan combine locally harvested wild rice with imported Japanese sencha to create roasted wild rice known as Manoomin Cha a version of genmaicha.

    Caption: Denise Atkinson and Marc Bohémier introduce their North American version of genmaicha.

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    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap
  • Need to Know News

    Tea News for the week ending May 20

    | UN FAO Hosts International Tea Day Webcast | Register
    | Tea Day Sofa Summit is on May 23
    | Global Instability is Suppressing East African Tea Prices
    | PLUS Good Earth is celebrating its 50th Anniversary with the revival of two beloved teas.

    Caption: Sneha Balasubramaniam, Head of Marketing and Innovation at Tata Consumer Products

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    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap
  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 27

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    Hear the Headlines

    | New Criteria Proposed for Differentiating Specialty Tea
    | Walmart Tea is now 100% Certified by Rainforest Alliance
    | Kenya Sets KTDA Tea Auction Price Minimums

    Seven-minute Tea News Recap
    Tea Price Report
    India Tea Price Watch | July 17

    Assam’s new state government continues to woo the tea industry with new schemes, the latest is that workers on tea gardens will be included in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which will benefit them in winter when the gardens are not producing tea.  Read more…


    Tea Biz this week travels to London for a chat with David Veal, Executive Director of the European Speciality Tea Association. Veal describes the association’s new perspective and new definition of what makes specialty tea special.

    … and then to northern India where Aravinda Anantharaman visits a tea café with heart.

    David Veal, executive director, European Speciality Tea Association

    Differentiating Specialty Tea

    By Dan Bolton

    A rigid definition of what makes tea special has eluded the industry. Professionals understand excellence in specific styles. After 45 years of competitions there is consensus on the qualities that make an outstanding Dong Ding oolong as judged by the Lugu Tea Farmers’ Association in Taiwan. In France, the AVPA has demonstrated skill in determining the gastronomic qualities in tea that please the local palate. The International Specialty Tea Association posts a set of universal standards such as pluck and leaf quality. Consumers mainly differentiate by price.

    The European Speciality Tea Association recently announced a definition that is more aspirational than dogmatic. ESTA Executive Director David Veal explains how the association adopted this approach and why it will prove helpful. 

    Read more…

    David Veal on what makes specialty tea special.
    Staff at the La Gravitea café L to R, in the front, Suraj Thakur, Chandra Prabha, Nandita. In the middle, Monika Mahato, Amit Kumar Singh, Amit Lahari. Back row, Shakuntala Hansda, Nikit Sharma and Navin Kumar

    For the Love of Tea

    By Aravinda Anantharaman

    La Gravitea café is a remarkable tea café with hundreds of selections of fine teas inspired by the travels of founder Avinash Dugar but aside from specialty teas, what make La Gravitea special is that the young staff are hard-working graduates of the local school for the hearing-impaired. Learn more…

    Aravinda Anantharaman takes a virtual tour of the La Gravitea cafe

    A New Definition of Specialty Tea

    By Dan Bolton

    The European Speciality Tea Association this week presented a comprehensive new definition of specialty tea. The 450-word definition seeks to “encapsulate the spirit of speciality tea” writes ESTA president Nigel Melican. The essence is that those involved in producing specialty tea “aspire to attain excellence from bush to cup” says Melican. Four aspects cited in the definition seek to differentiate speciality tea from commodity.

    These include transparency that makes know the supplier, location, production dates, and processing method; Physical characteristics such as size, shape, and appearance of the wet and dry leaf; sensory properties including color, clarity, flavor, aroma and mouthfeel; and the mitigation of environmental impacts including support for biodegradable packaging.

    The definition describes specialty teas as “hand-made.”

    The effort involved stakeholders at every level, but the messaging is directed to consumers.

    “We believe that the consumer needs to be inspired from the moment they enjoy the aroma, liquor, and taste of the tea and celebrate in the plant’s personality, the origin of the tea, the care that has been taken in the processing and brewing of it; this being a speciality moment,” reads the association announcement.

    See the definition and supporting documents at www.specialityteaeurope.com

    Biz Insight – Forty years ago consumers in the US and Europe tossed aside 25-cent cups of stale, anonymous, percolated, and warmed-over drip brew in favor of carefully selected, roasted, and barista-prepared single-origin coffee and specialty blends.  The additional billions spent on $4 espresso drinks and premium beans revitalized the industry.

    Will the same be true for specialty tea? David Veal, executive director of the European Speciality Tea Association, discusses the reasoning behind the new definition in this interview.

    David Veal on what makes specialty tea special.
    Walmart Tea now 100% Rainforest Alliance Certified Sustainable

    Walmart Tea is Certified by Rainforest Alliance

    By Dan Bolton

    Walmart announced this week that all its Great Value Brand black and green teas will be 100% certified sustainable by the Rainforest Alliance.

    “This is good news not just for Walmart, but also for farmers, and the future of tea,” writes Silvia Azrai [AZ RAY] Kawas, Walmart vp of Private Brands Food. She explained that Rainforest Alliance helps ensure that three pillars of sustainability are met: social, environmental and economic.

