• Rooibos Revived

    Rooibos is a shrub that grows in a very narrow corridor north of Cape Town in the fertile soil of the Cederberg Mountains. Growers there produce about 20,000 metric tons annually to make a healthful, refreshing, non-caffeinated herbal beverage known locally as red bush tea. Rooibos and the region where it is grown were recently awarded Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status by the European Union. The traditional process used to make rooibos was also protected.

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    Carmien Tea Rooibos
    A field of rooibos in the shadow of the Cederberg Mountains. Photos courtesy Carmién Rooibos Tea. Photos by Peartree Photography

    Listen to the interview

    Mientjie Mouton, founder and managing director of South Africa’s Carmién Rooibos Tea, a supplier of quality rooibos, explains the significance of the protected status afforded this widely consumed beverage and how rooibos has rebounded from a devastating drought.

    Mientjie Mouton, founder and managing director Carmién Rooibos Tea

    Dan Bolton – Will you tell our listeners why the EU’s decision is good news and how you see the European Union’s seal of authenticity advancing the overall consumption of rooibos worldwide?

    Mientjie Mouton – We are very excited about this. It’s a process that was started about ten years ago. Everyone now knows that rooibos tea is really something special and that some key points differentiate the product from all the other herbal teas. The rooibos tea certification means the product must be cultivated and produced in this region. Processing also has to take place in that region.

    The region sees very cold winters and hot summers, which helps create the special taste and flavor of rooibos tea.

    Rooibos is a natural product only grown in 15 areas in the Western Cape and the Northern Cape of South Africa.

    Carmién Rooibos Tea is based in the Western Cape. We buy tea for processing from all the different areas, including the Northern Cape and southwest locations. When buying rooibos tea from Carmién Tea, we can guarantee that you will get true, honest, and purely natural products from these locations.

    Dan – About half of the rooibos produced is consumed locally, and the rest is exported to 60 countries, mainly in Europe, where Germany (28%) is the leading market. Japan consumes about 22% of rooibos exports. Following several years of strong growth, a four-year drought in 2015 curtailed market expansion. The rains have since returned, and the perished bushes have been replanted, some with drought-resistant cultivars. Mientjie, you mentioned that shifting temperature and rainfall patterns have actually expanded growing areas.

    Mientjie – Drier conditions apply globally, specifically in South Africa and the Western and Northern Cape. The production area for rooibos tea has moved slightly towards the southwestern parts and away from the northern parts. Our average rainfall is around 300 millimeters per year came down to below 100 mm of rain during the severe drought. Over the last two years that rainfall has picked up, but it’s still below average. So in general, we see a trend towards drier conditions. Luckily for South Africa, we have areas that used to be too wet to grow rooibos tea, which has become perfect and suitable for growing good quality rooibos.

    Dan – The EU’s Geographical Indication (GI) requires strict compliance with traditional processing methods and prohibits third parties from using phrases like “rooibos style,” “red bush type tea,” or “imitation red bush” on labels and promotions.

    Mientjie – This is actually a stricter GI certification that has been approved for rooibos tea. It specifies only 15 regions within the Western and Northern Cape of South Africa where Rooibos can be grown and be called rooibos tea. Rooibos undergoes an oxidation process where the antioxidants in the tea and the natural plant phenolic activities in the tea give you a very specific characteristic smell and taste, which is a more fruity, sweet flavor. That is one of the most identifiable properties of rooibos tea. The tea has a slightly sweet caramel taste and flavor and is not as stringent as black tea or other herbal teas. It has a very nice, smooth, full flavor and aroma. All that has to do with the special oxidation process where the temperature can increase to about 40 degrees Celsius. That happens overnight after the tea has been cut. Once it’s gone through that process, we have a nice red infusion in the cup. “Rooi” in Afrikaans is the color red in English; that is where the name comes from.

