• India Abandons Bharat Tea Auction Experiment and Returns to English Auction Rules

    | Retail Sales Projections are Ho-Hum for the Holidays: Sales growth adjusted for inflation will be in the single digits, the lowest growth rate since 2018
    | UC Davis Global Tea Institute Launches a Training Program for Tea Professionals

    PLUS | More than 30,000 tea workers and supporters, mainly from the indigenous Bataga Community living in Ooty, Kothagiri, and Coonoor in the Nilgiris mountains of South India, participated in a silent hunger protest on behalf of farmers. The demonstrations ended last week, but only after the High Court took cognizance of the petitions that urgently plead the case for fixing a minimum price for green leaf. Aravinda Anantharaman reports.

    Tea News for the week ending Sept 29
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Tea News Update

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    Ho-hum holiday sales projected
    Holiday sales forecasts are in the single digits, online sales estimates are more upbeat.

    Retail Sales Projections are Ho-Hum for the Holidays

    By Dan Bolton

    North American consumers are “trading down,” leading to projections of ho-hum holiday sales based on pre-season surveys. 

    “Consumers are skittish, and retailers will have to be on their toes, focused on making sure the products and the prices are right,” writes Forbes, quoting marketers who anticipate “a modest increase in sales with narrowing margins.” 

    Adjusted for inflation, Bain & Company projects real US holiday retail sales in the low single-digits, well below the 10-year average and the lowest since the financial crisis. 

    Deloitte writes that holiday sales will likely increase between 3.5% and 4.6% in 2023. According to Deloitte, E-commerce holiday sales are projected to grow between 10.3% to 12.8% compared to the 2022 season.

    Overall, Deloitte projects holiday sales will total $1.54 to $1.56 trillion from November to January. In 2022, holiday sales grew by 7.6% and totaled $1.49 trillion in the same period, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

    Deloitte forecasts e-commerce sales will grow to between $278 billion and $284 billion this season. A survey by Bankrate reveals that 39% of holiday shoppers plan to do most of their shopping online, while 23% plan to shop in person. 

    Bankrate found that 50% of holiday shoppers will begin before Halloween, with 12% starting as early as September. November is the busiest month for shoppers, but 13% percent say they don’t shop until December, according to Bankrate. 

    More than half (54%) say they feel financially burdened this year, with 33% saying inflation will change how they shop. Another 25% expect higher prices to strain their budgets, and 13% attribute their shopping stress to concerns they will be forced to spend more than they’re comfortable spending. 

    “While September feels early to be talking about holiday shopping, it’s very smart to start thinking about it well ahead of time,” writes Bankrate. 

    BIZ INSIGHT – Sales of conventional hot tea are flat. In contrast, globally, sales of functional teas are growing at a faster 6.4% pace that is expected to accelerate through 2027. The market for herbal teas will add $885 million in sales by 2027, according to Technavio

    “Millennials and baby boomers are expected to be the major customer base for the herbal tea market as they make up the majority of the current workforce,” according to Technavio.

    Shifting consumer preference towards online sales channels positively impacts the growth of the global herbal tea market, writes Technavio. Demand for herbal teas is expected to increase as consumers become more health conscious. Online channels offer consumers a wide range of products at discounted prices,” according to Technavio.  

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  • India Tea Board Weighs Auditor Concerns | Overindulgence and High ABV Tea | Tea Stalwart: India’s Oldest Captive Elephant Dies

    Tea Board Weighs Auditor Concerns: Additional Resources Needed to Market Tea

    | Overindulgence and High ABV Tea
    | Tea Stalwart: India’s Oldest Captive Elephant Dies

    Tea News for the week ending Aug 25
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap

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    Tea is intricately woven into India’s cultural tapestry. In its latest marketing campaign, Tata Tea Premium acknowledges and elevates several of the Indian state’s distinctive patterns in fabric and symbols of pride, drawing attention to the tea company’s extensive range of hyperlocal blends. Tata tells the story of extraordinary weavers by digitally enhancing their homespun artistry in an interactive tribute to handlooms. Aravinda Anantharaman reports on this eye-catching effort.