    “Our Great Value Brand black and green teas will remain affordable, high-quality drinks, with an added bonus: Each box you buy makes a measurable impact on the life of a smallholder farmer,” according to the company.

    Biz Insight – In 2007 when Unilever, the world’s largest tea supplier, committed to Rainforest Certification at Kericho, Kenya it signaled to commodity suppliers that to remain competitive they needed to invest in environmentally-friendly cultivation at origin. A consumer-driven embrace of sustainable processing, packaging, and waste reduction soon unfolded, making the entire supply chain more efficient. In 2016 Walmart committed to sustainably source 20 commodities by 2025 including tea. Now Walmart, the world’s largest tea retailer, has extended that commitment to the terminus of the supply chain.

    Kenya Sets Tea Auction Price Minimums

    The Kenyan government withdrew tea valued at 1 billion Kenyan shillings (about $9 million in US dollars) at the Mombasa Auction because prices failed to meet a controversial $2.43 per kilo minimum reserve price. 

    “We made a drastic but necessary decision with regard to sale of teas at the Mombasa tea auction,” Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Peter Munya told the local press.

    He said the government has plenty of storage capacity and will continue withdrawing tea if prices do not meet the minimum rate.

    The decision angered traders who simply purchased tea on offer from other African countries leaving 8 million kilos of Kenyan tea idled in local warehouses. A spokesman for the East African Tea Traders Association said that when sellers set prices for themselves, instead of relying on free market fluctuations, there is “no guarantee that buyers will follow that lead.” Production far outstrips demand and as such, prices have taken a hit. This is not an auction problem,” said EATTA’s managing director Edward Mudibo.

    Secretary Munya said the government is determined raise the price at auction. “We believe we can sustain the situation as we have enough reserves,” he told Citizen TV.

    Biz Insight – It is unclear in this face-off whether tea traders or the Kenyan government will be the first to blink. Nine tea producing countries sell their tea at the Mombasa auction and independent producers are free to ignore the Kenya Tea Development Agency reserve price, but none can rival output of 620,000 smallholders supplying KTDA’s 54 factories.

    Traders must also weigh the fact that tea exports are down from India, a bidding rival. The Sri Lanka auction at Colombo has sufficient volume of tea but prices, at an average $3.97 per kilo for low-grown tea, are significantly higher than the recent 5- and 10-year lows seen in Mombasa. Tea prices at the Mombasa auction have averaged $1.80 per kilo so far this year, dipping to $1.65 per kilo, significantly below the estimated $2 per kilo cost of production.

    – Dan Bolton

    Upcoming Events

    August 2021
    Beijing International Tea Expo, Beijing China
    August 27-30, 2021 | Beijing Exposition Center

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 17

    Listen to the Tea Biz Podcast on iTunes | Spotify | Sounder | Stitcher | Alexa

    Hear the Headlines for the Week of May 14

    Hear the Headlines

    | Kenya’s Becoming Unbearably Hot for Tea
    | Brexit Disrupts UK Tea Trade
    | Colombo Tea Auction Transformed
    | China Tea Price Watch | India Tea Price Watch
    | INDIA IN-DEPTH: Q|A Raj Barooah, Director, Aideobarie Tea Estate

    This week’s India Tea Price Watch


    Tea Biz travels to Los Angeles this week where Art of Tea founder Steve Schwartz, a graduate of the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico, describes tea as a powerful conduit for health and wellness…

    … and then to Hawaii to interview tea adventurer and Jalam Teas Founder Jeff Fuchs who is sheltering there during the pandemic. Jeff shares stories about tea and tea culture and the tranquility it brings to all.

    Jeff Fuchs
    Jeff Fuchs with an old Newari tea and commodity trader in Kathmandu.

    The Tranquility of Tea

    By Jessica Natale Woollard

    Author, adventurer, and tea lover, Jeff Fuchs has walked the Ancient Tea Horse Road, been featured in TV documentaries, and traveled extensively in the tea lands sourcing rare teas. His affinity for high-altitude treks equals his affinity for tea. He tells Jessica Natale Woollard, “I’ve had some of my best tea times in the mountains without necessarily having had the best teas.” Read more…

    Related: Countenance: Travelers Along the Tea Horse Road by Jeff Fuchs

    Jeff Fuchs on his travels in the tea lands and the tranquility of tea.
    Steve Schwartz
    Art of Tea Founder Steve Schwartz

    Tea is a Powerful Conduit for Health and Wellness

    By Dan Bolton

    Tea is a powerful conduit for health and wellness, says Steve Schwartz, founder of Art of Tea in Los Angeles and a graduate of the Ayurvedic Institute in New Mexico. In this segment, he discusses the challenging role for tea retailers amid the pandemic. Retailers are wise to offer counsel on the comfort and health benefits of tea, educating themselves in both the traditional and science-based properties and then sharing that knowledge with customers. Learn more…

    Steve Schwartz advises retailers to educate customers on the health and wellness properties of tea.

    Tea News you Need to Know

    Kenya is Becoming Unbearably Hot for Tea

    The red volcanic soils of Kenya’s Rift Valley, long sunny days and tropical rainfall are perfect for growing tea. At 2,000 meters [6,500 feet above sea level], the temperature is between 16 oC and 29 oC,  generating new leaves at a fast pace making Kenya one of the most productive tea growing regions on earth.