    When it does not go through that process, we have green rooibos tea, which is the unfermented variant of our rooibos. Green rooibos is very popular nowadays, and we are very excited about it because the health properties are even greater in green rooibos than red.

    “All Carmién Rooibos Tea products will now carry the PDO logo ensuring buyers that they are purchasing rooibos sourced from the above-mentioned areas and authentically produced.”

    Dan – During the ongoing pandemic, there’s been a significant increase in consumption and interest in the health qualities of herbal infusions. Will you describe some of the health advantages of rooibos.

    Mientjie – Rooibos tea is naturally caffeine-free. That is one of the biggest health benefits. Every batch of tea that we process is graded for the quality of that specific cup when it comes to specific antioxidant values. These antioxidants benefit and support your immune system and helps you to stay hydrated. We all know that is the baseline of keeping healthy. What we’ve seen is that minerals like zinc, magnesium, and calcium have become exceedingly important in times like these. It is about a well-balanced, healthy body that you have to maintain in order to prevent contracting viruses.

    To keep a healthy body, and healthy lifestyle, we like to say that you need to drink 10 cups of rooibos tea a day. Research indicated six cups of rooibos/day provides important benefits but even two cups will suffice.

    So you’re gonna have to drink your rooibos daily in order to keep healthy.

    Dan – Customers looking for convenience will find rooibos available in both an iced format (bottled and canned), or brewed hot then chilled over ice, as well as cold brewed. Will you talk briefly about cold brew formulations since they are growing in popularity.

    Mientjie – You can brew rooibos for as long as you like and it will not become bitter, it just increases the sweetness and antioxidant value. The cold brew option as a way of preparation is very interesting to us. Just put the tea bag in cold water, let it steep overnight and you get a very smooth flavor profile.

    Carmién rooibos served hot or cold. Photo by Peartree Photography

    If you use a high-quality tea you will get the rich flavor and fullness in your cup. The health properties, antioxidant levels, and minerals available in that cup are exactly the same. Processed rooibos is steam sterilized and has a very low total microbial count, making rooibos a very safe tea to use as a cold brew. As for convenience, you can keep it in the fridge, let it brew overnight, and have it eady for the office or children’s food boxes, the next day, or simply for in-home consumption. It’s very healthy and very safe.

    Carmien Rooibos

    Carmién Rooibos Tea

    The company was founded in 1998 in an old farm shop in Citrusdal, South Africa, at the foothills of the Western Cape’s Cederberg Mountains. Founder and Managing Director Mientjie Mouton grew up on a rooibos farm in the same valley before moving to the Brakfontein Estate where rooibos was also produced. Carmién sources from several growers and supplies Costco Japan, Taiwan, and several private-label and bulk clients globally. In North America QTrade Teas & Herbs has been the exclusive distributor of Carmién organic rooibos for the past 20 years.

    Rooibos is native to South Africa and has been consumed by the Khoisan for more than 300 years. It has been grown commercially for over a century and now accounts for most of South Africa’s tea exports (South Africa also produces a small quantity of black tea). Initially regulated, in 1993 the South African government permitted commercial production that boosted exports. Plantings in the prime growing areas of Citrusdal, Piekenierskloof, Nieuwoudtville, Wupperthal, Clanwilliam, Redelinghuys, and Gifberg expanded and dry yields rose to about 300 kg per hectare using modern harvesting techniques. In 2007 rooibos generated $10 million annually (ZAR155 million) a total that doubled by 2015 when a severe drought depressed yields that fell to less than 10,000 metric tons. In 2019 South Africa exported 7,693 metric tons. The domestic market consumed 7,000 metric tons. According to the Rooibos Council fact sheet, there are 11 commercial processors and approximately 300 commercial farms employing 8,000 farm laborers. The annual harvest begins in late January through February.

