| India and Nepal both Want to Review and Revise their 1950 Friendship Treaty | IMF Bailout Talks with Sri Lanka to Resume | Kenya’s Ag Minister Reverses the Government’s Position Favoring Mechanization | PLUSAasha Bhandari, international trade and promotion executive at HIMCOOP, the Himalaya Tea Producers Co-operative, describes how Asia’s enthusiasm for golden tips powered Nepalese tea producers through the pandemic.
First-flush teas flown to J.T. Ronnefeldt Tea’s blending and packaging facility in Frankfurt Germany account for only 0.02% of the company’s offerings by weight, yet in a single season “flight tea” generates more greenhouse gas emissions than the millions of kilos transported by ship, says owner Jan Holzapfel. He acknowledges that for a premium tea supplier, abandoning expedient air cargo after 75 years is a significant step: “however, we have a responsibility towards nature that we take very seriously.”
Sustainable best practices in the tea gardens are well established and often third-party certified. The tea supply chain links that follow also offer significant opportunities to protect the environment and conserve energy resources. Costs vary by origin and distance to market but middlemen add 20% or more to the cost of delivering tea to retail. Jan Holzapfel, the owner of 198-year-oldJ. T.Ronnefeldt Tea, has for five years published a sustainability report that clearly states the company’s goals and measures progress toward achieving these initiatives. In 2021 Ronnefeldt is replacing its tea packaging with eco-friendly Teavelopes, embracing traceability, and reducing emissions by no longer air freighting tea.
Dan Bolton:Ronnefeldt eliminated air cargo in favor of sea transport and will complete its conversion to sustainable packaging materials by year-end. The company is also trading some of its gas-powered vehicles for electric and hybrid-powered vehicles. Will you share with listeners your vision of sustainable wholesale in tea.
Jan-Berend Holzapfel: Tea is one of the most natural products that you can find on earth. So we as tea producers and tea suppliers must do everything we can to ensure that we continue to have great teas from around the world.
It is a tradition to have the first flush season teas from Darjeeling transported by air to Germany and Europe, but we stopped this year. Anybody out there waiting for his first flush will have to wait maybe six or eight weeks longer than normal.
We want to make sure that we get the tea here in an as environmentally friendly way as possible. That is the reason why we have stopped air cargo completely.
I think it is the right thing to do.
Another of the many, many steps that we have taken is to eliminate all the traditional packaging materials. We are well on the way to meeting our 2021 goal of fully sustainable packaging materials.
It’s not that easy I have to say. Supply is always an issue.
We want safe and customer-friendly packaged material, of course, our team has been doing great work here and found all the different packaging materials that we need so that all will be sustainable by the end of this year.
For the last five years, we have been publishing our Sustainability Report to show our commitment to sustainability along the entire supply chain from cultivation and transport to refining, packaging, and shipping.
Transition to electric, hybrid, or fuel cell vehicles
Dan:You mention that Ronnefeldt is also increasing the proportion of organic tea in its range.
Jan: We are not an organic company yet, but we try to increase our tea selection in our organic range on a constant basis. The good thing is that tea gardens in Asia, but also in Africa, are turning to organic manufacturing methods and therefore we find more and more selection of organic teas. And we are happy to put them Into our range.
As far as we can see our customer side really appreciates organic, it’s a small proportion of the market, but it’s growing, especially with the younger people.
Dan: What is your view on traceability and public disclosure of source gardens?
Jan: I think it’s a very good idea. We see that a lot of customers are really keen and really interested in finding out where the tea is coming from, how it has been produced, how it can be used, and sometimes they are even interested in corporate social responsibility programs at these tea gardens. We are looking for a way to puttraceability information online. I think that is the best way because sometimes tea gardens and supplies are changing quite often during the year. If we do it, for example with a QR code and website so that we can really provide up-to-date information about all the specific teas that are available.
One thing we are also trying is to promote new tea growing areas.
There are some fantastic teas from New Zealand, Columbia, Mozambique, Korea, you name it and we are really trying to promote them and help them to grow so that we don’t have to rely on the big tea-producing countries in the future.
Dan:Will you discuss your commitment to education and the return to face-to-face instruction beginning in July.
Jan: Quite often you find that service people in the hotel business all know how to handle the coffee machine, which is quite easy. They might be very interested in wines and make perfect recommendations, but tea seems to be a little bit more difficult. So we have set up different levels of education depending on the outlet, the style of the restaurant, or the cafe in the hotel.
We provide anything from a quick 40-minute training with the iPhone or Google app, or up to two days with our team. The gold standard is our seven-day trip to the tea gardens in Sri Lanka.
We are very happy that we are going to restart face-to-face training in July after the lockdowns. It has been a really, really long time. We can educate about tea, but one key element is really tasting the tea and the interaction with instructors and peers. That is something which can really be only done face to face.