    All that is changing, according to Christian Aid, a charity that this week published 14 pages of troubling research into the future of tea in growing regions essential to Kenya’s status as the world’s largest black tea exporter.

    The report highlights the work of Sadeeka Layomi Jayasinghe and Lalit Kumar, researchers who predicts that “climate change is going to slash optimal conditions for tea production by 26.2% by 2050.”

    Tea grown in less favorable regions will experience 39% declines.

    Lower quality leaf and less appealing taste will affect all growers. Kenyan farmers the most productive in the world harvesting an average of 1,500 to 3,300 kilos per hectare of made tea per year. Smallholders harvest an average 2,300 kilos per hectare.

    Torrential rain and extreme temperature are the two biggest concerns. The combination encourages plagues of locusts and devastating floods. Temperatures will rise 2.5 oC to an average 23.5 oC with spells hot enough to kill mature tea plants.

    Biz Insight – Researchers concluded that it will be very difficult for tea growers to move to new, higher altitude, previously uncultivated regions, they wrote. Tea is an example of how we are all connected, wrote one farmer. “We grow it here in Kenya and it’s enjoyed by people around the world. But if we are to carry on growing it we need those other, richer countries, to cut their emissions and to think about how we are affected as tea farmers.”

    Click to download the report.

    Brexit impact on UK Tea

    Brexit Disrupts UK Tea Trade

    By Dan Bolton

    Brexit disrupted the UK tea trade in significant ways. It is too early to assess the financial impact, but long-term change is apparent along with howls from tea lovers on the continent.

    EU grocers specializing in British foods say their shelves are bare following the January 31 start of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement ratified in May.  The immediate shortages are the result of customs delays due to additional paperwork and transport bottlenecks caused by COVID. The 500,000 British ex-patriates living in EU countries that complained the loudest are some of the best customers for tea brands including Yorkshire Gold, PG Tips, Tetley, Twinings, and Typhoo.

    The Brexit vote and drawn-out resolution of disputes unsettled traditional trade in tea. Kenya, the UK’s top tea trading partner at 62,000 metric tons, began selling tea direct to Europe, bypassing British tea packers for those in Germany and Poland. Brexit also realigned UK’s previous focus on non-EU markets.

    Tea imports to the UK

    The United Kingdom re-exports 2.2% of the world’s tea by value. About 17% of the tea that arrives at its ports is packaged shipped to Europe. Volume in 2019 was 19 million kilos with 10 million kilos of that delivered to EU countries. The 2019 total reversed a steady decline in volume beginning in 2010 when tea exports totaled 30.5 million kilos.

    Tea exports to non-EU countries increased to 8.8 million kilos in 2019 and continue to rise. UK tea export totals are in decline overall, but 2021 marks the third consecutive year that the UK recorded growth in overseas shipments to non-EU countries.

    Biz Insight – Sales of goods exported to the EU declined steeply in January as Brexit rules were enforced. In February goods exported to the EU increased 4.5% and in March grew a solid 8.6%. Meanwhile, imports from non-EU member countries exceeded EU imports for the first quarter since 1997. While it is too soon to assess the full impact, UK residents remain skeptical of Brexit. The most recent YouGov poll showed that 51% of respondents think it was a wrong decision and 38% a right one, the largest gap since 2016, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    COVID Relief Fund

    Last Day to Reach Emergency Relief Fund Goal

    A COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund initiate by Vahdam India is nearing its goal with donations of 6.4 million rupees ($91,660) but needs an additional $15,000 boost to reach a 7.5 million rupees ($107,000) in five days. Donations to #RiseTogetherForIndia assist the non-profit Doctors for You deliver oxygen and relief services across India. Learn more and find a Ketto crowdfunding link to donate on the Tea Biz blog.

    Digital Auction
    Colombo Tea Traders’ Association conducting first digital auctions in April 2020. Photo Daily News.

    Colombo Auction Transformed

    By Dan Bolton

    Last year Sri Lanka confronted its past and raced beyond, scrapping a 127-year tradition, and transforming the Colombo Tea Auction into a digital workplace.

    Tea generates 10% of the country’s wealth earning $1.2 billion on exports and employing two million people. Last year the pandemic closed not only the auction floor but prevented the hundreds of face-to-face interactions involved in storing, sampling, shipping, and presenting tea to buyers who rightly insist on sipping before bidding thousands of rupees for a lot. Shutting down the auction jeopardized the livelihoods of many more than the traders who attend.

    A task force led by Anil Cooke, CEO of Asia Siyaka Commodities, worked with CICRA Holdings, a local information technology venture, coordinating with the Sri Lanka Tea Board to develop a training program while simultaneously customizing the auction software. Within days the digital platform earned the endorsement of auctioneers, brokers, technicians, and government officials.

    Simulations enabled 300 key users to master the system which went live in early April 2020.  A year later tea prices are stable, exports revived, trading is lively with many improvements in transactions thanks to a quick decision that took 20 years to contemplate.

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    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.

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