    – Dan Bolton

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 23

    Hear the Headlines

    | Sri Lanka’s Clean Tea Ambitions
    | COVID’s Toll on Tea Garden Workers
    | Tea Day Auction Yields Record Prices
    | Nayuki’s Lucrative IPO

    Tea Price Report

    The worst of the pandemic’s second wave seems to be behind India as the number of cases have come down in many parts of the country, and lockdown restrictions are slowly being lifted. The focus now turns to production and prices across auction centres. Read more…


    Tea Biz this week travels to Boulder, Colo. where Maria Uspenski, founder of The Tea Spot explains the relationship of beneficial adaptogens and tea…

    …and then to Milwaukee, Wis., where Jeff Champeau, vice president of business development at Rishi Tea & Botanicals, explains that marketing seasonality is a great way to introduce craft-brewed tea into our lives.

    Maria Uspenski
    Maria Uspenski

    Adaptogens and Tea

    By Marilyn Zink | Herbal Collective Magazine

    Our guest this week is Maria Uspenski, a cancer survivor, and author of Cancer Hates Tea. In 2004 Maria founded The Tea Spot, a tea wholesaler and teaware design company in Boulder, Colo.  Read more…

    Maria Uspenski on Adaptogens and Tea
    Jeff Champeau, vice president of business development at Rishi Tea & Botanicals
    Jeff Champeau, vice president of business development at Rishi Tea & Botanicals

    Healthful Effervescence

    By Dan Bolton

    Tea is on a trajectory akin to small-batch, craft-brewed beer where carefully selected ingredients are individually prepared to showcase their best characteristics. Recipes emphasize balance, with efficacy and taste foremost. Excellence in blending and brewing preserves high concentrations of polyphenols and other beneficial plant compounds with minimum calories, nothing artificial, the convenience of cans and the fun of fizz. Read more…

    Jeff Champeau on sparkling craft-brewed teas
    Jayampathy Molligoda, Chairman SLTB
    Jayampathy Molligoda, Chairman Sri Lanka Tea Board

    Sri Lanka’s Clean Tea Ambitions

    By Dan Bolton

    The Sri Lankan government’s ban on chemical fertilizers including nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium urea pellets, in favor of organic fertilizers is generating vigorous debate as the tea industry weighs methods for increasing yield.

    Jayampathy Molligoda, chairman of the Sri Lanka Tea Board, attributes the gradual decline in productivity in Sri Lanka’s tea gardens to continuous application of chemical fertilizer. In a 2,500-word article titled “Sustainable Solution to the Decline in Tea Production, Export Revenue and Livelihood” Molligoda advocates a “radical shift in our perceptions, our thinking, and our values.” He writes that the only viable solutions are those that are sustainable.

    His views are in sync with business leaders in Sri Lanka from many industry sectors, who are advocating a “green normal” in which companies collaborate to protect nature. One such coalition, known as Biodiversity Sri Lanka (BSL), is at the heart of building “truly sustainable economies and livelihoods.”

    Molligoda’s challenge is science as critics point to the myriad difficulties of switching from a compact, precisely applied plant food to a bulky and much more expensive alternate. Organic fertilizers are limited in their capacity to deliver nitrogen (12%) compared to chemical fertilizers (46%) and the price can be 50 times greater per kilo than synthetics that sell for less than $1 per kilo.

    Sri Lanka’s growers can produce enough fertilizer for 100,000 hectares and the nation’s 27 licensed domestic organic fertilizer manufacturers can provide enough fertilizer for 224,000 hectares. The country will have to import sufficient fertilizer essential for 500,000 hectares of paddy land and 600,000 hectares of other crops, including tea, according to a report in Economy Next.

    BSL is chaired by Dilmah Tea CEO Dilhan Fernando who writes that, “beyond the pandemic, we all face a threat that could literally suffocate, starve and extinguish humanity. The measures we must take now to assure our health, food security, and survival must be universal, science-based, innovative, and definite.”