Dan: Ronnefeldt supplies upscale hotels in more than 80 countries.How is the recovery progressing?
Jan: We already see a lot of hotels booking our training programs, our education programs. Before the pandemic, we trained 7,000 hotel staff members each year and that is where we want to come back to as soon as possible.
We have seen that since January and February business is picking up in hotels and restaurants in Asia, for example, in China, Korea, and Japan. These are now hot markets for us, but there’s one issue — it’s local tourism now, so it’s the Koreans visiting Korean hotels. There is no international tourism yet.
In the Middle East hotels are starting to be filled up, but again, it’s local tourists. Europe got a late start. We see restaurants, cafes, etc., being filled up since Maybut again, international tourists, for example from China or from the United States, are still not here.
I’m optimistic. I think that tourism will return in summer, maybe early fall.
We already see that the hotels in the countryside, real tourist destinations, are already filled every weekend here in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.
What will take much longer is business travel to trade shows, conferences, etc., which might take until next year. City destinations still have a lot of capacity to fill.
There are more than 20,000 graduates of the Ronnefeldt TeaAcademy® a program established in 2000 to increase the number of tea experts among beverage professionals so that they can offer the best service for their restaurant or hotel.
Frank Holzapfel, who created the academy, wrote at the time that “High-quality tea alone is not enough, the tea needs the right preparation, the perfect handling, and the creative staging on-site in the hotel and restaurant by competent and trained employees.”
Taught in Frankfurt, the two-day Silver-level training is for junior managers in food and beverage with at least one year of professional experience. Apply in writing using the link below and Ronnefeldt will confirm your eligibility in a personal interview.
Ronnefeldt TeaMaster® Silver certificate holders seeking to bring their tea expertise to perfection may apply for an in-depth seven-day immersion at origin in Sri Lanka. The gold-level program is designed not only to build skills and master techniques but also to achieve a higher level of personal development with individual coaching. Graduates are certified as TeaMasters.
Tea lovers, not just athletes, are getting ready to take part in the Tokyo Olympics.Tea enthusiasts from around the world can participate in a marathon of their very own: a marathon of tea.
The Japanese Tea Marathon is a series of live, online events showcasing teas from 15 of Japan’s tea producing regions. The Zoom sessions, each open to 1,000 viewers, begin July 23 and will be held twice daily, concluding August 8. Two hundred people will enjoy a free flight of teas to accompany the events. The Japan Tea Marathon is a partnership between the Global Japanese Tea Association and the Japan Tea Central Council. The entire world of tea will have an opportunity to cheer their favorite tea to victory.
A Race for Tea Lovers
Tea Biz’s Jessica Natale Woollard speaks with Simona Suzuki, president of the Global Japanese Tea Association, about the Japanese Tea Marathon.
Tea Biz: How did you choose which teas to feature in the marathon?
Simona Suzuki: As you know, Japan makes green tea. However, there are many different kinds, many variations. We wanted to show the variety of Japanese tea, including the 15 tea producing regions, and show their unique teas, their regional teas. Some teas are common across Japan, and some are much less known. We wanted to give a good picture of what Japanese tea is like.
Tea Biz: Can you tell us about a few of the teas that will be on the menu?
Simona Suzuki: We are having 30 teas altogether, two from each region. For example, a very traditional, high-grade loose-leaf tea here in Japan, gyokuro. There are a few areas where gyokuro is made, so we are introducing it from Kyoto and from Fukuoka. It’s one of the really beautiful, umami-rich, sweet teas of Japan.
Also, organic has been a big topic recently. People are curious and interested in organic and healthy foods. We wanted to include that as well, even if Japan does not produce that much organic tea yet. But there are a few regions where organic tea is made. We are including organic matcha and organic sencha from Kagoshima and Nara.
Some of these teas are very well known, abroad as well. But there are also some regional teas that are lesser known. We are really excited to introduce a little-known tea from Kochi Prefecture called goishi-cha. It’s a post-fermented dark tea that has a totally different shape from the teas that people think Japan produces. It’s squares of pressed leaves and has a very unique taste. I hope people will be excited to try it.
Tea Biz: Will people be able to learn more about all the teas you’ve selected on your website?
Simona Suzuki: A big part of this project is to introduce the tea farmers, introduce their teas and the key regions themselves.
We do want to share a lot of this information on the website. People can look on our Japanese Tea Marathon website, and they will find information about tea regions and the teas themselves.
Tea Biz: Will some of the farmers be presenting at your online events?
Simona Suzuki: Definitely, that is our main feature, to introduce the tea farmers, the tea producers. Japanese tea is struggling a little bit; there are many challenges with decreasing demand and aging farmer population and so on. We want to focus on the farmers and producers who put all their heart into making the tea. We will be inviting one or two producers from every region to speak about their region and their teas, to share their stories with participants.
