• Beijing International Tea Expo 2021 Postponed

    The 10th Edition scheduled for Aug. 27-30, 2021 at the Beijing Exhibition Center in Beijing, China has been postponed in a city-wide effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

    Beijing Exhibition Center
    Beijing Exhibition Center

    Beijing International Tea Expo

    During the past nine years organizers of the annual Beijing International Tea Expo have focused on enhancing the marketing and promotion opportunities for select producing regions. To register click here.

    The strong alliances and synergies resulting from this close cooperation with producing regions makes the popular exposition a benchmark in northern China by which other shows are measured. Attendees are highly qualified tea industry professionals and large-volume buyers including international representatives. A diverse show floor that includes every type of tea, plus processing and packaging machinery leads to many transactions and remarkable results.

    The past nine years the Expo was co-organized by Pu’er city in Yunnan province, Xinyang city in Henan province, Lu’an city in Anhui province, Lincang city in Yunnan province, Huangshan city in Anhui province, Zunyi city in Guizhou province, Wuzhou city in Guangxi province, Xianyang city in Shanxi province, and Yiyang city in Hunan province, respectively.

    The expo, which is approved by the Ministry of Commerce in China, is organized by the China Tea Marketing Association and the People’s Government of Xicheng District in Beijing.

    Since 2012 the event has featured more than 3,000 exhibiting companies (90% are first-line brands), more than 1,000 media representatives generated nearly 30 million online searches. Visitors total 620,000, including 220,000 professional buyers. Exhibitors report a total of 7,282 projects, with turnover of RMB 5.9 billion. Tea delegations at the event are from a dozen countries including India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Germany, Italy, and Argentina.

    The expo annually attracts the best-known tea companies and tea brands in China. The 2021 exhibition covers 26,000 sq. meters with 600 companies participating. Brands include Zhejiang Tea Group, Xiangcha Group, Sichuan Tea Group, Dayi Group, Wuyi Star, Zhuyeqing, Zhang Yiyuan and Wu Yutai.

    Education sessions spread tea knowledge and expose attendees to tea culture by showcasing local customs and heritage. A variety of tea cultural activities attract young and fashionable consumers seeking to better understand the tea industry.

    Sessions also cover topics of interest to caterers, resort, and hotels operators, tea preparation and proper use of utensils, advice on selecting and properly utilizing water with an introduction to new style tea beverages. Many cross-border tea events are planned, revealing new trends that drive consumption.

    The Beijing International Tea Expo has it all: popularity, extensive publicity, high standards, strong professionalism, a broad range of exhibition categories, international buyers, and good service.

    Learn more…

    10th Beijing International Tea Expo
    Aug. 27-30, 2021
    Beijing Exhibition Center

    Tickets available at the Exhibition Center Gate. Everyone is welcome with a health code on your phone.

    Directions: Take Subway Line 4 (Beijing Zoo exit) then walk a short distance to the Expo Center: No. 135 Xizhimenwai St., Yicheng District, Beijing

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  • 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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  • A Rare Find

    What makes a tea book special? asks Tea Book Club founder Kyle Whittington. Rare book collector Donald A. Maxton says that he first considers the age of a published work, which often reflects the culture of the time, and then interesting and unusual designs, and, finally, the use of color. Here Maxton describes a label from his collection:

    ‘Another interesting one was for Silver Eagle Tea. This label is off-white with a red border embellished with tea leaves at the corners. The text, printed in red and black, reads, “U.S. Registered No. 766 Silver Eagle, Carefully Selected Formosa Oolong.” An eagle carrying a chest of Silver Eagle Tea in its talons is centered on the label.

    Rare Tea Books and Ephemera

    As founder of Tea Book Club, I was immediately intrigued when Dan Bolton suggested interviewing Donald A. Maxton, collector, and dealer in rare tea books and ephemera for the Tea Biz Podcast. As Donald wasn’t able to record,  I’ll be voicing his answers for you here.