    Biz Insight – The prize for Sri Lanka are teas that not only reflect the island nation’s extraordinary terroir but demonstrate in laboratory tests a level of purity no other tea producing country has achieved. In short, Sri Lanka will grow the cleanest teas in the world.

    COVID's Toll on India's Tea Gardens
    COVID’s Toll on India’s Tea Gardens

    COVID’s Toll on India’s Tea Gardens

    Last year the coronavirus pandemic plunged India’s economy into a recession for the first time in nearly a quarter of a century. Tea production, tea exports, and tea retail all suffered, but rural workers were largely spared the high death counts experienced in the nation’s crowded cities.

    That is no longer the case as the COVID-19 second wave crests. The tea industry employs 3.5 million workers who reside in small homes and who rely on crowded vans for transport, resulting in much higher rates of infection than in 2020. Currently more than half of the 800 tea gardens in Assam and 300 of the registered gardens in West Bengal report active cases. Confirmation in a single tea estate of 20 or more cases results in the designation of containment zones. There are now 3,000 active cases among tea workers in Assam, but deaths of tea workers are rare at 102. Kerala reported 331 deaths of tea workers with 11 in Tamil Nadu. On June 15 West Bengal reported 4,371 active cases and 84 deaths.

    The rate of infection has dropped significantly since May, but vaccine hesitancy remains ‘rampant.’ Fewer than 100,000 tea workers in Assam have received their first shot with only 6,000 getting the required booster so far. Globally only 10% of the world’s population had been vaccinated as of June. Read more…

    Jorhat Tea Auction Centre
    Jorhat Tea Auction Centre

    Tea Day e-Marketplace Auction Yields Record Prices

    Selections of Indian tea harvested on May 21, International Tea Day, sold at record prices this week on a cloud-based digital marketplace launched at the height of the pandemic.

    The auction was conducted by mjunction, India’s largest B2B e-commerce platform.

    A whole leaf tea from Pabhojan Tea Estate sold for INRs 4000 (about $54 per kilo US) with a specialty green from Diroibam earning a winning bid of INRs 1000 (about $13.50 per kilo US). More than 93% of the teas on offer were sold.

    Pabhojan Tea Estate INRs4000 Record Price
    The Pabhojan Tea Estate orthodox above brought INRs 4000 ($54 per kilo)

    Additional tea estates with lots sold includ Lankashi, Aideobari, Muktabari, Rungliting, Narayanpur Panbarry, Durgapur, Tirual, and Kathonibari.

    Since June 2020 the marketplace’s 300 registered users have traded 1.3 million kilos of tea. Read more…

    Nayuki’s Lucrative IPO

    China’s fresh-fruit, bubble, and foam-cheese tea chain Nayuki debuted with a $656 million valuation this week on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Shares of the initial public offering traded at nearly $20 and were 190 times oversubscribed. Husband Zhao Lin and wife Peng Lin opened their first store in Shenzhen in 2014. Each is now a billionaire based on their holdings.

    The company operates 500 locations in China with 300 more planned in 2021 and 350 in 2022. International locations include Japan and the US. The IPO debuted before a planned IPO by cross-town rival Hey Tea, a larger venture with 450 Chinese locations that has also established a foothold in the US.

    Nayuki introduces a new flavored tea weekly
    Nayuki introduces a new flavored tea weekly

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 22

    Hear the Headlines

    | Cold Brew is Trending for Iced Tea Month
    | DAVIDsTEA in Canada Settles its Debts
    | Kenya Exports Surge but Auction Prices Remain Low
    | PLUS Smith Teamaker’s Ravi Kroesen explains the company’s new plant-based café concept and Amy Dubin-Nath talks about the future of whole leaf Indian teas.

    Tea Price Report

    As India’s second flush gets underway, the mood is glum as the industry continues to deal with many challenges. Local media reports on rising imports of tea into India and in Darjeeling, producers have expressed concern about zero-duty imports from Nepal. Read more…


    Tea Biz this week travels to Columbus, Ohio to visit with Amy Dubin-Nath, founder of Janam Tea and an ad hoc India tea ambassador to the US.…

    …and then to Portland, Ore. where Ravi Kroesen, head teamaker at Smith Teamaker, explains the many uses of tea at the company’s recently opened plant-based café.