Tea Biz: Whenever it’s an Olympic year, there’s always a focus on the country hosting. You’re offering a different glimpse into Japanese culture, Japanese tea culture.
Simona Suzuki: We definitely feel the Olympic spirit in Japan, and we wanted to join in. Tea is a big part of the culture here, so I think it’s essential to introduce it.
Tea Biz: I’ve heard that you’ve already had many participants sign up for the tea tastings and events. Can you tell me a little bit about the people who are going to be participating?
Simona Suzuki: We can welcome up to 1,000 people to this event. So far we’ve had people registering from over 40 different countries around the world. This is going to be a really global event.
Tea Biz: Incredible! Forty countries represented already.
A marathon of tea sounds like one marathon I just might be able to complete.
Event dates and times: The Japanese Tea Marathon will be held between 23rd July – 8th August. To account for the time difference each regional event will be held twice a day: 11am-1pm and 4pm-6pm (JST).
Event language: English will be the main language of the events with some translation from Japanese.
Participation fee: Participation in the Japanese Tea Marathon is free of charge.
Participation mode: Online through Zoom. Zoom information will be sent to registered participants before the start of the Japanese Tea Marathon.
Ticket with a set of 30 teas (2 from each region)
Registration deadline 30th May, 2021
Limited up to 200 participants. If more than 200 people apply, priority will be given to those, who:
can participate in the whole marathon
can help promote the event (tea schools, tea shops, tea blogs, etc.)
The tea set and shipping are free of charge, but depending on the country import taxes and duties may apply.
Registration deadline 7th August, 2021
Available up to 1000 people
Recording: The events will be recorded and may be displayed publicly. If you do not wish to be recorded, please have your video and audio off.
The announcement in 1984 that the British colony of Hong Kong would be formally transferred to China in 1997, led to an exodus of 335,646 emigrants many of whom made Vancouver their new home. Today a second surge is building as new visa applications rose by more than 20% in 2020 to 10,800 applicants for Canadian residency. In the Vancouver suburb of Richmond, 42% of residents list either Cantonese or Mandarin as their first language. Retailers benefitted as demand swelled for authentic Chinese tea, leading widespread popularity and the expansion of Vancouver’s Chinatown, now the third largest Chinatown in North America.
Millennium Gate | Commons
The Charm of Vancouver’s Chinatown
By Jessica Woollard
In 1981, Kwok Sun Cheung, an immigrant from Hong Kong, opened the first premium teashop in recent memory in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Canada’s West Coast.
Catering primarily to immigrants from China, Mr. Cheung chose Vancouver’s Chinatown for the location of his shop. Now a National Historic Site, Vancouver’s Chinatown spans around six blocks and is located a short walk from Vancouver Harbor and the cauldron from the 2010 Winter Olympic games. It’s the third-largest Chinatown in North America, after New York and San Francisco.
Olivia Chan, Mr. Cheung’s daughter, now runs the teashop, called Treasure Green Tea Company. The shop is one of two premium loose leaf tea purveyors in Vancouver Chinatown. The second shop, called simply The Chinese Tea Shop, is a six-minute walk from Treasure Green. The shop and opened in 2004.
Tour of the tea shops: Treasure Green Tea Company
Our tour begins at Treasure Green Tea Company on East Georgia Street.
Upon entering the modern storefront, you’ll sense immediately the vibe is east meets west. There is minimalistic décor accented with old finishes to keep with tradition and Mr. Cheung’s legacy. Olivia says it’s important the shop is appealing to modern customers — maybe people new to tea — but that it also not lose its strong tie to tradition.
Here’s how she’s accomplishing that blend of old and new:
Near the back of the shop is a black, sleek table with white benches, used for tea education and conversation. Adjacent to the table is a wall of white pigeonhole shelving. It’s a very modern, clean look until you examine the items on display in each of the pigeon holes more carefully: there are earth-colored terracotta teapots, with an old-world feel, alternating alternate with modern ceramics.
Old meets new again in the way Treasure Green makes use of tea canisters in the decor. Behind the sleek main counter, you’ll see wooden furniture on which rests a conservative selection of canisters with crisp, cream labels. On the labels, is calligraphy in black and red ink. The crispness of the printed labels gives those canisters a very modern feel.
But across from that main counter, you’ll see older looking canisters with red labels. Those labels feature Mr. Cheung’s hand-drawn calligraphy. They are the original canisters from when the shop opened in 1981, and they are placed in a few areas of the shop as well as in a memorabilia space, detailing the shop’s history.
Olivia also honors tradition through the tea leaves she sells. Many are purchased from farmers her father started working with in the 1980s. Just like Olivia is second generation, some of the tea farmers she works with are also second generation.