    Listen to the interview

    An interview with rare tea book collector Donald A. Maxton

    Kyle Whittington: What got you into dealing in rare tea books and related tea ephemera?

    Donald A. Maxton: I’ve been collecting books, primarily English and American literature since I finished college. Years later, when I wanted to learn more about the tea I drank every day, I bought a few books about the subject, which added to my knowledge and enjoyment of the beverage. Eventually, I discovered that a large number of books had been published about tea and its rich history. This was before eBay, Amazon, and the many websites we now have where you can easily locate and purchase collectible books. At the time, I found that many used and out-of-print books about tea were available at reasonable prices at used bookshops, usually in their cookbook sections.

    Donald A. Maxton

    So, whenever I hunted for books in my areas of interest, I also searched for tea books with the intent of setting up a small mail-order business. I started attending book shows that included dealers in ephemera: posters, postcards, magazine advertisements, trade cards, sheet music, etc. When I had sufficient stock, I created a mail-order catalog, advertised in “Tea, A Magazine.” I soon had quite a few customers: tea enthusiasts, owners of tea rooms, tea firms such as Harney & Sons, and even public libraries.

    Kyle: What is the most unusual or interesting tea book or piece of ephemera that you sold/have in your collection?

    Donald: One of the more interesting books I sold was titled Jinrikisha Days in Japan, written by Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore and published in 1902. It’s a first-hand account of Japanese culture in the late 1800s with vintage black and white photos and illustrations. It’s filled with interesting facts about teahouses and tea tasters. There are some wonderful anecdotes, such as one about chi ni yotta, or “tea tremens:” The author asks a Japanese friend if drinking large quantities of tea makes him nervous, and he responds, “I do not drink enough of it. I am very careful. but when my friends begin the study of English, they must stop drinking it. The English seems to bring into action many nerves that we do not use, and the drink is probably exciting enough in itself.” It had a lovely white and gilt pictorial binding and sold for $50.

    Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore
    Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore

    I purchased several delicate rice paper labels at a book and ephemera show that tea shippers and merchants once used to identify their products. I believe they date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They’re very attractive when framed. The labels I offered included one that reads, “Pacific Mail; No. 50. EXTRA CHOICEST GARDEN PICKED JAPAN TEA; FRAZAR & CO JAPAN.” The label is off-white with text printed in red, green, and purple, framed by a purple border, and illustrated with trees and pagodas. Another interesting one was for Silver Eagle Tea. This label is off-white with a red border embellished with tea leaves at the corners. The text, printed in red and black, reads, “U.S. Registered No. 766 Silver Eagle, Carefully Selected Formosa Oolong.” An eagle carrying a chest of Silver Eagle Tea in its talons is centered on the label. Recently, I’ve seen framed examples of similar labels priced as high as $1,000. I’ve kept two favorites for myself, one advertising gunpowder tea and the other Formosa Oolong.

    Kyle: Be they rare or otherwise, what are your top three tea books?

    Donald: James Norwood Pratt’s The Tea Lover’s Treasury, published in 1982, introduced the noted food writer M.F.K. Fisher is my favorite. This was the first tea book I purchased, and it’s a superb introduction: it’s comprehensive, informative, entertaining, and a pleasure to read and re-read.

    I think that Alain Stella’s The Book of Tea, published in 1992, is a very attractive volume and a favorite of mine. A large “coffee table book,” each section is written by a different authority on tea. It’s exquisitely designed and illustrated throughout with beautiful photographs, most of them in color. It’s a real treasure house of tea information and lore.

    These books are easy to find, but I also was fortunate to find another favorite, William H. Ukers’ All About Tea, published in 1935. It is quite scarce and expensive on the rare book market. It’s also very out of date but still one of the most thorough and comprehensive works about tea cultivation, manufacture, history, and culture. Fortunately, reprints have appeared.

    Kyle: What do you look for in tea books (or ephemera)? What makes a piece interesting or special to you?