    Amy Dubin-Nath
    Amy Dubin-Nath

    India’s Spectacular Specialty Teas

    Amy Dubin-Nath sees a bright future for specialty teas originating in India, “but I don’t think it is going to be a quick flip where people are only after high end teas.” Instead, the process will be gradual, following a path similar to wine. “Do I want to see the spectacular teas of India keep selling at a high price?” she asks, “Yes, definitely, as that elevates the perceived value, making it something precious. I believe that message should be spread throughout the world — including in India.” Read more…

    Ravi Kroesen, Head Teamaker Smith Teamaker
    Ravi Kroesen, Head Teamaker at Smith Teamaker, Portland, Ore.

    A Plant-Based Café where Tea Reigns Supreme

    By Jessica Natale Wollard

    The intent of the new café concept, says Smith Teamaker Ravi Kroesen, is to “develop foods that really reflect our ethos of plants, as well as utilizing tea as an ingredient.” The new Smith Teamaker café sources locally with a menu that includes snacks, lattes and iced concoctions with full meals that demonstrate how tea and food can live in harmony from leaf to cup to plate. Read more…

    Cold Brewed Tea
    Cold Brewed Tea

    Iced Tea Month: Cold Brewed Teas are Trending

    By Dan Bolton

    The challenge of correctly steeping a delicate green to avoid bitterness disappears when the tea is brewed overnight in the fridge. “I’m cutting calories and want something more flavorful than water,” begins one Reddit thread. “Can you explain to a total cold brew newbie how to get the most flavorful green tea without additives.” The responses were enthusiastic and numerous, evidence that the technique rivals more traditional fresh-brewed, flash-chilled black tea.

    Whether boiling tea to pour over ice, or making cold brew, the tea to water ratio is critical. Begin with about twice the normal weight of tea, 6-8 tablespoons for 1.5 quarts (or 8-12 grams per 950 milliliters). Stale tea requires more leaves, quality whole leaf requires fewer. Make sure your vessel is airtight as tea will pick up the scent of leftovers.

    Allied Market Research estimates RTD tea generated $30 billion in 2019 and will grow 5.5% annually to $39 billion in 2027. Health-conscious millennials are driving sales. Mintel reports that 25% of new tea innovations are RTD. In China where 78% of consumers are frequent drinkers of freshly brewed hot tea, RTD enjoys 49% penetration, which is greater than tea bags, according to Mintel.

    Biz Insight – Cold brew coffee experienced remarkable five-year growth in both bottled ready-to-drink and foodservice. North America is the largest cold brew market globally with 66% market share, followed by Europe (17%) and Asia (11%). In the US – 2015 toles of cold brew coffee are expected to increase ten-fold from $110 million to $945 million in 2025, according to Statista market research. Three-sixty market research estimates the market globally will reach $2.8 billion by 2026.

    DAVIDsTEA Settles Debts

    A Quebec Superior Court approved the Montreal-based tea company’s plan to settle $118.2 million in claims for $18 million payable in July. A US Bankruptcy Court this week approved a similar plan for resolving debts owed by DAVIDsTEA’s US subsidiary.

    The settlements are a final step toward exiting a year-long reorganization precipitated by the closure of all but 18 of the company’s more than 200 locations. The settlement will be divided with $15.3 million going to Canadian creditors and $3.1 million to US creditors, according to PwC, Canada. The company has sufficient cash on hand to meet settlement obligations.

