• Grassroots Tea

    Equifarm tea is a new brand with deep roots. In 2017 New Delhi-based Grassroots Tea Corp. first shared its vision for transforming the livelihoods of 250,000 of India’s small tea growers (STGs) by processing and marketing well-made chemical-free teas. Subsistence growers with generations of experience understand how to cultivate tea but are held back by their inability to add value. Few advance beyond a time-bound role as raw leaf suppliers. Grassroots helps secure financing and then aggregates, repacks, wholesales, and retails authentic teas supplied by collectives. Tea Producer Companies then partner with the collectives to operate mini-factories that process 2,500 kilos of green leaf a day.

    Photo caption: From left, Sabin Narzary,  Sanibar Boro, Assaigra Boro, Thapsa Boro, Baburam Daimary, Pijush Goyary, Ajith Boro, Bijoy Boro, Kukhol Boro,  J. John, Minto Goswami,  and Sanjwrang Basumatary.

    Smallholders in Assam supply green leaf to locally owned mini-factories. Photos courtesy of J. John.

    Assam Smallholders Express Pride of Ownership

    By Roopak Goswami

    Tea grower Sabin Narzary, 32, is proud and brimming with confidence, as are 260 small tea farmers in the Udalguri and Biswanath districts of Assam.

    All are shareholders in a tea producer company, a new business model that enables subsistence growers to finance mini-factories and create local brands collectively. Their new equifarm tea is now on sale on Amazon. The Grassroots Tea Corporation (GTC) launched the product during a virtual meeting on Oct. 8.

    Two weeks later their teas debuted on Amazon.in priced from INRs 360 to 605 (US$4.85-$8.15 for 250 grams).

    Sabin Narzary

    In 2017 New Delhi-based Grassroots Tea Corp. first shared its vision for transforming the livelihoods of 250,000 small tea growers (STGs) by processing and marketing well-made chemical-free teas. Subsistence growers with generations of experience understand how to cultivate tea but are held back by their inability to add value. Few advance beyond a time-bound role as raw leaf suppliers.

    “I have not heard about growers becoming shareholders in the small tea grower sector,” says Narzary, a father of two who was raised in Khasiapather. Small tea growers now produce more than half of the millions of metric tons of green leaf grown in India. Producer-members of the Swmkhwr Valley Tea Producer Company contribute green leaf and are granted shares in the venture.

    Smallholders in 2020 produced 52% of India’s tea, primarily for production as black CTC (cut, tear, curl) but with a growing segment of specialty tea producers.

    The equifarm brand’s tea range includes Premium Orthodox Whole Leaf, Premium Orthodox packaged in stand-up pouches, and orthodox tea and green tea in teabags. Initially, it will be available online on major e-commerce portals like Amazon, Flipkart, and selected cloud kitchens.

    Shortly after it was founded, Grassroots Tea encouraged a group of 260 indigenous Bodo small tea farmers in Assam’s Udalguri and Biswanath districts to set up four manufacturing units to process green tea leaves sourced from their farms. Each unit required an investment of INRs 1.3 crores (about US$175,000) to purchase the property, structure, tea-making machinery, and other equipment. The four factories raised the required capital – as equity and as a term loan from Financial Services Limited (NABFIN), a subsidiary of the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).

    Ten years ago “We were not getting good prices as we used to sell our leaves individually [to bought leaf factories],” explains Narzary. One of the biggest problems and worries of small tea growers in Assam are getting low prices for the green leaf as they are dependent on bought leaf factories.

    Protests and demonstrations are ongoing. The Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA) says that bought leaf factories pay an average of INRs 15-17 (US$0.20 – 0.23) per kilo for green leaf growers in Assam and West Bengal. Growers say the cost of producing green leaf has increased as much as INRs 19 (US$0.25) per kg due to shipping expense and a tightening supply of fertilizer and other inputs increasing the cost of production.

    He said the entry of Centre for Education and Communication (CEC) New Delhi and J. John changed all that, and the growers formed a society to get a higher price for the leaf they supply to the processing factories. The collective leaf trade fuelled the leadership and entrepreneurial aspirations of kindling their desire to move up the value chain. The societies brought their active members as shareholders to constitute producer companies.

    While taking advantage of a ‘Company’ registration, like raising capital and sharing profit, the Producer Company framework has the advantage that it runs based on cooperative principles. The shareholders are ‘active producers,’ which means only those who contribute to the supply of green tea leaves can participate. Each shareholder has one vote irrespective of the number of shares owned.

    “Our lives are now completely transformed as we are getting good prices for the green leaf and have learnt a lot about tea,” he says.

    Kukhol Boro says one of the most significant learning has been the advantage of being united. “Earlier we were selling our green leaf only by ourselves and did not get good prices, later when we became a society, we got better prices,” he says.

    “We had difficulties in getting compliances, but now, we can proudly say that we have a factory of our own where we manufacture tea all by ourselves, a dream that we have been chasing for the last eight to 10 years.

    Today after many ups and downs, we could make it happen,” he said.

    Equifarm tea

    “We have many more miles to go, but today is the beginning, today is the day of farmers, today is the day of GTC. Let the small tea growers of the world unite and be active part of the value chain,” Kukhol Boro said.

    “We could never imagine that one day the growers would be owning factories as members of societies,” added Kukhol Boro.

    Grassroots Tea has a packaging unit in Barpeta, Assam.