    Donald: I consider the age of a piece, which often reflects the culture of the time, interesting and unusual designs, and use of color.

    Kyle: I believe many of the pieces of tea advertisement and ephemera you collected appeared in the book “Tea Art” – can you tell us more about how that came about?

    Donald: I had purchased a number of items to place in my catalog. Before selling them, I showed them to Gregory Suriano, a friend who was writing a book about tea graphics and advertising for Schiffer Publishing. He decided to photograph and publish them in the book, which was published in 2008. The full title is Tea Art: A Modern Look at Vintage Tea Graphics.

    Suriano, who lives in western Pennsylvania, is a historian of popular culture with a masters’ degree in art history who worked as author, editor, illustrator, graphics designer, copyeditor, and senior editor at Random House. He is a dealer in rare books, prints, and paper collectibles.

    Kyle: And what was your favorite piece included in that book?

    Donald: A pyramid-shaped folding poster display with colorful illustrations, circa 1880. When opened flat, there are brief descriptions of “Morning Tea,” “Afternoon Tea,” and “After-Dinner Tea.” When folded into a three-dimensional pyramid, the sides read, “The Secret of a Really Good Cup of Tea is Quality as supplied by the Tea Planters & Importers Co., London.”

    Kyle: How do you think the focus of tea books has changed over time? Has it changed, or are we just using contemporary words and context to talk about the same things that have been written about for centuries?

    Donald: The content of many tea books published in the last 20 years tends to be repetitious and a rehashing of what has already been written; but they often provide more information than earlier works about countries—in addition to the obvious ones, China, Japan, and India—where tea plays a significant role in their economies and culture, such as Indonesia, Africa, Russia, and South America.


    As tea lovers and fellow bookworms, it’s been a pleasure to hear Donald’s thoughts and get a glimpse into the interesting tea books and ephemera that have passed through his hands over the years. Thank you, Donald.

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  • Reviving Darjeeling

    Selim Hill
    Selim Hill gets a second chance. Photo courtesy Dorje Tea.

    Brand Appeals to Domestic Consumers to Revive Darjeeling

    Dorje Teas, a Darjeeling brand launched in June, takes its name from the region’s Tibetan origins: Dorje Ling or Land of the Thunderbolt.

    Founders Sparsh Agarwal and Ishaan Kanoria are targeting India’s domestic market and offer a subscription model. The brand’s origins lie in Selim Hill, one of Darjeeling’s tea gardens that belong to the Agarwal family. Alongside the launch of Dorje Teas, Selim Hill is also reviving the Selim Hill Collective. Among other things, it has brought Rajah Banerjee, the man who built Makaibari tea gardens, back as chairperson of the collective and as a mentor to Ishaan and Sparsh.

    The Agarwals’ connection with tea spans four generations to a time when Sparsh’s great grandfather sold tea chests to gardens and became a garden owner himself. About 30 years ago, the family acquired Selim Hill, a tea estate located right below Kurseong. The estate cover 1,000 acres, rising in altitude from 1000 to 4000 ft. The lower division is forest cover, with a rich bio-diversity. “We have a lot of elephants here. Hornbills are spotted regularly. Leopards too,” says Sparsh. The factory is in the upper-division with a bungalow restored and rechristened as the Second Chance Home because Dorje Teas is about second chances.

    Sparsh Agarwal
    Sparsh Agarwal

    Listen to the interview

    Sparsh Agarwal on reviving Darjeeling’s tea gardens.

    Like many of Darjeeling’s tea gardens, Selim Hill has not been profitable for a long time now. The irony of Darjeeling is that despite being a producer of fine teas, its 87 gardens constantly struggle against a barrage of problems, from climate change to socio-political turmoil and, now, the pandemic. Darjeeling’s dependence on exports further compounds this. Sparsh explains that the gardens are run mainly by absentee landlords — referring to the fact that most garden owners do not reside on the estate — which he cites as a problem.