I asked Olivia if it’s important to nurture the relationship her family has had with tea farmers over the years. Here’s what she told me:
“Absolutely, it’s like any other relationship. You need to keep it alive and connected. It means a lot to them for someone to come from abroad and say hello,” she says.
Ultimately, Olivia wants to connect her customers at Treasure Green with the best, premium Chinese teas she can source. “Some people might come in and say, ‘I’m trying to replace my coffee in the morning,’ and we will suggest some tea that a little bit heavier flavor and with a higher caffeine content,” says Olivia. “Some people might come in and say, I want some green tea and then you need to understand why they’re drinking green tea. For example, some green tea can be very loaded with antioxidants. So it depends what benefits they want to be getting from the beverage.”
To ensure the teas she sells are high-quality and pure, Olivia examines how clean the tea is and how it’s handcrafted. She also looks at the flavor — no pesticides, which she says you can taste — smoothness, durability (numbers of brews), sweetness and the after-taste.
Tour of the tea shops: The Chinese Tea Shop
Once Olivia and her staff have helped you select the right tea for you, leave the shop heading west, stroll four blocks on Main Street, then turn left on East Pender. Walk another 250 meters. When you see bright red awnings at the corner of East Pender and Columbia Street, you’ve arrived at The Chinese Tea Shop.
Like Mr. Cheung, owner Daniel Liu is from Hong Kong; he immigrated to Canada in 1997.
The feel of The Chinese Tea Shop is traditional in the best way. The shop features many shelving units packed with items — teawares, teacakes, canisters, and all the items you need to prepare tea using the Chinese method — Gong Fu Cha, meaning Tea with Great Skill. You’ll find tea scoops, trays, gaiwan.
The furniture in the shop is made of rich wood, many pieces coming from China, adding to the traditional feel of the shop.
It’s a place where it feels right to drink aged tea dust kept in an antique tin receptacle, steeped in water from an embossed cast iron kettle.
Daniel, like Olivia, sources his high-quality premium teas selectively. He travels to China yearly to meet his contacts and sample teas in person. Relationships, he writes on his website, “are essential to procuring the best tea.”
After visits to Treasure Green and the Chinese Tea Shop, your mind will be full of wonderful information about tea, and, importantly, your palate will be activated, delighted by the premium teas available in Vancouver’s Chinatown.
The Organic Trade Association reports that US sales of organic food and beverages set a record in 2020, growing 12.4% to $62 billion. The total includes organic food, which grew by 12.8% to $56.4 billion. Import values for green tea also spiked, increasing 28% compared to 2019. Organic certified foods now account for almost 6% of total US food sales.
Green Tea Import Values Jump as Much as 40%
The pandemic caused consumer dollars to shift almost overnight from restaurants and carry-out to groceries, with traditional staples and pantry and freezer items flying off the shelves, according to OTA, “the only thing that constrained growth in the organic food sector was supply.”
“Across all the organic categories, growth was limited by supply, causing producers, distributors, retailers and brands to wonder where numbers would have peaked if supply could have been met!” said Angela Jagiello, Director of OTA Education & Insights.
In 2020 the declared value of organic green tea, shipped in packages of less than three kilos, spiked 40% to $24.5 million. The declared value for organic green shipped in bulk increased 21% compared to 2019. The declared value of all categories of green tea, when combined, rose 28%, according to USDA, FAS data.
Organic green tea volume increased 11% to 2.1 million kilos. Sales of organic black tea in teabags grew 19% to 879,100 kilos.
Grocers benefited overall during the pandemic as food sales in restaurants declined. In almost every organic food aisle, demand jumped by near-record levels, according to OTA.
Organic’s reputation of being better for you and the planet positioned it for dramatic growth, according to the association. OTA’s annual survey, conducted January through March 2021, confirms the trend toward premium offerings and more practical comfort. Sales of frozen and canned fruits and vegetables grew by 28%. Fresh organic produce sales rose by nearly 11% $18.2 billion.
Pantry stocking was overwhelmingly the main growth driver in 2020. As bread making and cookie baking took kitchens across the country by storm, sales of organic flours and baked goods grew by 30%.
“Good, healthy food has never been more important, and consumers have increasingly sought out the Organic label. Organic purchases have skyrocketed as shoppers choose high-quality organic to feed and nourish their families,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association.
“We’ve seen a great many changes during the pandemic, and some of them are here to stay,” said Batcha. “What’s come out of COVID is a renewed awareness of the importance of maintaining our health, and the important role of nutritious food. For more and more consumers, that means organic. We’ll be eating in restaurants again, but many of us will also be eating and cooking more at home. We’ll see more organic everywhere – in the stores and on our plates.”
Organic food sales are not expected to continue at 2020’s fast rate but it’s anticipated that the grocery channel will get a lasting lift from the pandemic for the foreseeable future as many consumers continue to cook more at home.