    Listen to the Interview
    Tata’s latest TV for its premium line of tea features a celebrated singer at the heart of great campaigns that evoke nationalistic pride and emotion, which ties in with what Chai means to people across the country.
    NEWS131-G20 Delegates Tea Board India pavilion Experience Zone
    G20 Delegates visit the Tea Board India Pavilion Experience Zone on Aug. 25.

    Limited Resources Restrain Marketing Efforts by Tea Board

    By Dan Bolton

    A Parliamentary committee is reviewing concerns raised in a report by India’s auditor general that identified lapses in enforcing tea industry regulations by the Tea Board of India.

    The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit, titled “The Role of Tea Board India in the Development of Tea in India,” reviewed board activities during a five-year period ending in fiscal 2022.

    Auditors drew attention to these concerns:·       

    • The board’s inability to curb smuggled tea and tea untraceable to origin used for blending for sale in domestic markets.·       
    • The lack of a “well-defined strategy” to register growers (large and small). In March 2021, 38% of small growers were unregistered.·       
    • Failure to monitor tea processing facilities by conducting timely inspections and laboratory testing.·       
    • Lack of a database to track yield per hectare, labor productivity, new plantings, aging tree stock, and distribution of cultivars.
    • In addition, a mandate to auction 50% of the country’s tea was not enforced. Auditors found that most registered buyers did not purchase tea at auction.
    Read More
  • India Audit Cites Tea Board’s Regulatory Shortfalls | China Tea Exports Decline

    India Audit Cites Regulatory Shortfalls of Tea Board: More than a third of tea smallholders were not registered by March 2021

    | China Tea Exports Decline | China Travel Restrictions Ease
    | Kenya Tea Production is Up, Exports are Down

    Tea News for the week ending Aug 18
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap

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    UKTA Director Jennifer Wood and Jo Selman-Smith, a project manager with the UK Tea Academy who, in 2022, oversaw the launch of The Leafies, join Tea Biz this week to discuss the academy’s international judging of tea in 12 categories with correspondent Dananjaya Silva. This year’s competition is open not only to farmers and suppliers but also to tea retailers worldwide. The deadline for entries to arrive in Scotland is Sept 18.

    Listen to the Interview
    UK Tea Academy’s Jennifer Wood and Jo Selman-Smith with Dananjaya Silva
    CAG Audit India Tea Board
    Cover of 176-page Report of the Comptroller and Auditor General on the Role of the Tea Board in the Development of Tea in India

    Auditors Find Lapse in Factory Inspections, Unregistered Smallholders, Lack of Well-Defined Strategy

    By Dan Bolton

    A government audit of India’s Tea Board during the five years ending 2021 found numerous flaws in its regulatory mandate and a failure to address concerns raised a decade ago. Glaring omissions include the lack of a strategy to identify and register smallholders — a first step in supporting the tea industry’s financial well-being, development, productivity, and promotion in domestic and overseas markets. Small tea growers supply more than half of the tea grown in India.

    Read More
  • India Reviews Raw Leaf Price-Sharing Formula

    India's formula for small tea growers (STGs) and bought leaf factories (BLFs) determines split of auction prices
    India’s small tea growers (STGs) and bought-leaf factories (BLFs) split the average auction prices within growing regions according to a formula last revised in 2013.
    Tea News for the week ending June 23

    | Consultants BDO India has six months to complete an extensive report on cultivation and processing costs
    | US Fast-food Outlets Have Yet to Rollout Boba Nationally
    | The European Speciality Tea Association Offers Tea Barista Foundation Certificates to Coffee Shop Staff

    Hear the Headlines
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Tea News Recap

    Tea Biz travels to Sri Lanka to attend the Dilmah School of Tea hosted by Dilmah Ceylon Tea Company CEO Dilhan C. Fernando. The school teaches that knowledge inspires passion. In this interview, Fernando shares his passion for modernizing the tea experience for consumers ordering tea at restaurants, hotels, and resorts.

    Listen to the Interview
    Dilhan C. Fernando, CEO Dilmah Ceylon Tea

    India Tea Board to Review Tea Price-Sharing Formula

    By Dan Bolton

    Raw leaf price sharing, implemented in 2004 and revised in 2013, protects tea smallholders and ensures that bought leaf factories (BLF) retain enough of the final auction price to operate profitably.