    When the pandemic arrived in 2020, the Agarwal family thought it was time to sell Selim Hill. The loss of the first flush, following the lockdown announcement, seemed like the final straw. “But Selim Hill also occupies a very special place in the hearts of a lot of family members, and also friends of family,” says Sparsh. He had just graduated from Ashoka University with a degree in political science and international relations. He was starting work as a Research Associate at The Centre for Policy Research when he asked his parents if they would be open to exploring ways to keep the garden and not sell it. They agreed.

    When the lockdown was lifted, he drove up to Selim Hill from the family home in Kolkata. From then on, he began spending every other week at Selim Hill.  These trips brought the realization that it needed a structural makeover if he needed to save the garden. He was joined by Ishaan Kanoria, “who also has an intimate connection with the garden,” and they began brainstorming.

    During the next six months, they restored and repaired the assistant manager’s bungalow at the garden, “We needed to live in the tea garden itself if we wanted to revive it. We needed to live with the local community, understand what the problems are. Only then could those problems get solved. So we renovated the house. It’s a heritage structure, built in 1871. We were in contact with the former owners, to keep fidelity to the structure,” he adds. Sparsh’s mother renamed it “Second Chance,” symbolic of what they were trying to achieve when the building was completed.

    During these months, the Agarwals also reached out to Rajah Banerjee, who formerly owned the Makaibari tea estate in Darjeeling. Since sold to Luxmi Tea, the garden is legendary for its teas and for bringing bio-dynamic farming practices into mainstream conversation. Among other things, Banerjee built Makaibari as a formidable brand, one that still works in its favor today.

    Conversations ensued. As they began to articulate the problems that troubled Selim Hill – and indeed, most of Darjeeling’s tea gardens — a business plan for Dorje teas took shape.

    Darjeeling has been “inaccessible, unaffordable, or just unavailable,” to the Indian consumer, says Sparsh. Yet, his research showed that India has been a significant market for Darjeeling tea and that only half of the 10,000 metric tons of Darjeeling is exported. Kolkata has always been a market, but what about the rest of India? was a question that came up. Along with, ‘Why were gardens making losses despite producing excellent and rather expensive teas?’

    “The problem was in the four flush system that exists in Darjeeling,” says Sparsh. “The first and the second flush that gets exported sells for fancy prices. And yet, tea gardens are not able to break even. So obviously the problem lies with the monsoon and the autumn flush, maybe the monsoon more, and the autumn less.”

    Seasonal tea from Darjeeling
    Seasonal Teas from Darjeeling

    The other problem, they found, lay in the complex grading system of tea as whole leaf, brokens, fannings, and dust. The tea that comes out of the dryer or the Dryer Mouth Tea, continues Sparsh, is ready for consumption. But to create a uniform tea favored by the export market, this tea is cut and then graded. “To make the uniform whole leaf grade, we create the residue of the brokens, fannings and dust. Only 30% of the tea is sorted into the whole leaf grade and sold at a profit. So, we are not trying to cover the losses of the monsoon or autumn flush, but we are trying to cover the losses of the residue of the first and second flush themselves.”

    More research showed that this step of breaking the whole leaf tea was a recent addition – no older than 30-40 years, and not how Darjeeling tea has been made traditionally.

    Sparsh’s other dilemma was the hierarchy between the flushes, where the first flush is considered the best flush while the monsoon has suffered as the least preferred. He finds a high-fired monsoon flush tea with its smokey flavor “almost like a lapsang souchong” while friends and family in the tea business pronounced it a defect. Where he thought the tea worked well with a drop of milk, he was told you can’t add milk to a Darjeeling.

    The duo was determined to give every flush its rightful due, celebrating the unique flavour, aroma, and story they carried. They sought inspiration in how vineyards in the 80s created a model that allowed them to showcase every season’s produce but have a ready market for it, with a subscription model. “We don’t have to be dependent on the export market, which requires us to break and cut the teas. The customer gets a better product. The garden gets a better deal. And the best thing about this is that we’re able to make Darjeeling tea affordable,” says Sparsh.