    Under the direction of CEO Sarah Segal, DAVIDsTEA has adopted a “digital first” market strategy for sales to consumers. Its wholesale products are now found in 2500 grocery and pharmacy outlets. The company reported sales of $40.2 million in fourth quarter 2020. Revenue from the fast-growing online and wholesale segment has increased from $42 million in 2019 to $97.2 million in 2020. Greatly reduced brick and mortar revenue now accounts for only 12.9% of total sales. Revenue overall declined 38% in 2020 leading to $55.9 million in losses.

    Kenya surge
    Kenya tea exports surge during first three months of 2021

    Kenya Tea Exports Surge

    Despite upheaval at the factory level, Kenya exported much higher tea volumes this year. First quarter exports increased 18.9% compared to 2020, according to the national Tea Directorate. Volume topped 153 million kilos, up from 128 million during the same period in 2020.

    Smallholders that produce 65% of the country’s tea experienced variable weather conditions in 2021 creating an overall decline in production during the first three months of 2021. Growers, primarily in the far west, harvested 18 million fewer kilos since January compared to the same quarter in 2020. Auction prices are on the rise, reaching $1.84 per kilo last week but remain below the $2 per kilo threshold considered essential to cover production costs. Weekly prices so far averaged $2 only once in 2021. Tea prices averaged $1.80 per kilo in 2020, down from $2.05 per kilo in 2019.

    Biz Insight* – Kenya’s tea growers are benefiting from payment of 50% of the total due thanks to national reforms instituted this spring. Half the price for green leaves delivered within the month to Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) factories, is paid by the 20th of the following month. The balance is paid in the fall at the end of the financial year. KTDA’s factories are owned by smallholders and managed by KTDA.

    *Corrected 6.20.2021

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  • Tea Biz Podcast | Episode 21

    Hear the Headlines

    | Inflation Dampens Enthusiasm Over Rising Tea Prices
    | India’s Tea Industry Under Duress
    | European Union Grants Rooibos GI Protection

    Tea Price Report

    While lockdowns continue, tea auctions in India resumed last week at all the major centers. In the Nilgiris, discussions on whether bought leaf factories can open are still underway.
    Read more…


    Tea Biz this week travels to Frankfurt Germany to discuss best practices in sustainable wholesale with Jan Holzapfel, owner of Ronnefeldt Tea, a 198-year-old company that is replacing its tea packaging this year with eco-friendly materials, embracing traceability, and reducing emissions by longer air freighting tea.

    … and then to London where Tea Biz Reviewer Kyle Whittington has a single word for INFUSED, a book by Rare Tea Founder Henrietta Lovell that describes her adventures in tea: “Wow,” he writes, “You really feel like you are sitting over a cup of tea with Henrietta as she regales you with her stories, the highs, the lows, and the off on a tangent.”

    Jan-Berend Holzapfel
    Jan-Berend Holzapfel, owners Ronnefeldt Tea

    Sustainable Wholesale

    Sustainable best practices at tea gardens are well established, but the rest of the supply chain offers significant opportunities to protect and conserve resources. Listen to the latest Tea Biz Newsmaker Q|A as Jan-Berend Holzapfel, owner of Germany’s Ronnefeldt Tea, discusses sustainable wholesale.

    Read more…

    Henrietta Lovell
    Rare Tea Lady Henrietta Lovell

    A Book to Re-ignite your Tea Flame

    You really feel like you are sitting over a cup of tea with Henrietta

    By Kyle Whittington | Tea Book Club

    Infused Adventures in Tea

    Wow! What a book! From start to finish Henrietta had me captivated, excited and enthralled by her world. A Tea Book unlike most, this is the very personal story of Henrietta’s adventures with tea in tea and all around tea. From her first fledgling sips out of dainty China Cups at Diana’s House as a child, we are taken along on a ride of reminiscence. With trips to far flung tea fields swathed in mist via the odd lightning strike or two we zip off to tea tastings with chefs at some of the best restaurants in the world, accompanied by her little yellow suitcase and strange meetings on trains. To name to mention but a few of her adventures. 