    This week the Tea Board of India hired consulting firm BDO India to review the current split, which varies by region—smallholders in the West Bengal tea belt currently receive 58%, and BLFs received 42% of the average auction price paid for tea. In Assam, the formula is 60% for STGs (small tea growers) and 40% for the factories that process smallholder tea.

    Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, President of CISTA (Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association), has pressed for a revision of the formula for several years.

    Click to Read More Tea Biz News
  • Fresh Thinking for a New Era in Tea

    Brook37 founder Mou Dasgupta says the new era of tea is not just introducing tea but also explaining how you consume it. We are saying that yes, traditionally, you drink tea from a cup, but why not break the barriers and drink tea from a champagne glass or chill the tea and drink it in a martini glass? Make other drinks using tea. Open up your imagination; don’t be bound by the past. Take our old drink, modernize it, and just do fun things with tea.

    Listen to the Interview

    Mou Dasgupta, founder of Brook37 The Atelier

    Mou Dasgupta, founder of Brook37 The Atelier

    Elegance Begins with the Leaf

    Mou Dasgupta is pursuing her passion for tea after 25 years of trendsetting corporate leadership in the financial services industry. She developed a love for fine-quality tea while living in West Bengal, India, where she attended university in Calcutta. She trained in the sciences and holds a master’s degree in software engineering. “Brook37 is proud to bring fresh thinking and an ethical and sustainable mindset to all we do,” she says. “Our unparalleled tea selection of flavors, aromas, and colors from around the world, along with exquisite packaging, help you choose a positive and aspirational lifestyle.”

    Dan Bolton: Thank you for taking the time to talk about your vision of a new era in tea and how it led to the launch of Brook37, a premium brand sourced directly from suppliers in the most famous of India’s tea-growing regions. What are some aspects of this new era?

    Mou Dasgupta: In describing a new era of tea, I want to talk about tea reimagined in the USA.

    The new era of tea is not just introducing tea. It’s also explaining how you consume tea. So we are saying that yes, traditionally, you drink tea from a cup, but why not break the barriers and drink tea from a champagne glass or chill the tea and drink it in a martini glass? Make other drinks using tea. Open up your imagination; don’t be bound by the past. Take our old drink, modernize it, and do fun things with tea.

    That’s how I feel that the younger generation may find it more interesting. When I go to a friend’s house, they offer me Diet or a regular Coke, or maybe a club soda as a non-alcoholic beverage. I want people to offer tea. It is a non-alcoholic beverage with fantastic health values. So, keep our tea caddy next to your wine bottle and open a beautiful tea caddy when your special guests arrive. That’s how I want to position tea.

    Dan: You grew up drinking good tea.

    Mou: I moved to the USA from a place that is about 300 miles from Darjeeling about 25 years back, and one of my big struggles was to find the high-quality tea that I used to drink before I moved to the USA.

    Over here, you can find great coffee stores everywhere, but finding a great tea shop takes a lot of work. Tea is also looked upon as a health drink. It has many health values, but I want to make people understand that tea can bring people together. Tea can reconnect people and rejuvenate; it’s a drink that can elevate the moment, and it’s a non-alcoholic drink with value like fine wine. And you know, in wine, the quality of the grapes, the soil, and the weather drive how the taste and the flavor will vary. Darjeeling tea is exactly like that. I want to make people aware. I want them to taste Darjeeling tea and see that it’s a different drink altogether.

    Dan: Many brands position themselves as premium, but only a few succeed in conveying the elegance visible in your color palette, your choice of tins, and a clever pairing of an engraved traditional silver-plated infuser with a modern silver measuring spoon in your gift set Will you discuss your view on what makes a tea premium?

    Mou: First, elegance starts with the look of the tea leaves. A high-quality tea leaf is not dust. It’s a long, beautiful leaf, and it is rolled to perfection. It’s dried to perfection. It’s hand-picked at the perfect time. Recently, on a trip to Darjeeling, I noticed a tea leaf plucked before the rain could taste and smell different than a leaf plucked after the rain. It’s the elegance of flavor. It’s the elegance of taste.