    The pricing has been critical — the subscription costs INRs 2,300 ($31 per year), with four deliveries offered, one every season. Subscribers get 250g of whole leaf tea packed in a custom-sized bag, designed not to break the leaves. This pricing puts them closer to the most affordable Darjeeling in the market, which are Lipton Green Label and Makaibari’s Apoorva tea. At present, Dorje offers a black tea plan and a green tea plan, two tea types that have a ready market in India.

    Sparsh recalls that “many years ago I had the good fortune of working at the Islamic Arts Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. One of our projects was on a Persian carpet. And I remember Navina Haidar, the person I worked under, explaining to me the concept of tawheed and the oneness of God and how that is represented in the Persian carpet. And how the Persian carpet is supposed to be imperfect.” He draws this analogy to talk about the inconsistency of the tea leaves that go into the Dorje packets, insisting that in this inconsistency lies the charm of a fresh farm product.

    Dorje Teas is a new generation tea brand that takes the consumer even closer to the place of origin, recognizing the new-age Indian consumer as its audience while resetting the tea business to place value and quality at its center for both producer and consumer.

    Says Sparsh, “If Darjeeling is to survive, if there is to be a Darjeeling tea Renaissance, it has to be with Indians. Indians need to understand the handicraft of this industry and they need to want to support it, because this is one of the most phenomenal products that India has ever made.” 

    His vision may prove to be a new narrative for Darjeeling tea.

    The view from Selim Hill
    View of the Himalayas from Selim Hill

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  • India’s Cloud Auction Option

    Jorhat Tea Auction Centre
    Jorhat Tea e-Marketplace in Assam, India is the nexus of five major tea-growing districts with annual output of more than 200 million kg,

    Tea Day e-Auction Highlights Boutique Teas

    Buyers seeking quick turn-around of fresh tea from specialty and smallholder gardens in India bid record prices at a the first International Tea Day auction, the latest of 1.3 million kilos of tea traded since June 2020. All teas on offer were plucked May 21.

    The e-Marketplace at Jorhat is cloud-based making it accessible to buyers around the world.

    There are currently six auction centers in physical locations, each run by a separate committee which acts as the auction organizer, all sharing an electronic auction system pioneered by the Tea Board of India. About 500 million kg of tea out of India’s annual estimated at 1,350.

    “We created India’s first e-marketplace for buying and selling bulk tea. Along similar lines, we want to develop an international e-marketplace where foreign buyers can directly buy fresh tea from the gardens in the shortest possible time with complete transparency” says mjunction managing director Vinaya Varma.

    Vinaya Varma
    Vinaya Varma

    The International Tea Day Special Auction on June 21 was organized by mjunction Services, India’s largest B2B e-commerce company. The e-Marketplace launched last year amidst the lockdown. India offers a wide bouquet of teas across the year and ships regularly  to more than 90 countries. At a webinar on the occasion of International Day, Indian Tea Association Chairman Vivek Goenka said that India has set an export target of 300 million kg by 2023 — a 20% increase by next 2-3 years.

    Mjunction is an equal joint venture of Tata Steel and SAIL (the Steel Authority of India), is India’s largest B2B e-commerce company and a leading e-marketplace for steel in the world. Since inception in 2001, mjunction has e-transacted over INRs 1,053,663 crore ($142 billion) on its various e-platforms (an Indian crore is currently valued at $135,000 USD).

    Varma said there is a lot of excitement amongst stakeholders on the teas offered in the special auction and have got tremendous response and fetched some record prices. “More than 93% of the total teas on offer got sold. Buyers had logged in from Assam, West Bengal, Delhi, Gujarat, and Rajasthan,” he said.

    Nilesh Divekar of Shangrila Enterprise, who purchased Pabhojan Orthodox at Rs 4,000 per kg, said he  appreciates the efforts of the mjunction team to provide such a platform where best of the teas are available fresh and in small quantities without any hassles.