    Read more…

    Food Inflation
    Food Inflation

    Food Inflation Dampens Enthusiasm Over Rising Tea Prices

    By Dan Bolton

    In the US and Asia, an energetic post-pandemic recovery is underway. Demand is quickly rebounding as consumers spend down their savings and make up for the lost time. Consumers in the largest economies amassed $2.9 trillion in savings since March 2020, according to Bloomberg Economics.

    Now they are eager to spend.

    Retail sales in the US are projected to approach $4.5 trillion in 2021, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF, which initially estimated 6.5% growth, increased its full-year GDP projection to 7%, the fastest rate in decades. In China, household income grew 13.7% during the first quarter of 2021.

    Widespread inflation is dampening that good news.

    The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports inflation in member countries is at the highest level since 2008. Globally, food prices rose for the 12th consecutive month in May, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. The FAO’s Food Price Index was 40% higher in May 2021 when compared to May 2020. The Bloomberg Commodity Spot Index, which tracks price changes across a range of metals and agricultural commodities, has jumped roughly 60% in the past 12 months.

    Food prices, including the cost of tea, are rising on demand. Tata Consumer Products, Nestlé and Unilever all announced price increases across their ranges in response to commodity inflation.

    Rooibos plants
    Rooibos Plants, South Africa

    EU Grants Rooibos GI Protection

    The European Union this week awarded Rooibos, which is also known as Red Bush tea, status as a protected geographic indication affording the same protection to products such as champagne and Irish Whiskey.

    The registration allows South Africa’s Rooibos industry to display the EU Seal if the tea consists of 100% Rooibos that is either cultivated or wild-harvested from local municipalities of the Western and North Cape provinces.

    The South African Rooibos Council welcomed the news. Council Chairperson Marin Bergh said that while it is important that nobody else use the name Rooibos “it also gives a certain status about quality, reliability, and sustainability – all those things that go together with a GI.”

    India’s Tea Industry Under Duress

    While the peak of the horrific second wave has passed, India’s tea industry remains under duress as the coronavirus simultaneously strikes down workers, limits plucking and processing, halts inter-district transport, and forces the early-day closure of restaurants and beverage stalls.

    The government estimates more than one million workers, mainly women, are losing productive days and wages due to the pandemic and inclement weather with the arriving monsoons.

    The delivery of 235,000 doses of vaccine this week halted a steep increase in Coronavirus caseloads in Assam’s tea gardens. Daily average infections in June are now 4,000 per week, down from almost 6,000 per week in May. Positivity rates remain high, forcing an extension through June 16 of lockdowns and a daily curfew from 1 pm through 5 am. Shops and restaurants must close by noon and inter-district transport is prohibited. The state reported 450,000 cases and 3,600 deaths. The seven-day average for new cases is 7,400 in West Bengal and 9,000 in Kerala.

    India reported fewer than 100,000 cases for a fifth day and while daily death totals are high at 4,000, this average is expected to decline as the drop in new cases continues. During the peak of the spring infections, from April 1 to May 6, India recorded 926,000 news with a positivity test of 26%. Testing continues at the same pace, but positivity has declined to an average 4%. Active cases are now at 1 million, according to the Union Health Ministry.

    Buyers at auction are finding it difficult to arrange for transport despite the fact tea is listed as an essential commodity. Drivers are in short supply and enforcement of restrictions that prohibit inter-district transport is inconsistent. The immediate impact is a spike in retail prices above records set in 2020. Buyers at auction are spending an average of INRs211 per kilogram in Assam and INRs125 per kilo in Tamil Nadu.

    Biz Insight – There is no slack in demand for tea. Tata Consumer Products reports that revenue from its beverage segment (which includes coffee) grew by 59.6% during the period January-March 2021. Volume was up 23% largely due to an increase in at-home consumption. India’s packaged tea market is estimated at $2.26 billion. An additional $1.3 billion is spent on tea from unbranded suppliers, according to ICICI Securities.

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