    To that, we added silver accessories. When you drink a high-quality Scotch or a single malt, you could drink it from a plastic cup, but most drink it from a beautiful crystal glass. High-quality Darjeeling tea demands that kind of setting. It is more than just flavor and not just the tea’s color. It’s also the accessories, all of them, that elevate the moment.

    That’s where beautiful packaging comes in and where the look of the tea matters. So that people feel it’s a beautiful moment that they’re creating, whether it’s with their children, whether it’s with their grandchildren, whether it’s their significant other, or by themselves. Tea is an elevation of the moment — any moment.

    Dan: You have a wonderful founding story. You first found success as a software engineer, angel investor, and executive director of JP Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley before directing your talents to tea.

    Mou: My primary inspiration is that for 25 years, I have been looking for this kind of tea. I had a very hard time finding Darjeeling tea like the tea that I enjoyed in India. In our Country, in the USA, the tea comes through many hands a lot of the time, and every time you open a bag, the quality of the tea goes down.

    When I left my job and decided I wanted to do something on my own, something more meaningful, tea kept coming back to me.

    I realized this was an opportunity because all the best quality teas get picked up by Germany by Japan right away from Darjeeling. In most cases, they don’t come to our country. We are deprived of that highest quality. Brook37 is buying exclusive small lots of seven to ten kilos of the best Darjeeling offers.

    That’s what drove me. I don’t want to just bring the tea; I want to bring the whole experience with it. We call ourselves the Chanel of tea because we present tea as a high-end beverage that celebrates life. We have created a brand that will catch everyone’s attention, all the sensorial organs, the look, smell, touch, and feel all of it together. That’s what inspired me.

    I didn’t want a company that was all about money or finance. It was not a motivating factor for me. I wanted to have a responsible company. There is a saying that we do not inherit nature or the environment from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

    I didn’t want a company that was all about money or finance. It was not a motivating factor for me. I wanted to have a responsible company. There is a saying that we do not inherit nature or the environment from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

    The environment that I’m borrowing from my children, I want to give it back in good shape in a conscious way. From day one, we have been building a conscious brand, plastic-neutral, biodegradable, and reusable packaging, certified by 1% by the planet, etc. It must be empowering, and it must be socially conscious.

    “There is a saying that ‘we do not inherit this earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.’ I want to give back in good shape the environment we have borrowed from our children.”

    – Mou Dasgupta

    Dan: Will you share your inspiration for creating a women-led team with listeners?

    Mou: It’s not a conscious decision. I didn’t come in saying that I was only going to hire women. But 90 percent of the people working in our brand are women. We found the best talents who happen to be women. The best tea pluckers are women, and the best tea packaging laborers are women. Our tea sommelier happens to be a woman. Our photographer and videographer is a woman. Even our marketer and our social media leads are women. I just happened to have a team of women I found to be the best at their work.

    By elevating Darjeeling tea, we also elevate the people back in Darjeeling. It’s with pride that we produce one of the best teas in the world. I want them to share that sense of pride. Darjeeling should be a name that stands above the rest, not just a tea; it is a distinguished beverage, and hopefully, Brooke37 will give that to them.

    Dan: Will you discuss sourcing? That’s a challenge in Darjeeling right now, with many of the 87 registered estates in distress, several recently acquired, and all experiencing an overall decline in production from around 10 million kilos 10 years ago to six million kilos in recent years.

    Mou: My primary goal is to bring the best quality tea in my country to the USA. And it is not to promote Darjeeling’s biggest tea growers or tea estates. It’s really to work with anybody who is growing high-quality tea.

    We are looking for small growers. We’re looking for entrepreneurs innovating new types of teas and bringing them here at a good price.  I do feel that, at times, the prices are compromised. When someone gives 70% to 80% off the price of tea, that is just dust of Darjeeling tea, and calls them Darjeeling, they are diminishing Darjeeling tea to the world. Sometimes the price paid at the back end is too low and unfair to the tea growers.

    We are ready to pay $100 for a bottle containing five glasses of fine wine but not ready to pay $100 for 40-50 cups of the finest tea. If we don’t elevate Darjeeling to that point, people in the back end will always suffer.

    I alone don’t have the power to eliminate poverty in Darjeeling. I make sure that I at least do my part. I promote their work, I promote their tea, and I promote their small businesses because I am also a small business owner.

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