     Most of the best marks of Upper Assam like Hookhmol, Lankashi, Diroibam, Aideobari Premium, Muktabari, Rungliting Tea Estate, Narayanpur Panbarry, Durgapur, Tirual, Arin, Kathonibari, Friends Tea and Pabhojan participated.

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

    Pabhojan Orthodox tea was sold at a record price of INRs 4,000 per kg. Diroibam Speciality Green tea was sold at INRs 1000 per kg, and a Hookhmol CTC tea fetched INRs 510 per kg – also record prices in their respective categories.

     Rakhi Dutta Saikia of Pabhojan Organic Tea Estate  lauded mjunction’s efforts on the occasion. “I am very happy that Pabhojan has fetched a record price, and  hope the mjunction platform continues the good work,” she said.

     Dr. Nazrana Ahmed of Diroibam Tea Estate, whose Green Tea was sold at INRs 1,000 per kg, said, “Today’s special auction is of special significance to us, as we have received the highest bid for our Specialty Green Teas. We are happy with the professional approach of the mjunction team and the trust reposed on the platform by the buyers.”

     He said the company is trying to make small tea growers’ tea available to the connoisseurs of tea worldwide.

     “Our Jorhat office is in constant touch with the small tea growers  segment. There is a lot of interest from STG to be part of our platform.

    We are very well aware of their struggle and contribution to the tea industry in Assam as well as the rest of the country. “mjunction is also very well aware that many of these small tea growers are producing some of the finest handcrafted tea in the country. Some of the tea is also organic and there is a huge demand in the world market for such tea” he said.

    He said in one year, it has  been able to bring a lot of buyers and sellers who have been outside the purview of auctions till now. There are many first-time tea entrepreneurs who are now associated with our platform.

     “We hold weekly sales. Our first sale was on June 1, 2020 and since then we have not dropped a single weekly sale. During the past year the e-Marketplace connected with hundreds of sellers and buyers across the country, fetched some record prices and received offerings of more than 1.3 million kg of tea from Assam, Nagaland, and Arunachal Pradesh. Nearly 300 stakeholders, consisting of major tea buyers and sellers, are registered in this tea e-marketplace.

     “The founding principles and processes of our e-marketplace and Tea Board are different, so a comparison is not really possible,” he said.

     The event organized by mjunction elicited positive response from buyers and sellers alike. Kamal Sharma and Pradeep Sharma, Directors of Tea World who purchased Hookhmol CTC from the platform at INRs 510 per kg, said, “With shorter cycle time, teas sold on the mjunction platform are the freshest. We are pleased to have bagged Hookhmol. We have had our own packet with brand name Shree Mangalam since 2002, and we are committed to give our customers the best of Assam tea.”

    “While the pandemic hit the industry adversely, it has also given us a chance to let go of inefficient and archaic systems. If we look around in the last one year, the adoption of technology and digital platforms has been wide, deep and rapid. Similarly, the industry leaders must think of ways to include technology in plantation, manufacturing, trading etc while focussing on delivering quality produce.

     “I am optimistic about the Indian tea industry picking up using new-age processes and technologies,” he said.

     “Many specialty tea producers from North East India have approached our Jorhat office for inclusion. We are going to have separate catalogues for specialty teas and we are expanding our buyer base of Speciality teas” he said.

     He said the company will shortly be introducing Buyer and Seller Finance. Again this will be a first of its kind in the industry, as this shall be provided through the platform in a transparent manner. “We are also planning a B2B bulk packet platform, where single-origin and other packeteers may directly sell to retailers across the country, without intermediaries,” he added.

     The company is focused on bringing down the sales cycle-time and making freshly produced tea available in the market, directly from the producing region in the shortest possible time. “We want to make the supply-chain efficient, and ease up the working capital burden of the stakeholders,” Varma added.

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