    “It is a market linked to the farmers’ movement in which farmers own and govern various stages of value accrual of an ethical product and obtain a reasonable share of the value accrued. It also establishes a direct connect between farmers and consumers by making available high quality ethical, ecologically sound and traceable natural tea,” said J. John, managing director of Grassroots Tea.

    GTC provides support at three distinct stages: empowering small tea growers (STGs) to cultivate chemical-free tea; assisting STGs in raising equity to set up Tea Producer Companies (under the Company Act, 1953) to build processing factories that manufacture high quality, certified orthodox tea; and when the tea is made Grassroots aggregates and markets the tea to conscious consumers under the joint ‘equifarm tea’ brand.

    Teas are natural, traceable, single-origin (subsumed within geographical indicators); made and owned by small tea farmers, ensuring a sustainable livelihood and an optimum share of the profits, he said.

    “Our long term vision is to transform socio-economic outcomes for 250,000 small tea growers at risk, in India. We want to ensure dignity and economic justice for all STGs by enabling fair compensation at multiple levels of value accrual throughout the value chain,” John says.

    India needs an alternate model for the tea-value chain as a core strategy to drive systemic change. In this model, subsistence tea farmers organize in collectives that own and actively participate in the value-creation and value-sharing processes, he explains.

    “As part of our long-term vision, we will facilitate the setting up of more STG owned tea producer companies (TPC) across India, directly impacting larger number of STG households and worker households,” he added. In time big brands and retailers will recognize and execute, the principle of fair compensation at value accruals.

    At the virtual launch event, Adina Pasula, Supply Chain leader, IKEA, Sweden, commented on the distress faced by small-time farmers across the world: “Social entrepreneurship like the equifarm tea is contributing in addressing their plight,” she said. Initiatives of this nature lead to systemic change and would have a collective impact across stakeholders at various levels, she said.

    NABARD General Manager Baiju Kurup praised the GTC model. He said that during the “last couple of years, NABARD’s major focus has been in the facilitation of the aggregation of farmers to a farmers’ producer company, or FPO, where better share of the price can be transferred to the producers so that they enjoy better price realization.”

    CISTA president Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty said, “in equifarm tea, we see the prominent footprint of the small tea growers in India.”

    Share this post with your colleagues.

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.


  • The Cost of Producing Specialty Tea

    Consumers who pay a premium at retail for specialty tea often leave growers to foot the bill. The costs of producing the distinctive taste of the authentic, transparent, eco-friendly, clean-label teas that are so popular with Millennial and Gen Z cohorts are significantly higher than what growers spend supplying conventional tea. A preference for chemical-free cultivation, third-party certifications, energy-efficient, carbon-neutral processing and transport, and recyclable and biodegradable packaging further erode margins along the length of the supply chain. This raises a fundamental question: Is anyone making money making specialty tea?

    Listen to the interview

    Will Battle discusses the additional expense of producing the best specialty teas

    Artisan teas require time and hands-on attention to detail
    Artisan teas require time and hands-on attention to detail that add significant costs. Photo courtesy Folklore Tea.

    An Investment in Quality

    In this post, Will Battle, author, consultant, and enthusiast for all things tea describes the additional costs to growers producing top-quality tea. Will trained as a taster in India, Sri Lanka, Kenya, and Malawi and has more than 20 years of experience sourcing tea. He is the author of The World Tea Encyclopaedia and founder and managing director of Fine Tea Merchants, Ltd., a wholesale tea importer and export venture that supplies tea merchants with mainstream offerings as well as rare teas and herbals. Will sees growers taking initiatives on quality at all levels of the cultivation and manufacture process and so regards the lines between the everyday and specialty sectors to be blurred, but here he focuses on the costs of creating the very best teas.

    Dan Bolton: Will, from a grower’s perspective, is manufacturing specialty tea worth the effort?

    Will Battle: I think frequently it probably isn’t. I look at some of the growers I deal with and the amount that they need to invest from a financial and human resources perspective and it’s so much greater in almost every area.

    Costs are higher at pretty much all stages of the chain. In my experience, Dan, whether it’s the approach to pruning, to leaf quality stipulated to pluckers, or to those buying leaf on the open market; the level of detail that the factory needs to apply to the processing of the leaf, right on through storage, shipping, all of those processes costs a lot more in the specialty tea industry.

    I struggle to see many instances where that’s appropriately rewarded.

    Dan: Let’s talk specifics, what costs are unique to producing specialty tea?

    Will: Let’s take Darjeeling for example, and their approach to the pruning cycle. A good case in point would be my experience with Jay Shree’s Darjeeling this year. They pruned more than they did in previous years, more than most other producers.

    That effectively writes off your first flush, but it might give you a better second flush, and then next year, you probably have an improved quality as well. But to write off your first flush is just an enormous financial handicap to impose on yourself and that’s your start point.

    Now consider the costs of for a kilo of fine plucked leaf. Let’s take the experiences of Tumoi in Nandi, Kenya.

    • In Part II Tea Biz will interview brands and category managers on costs they incur in bringing specialty tea to market.

    It might be seen in the wage pricing of seven to nine Kenyan shillings an hour for mainstream leaf, but around 25 [shillings] per hour for specialty leaf. You see, you’ve not even got the leaf to the factory yet and you’ve got an enormous margin to make up in the final product cost. And don’t forget, you’ve got 4.2 to 4.6 kilos of your green leaf for a kilo of made tea. So you’ve, got a big headway to make up on the final product cost and you haven’t even got the leaf  to the factory yet.

    Another example might be transport. The traditional way of getting green leaf to the factory might be to dump it in a pickup. But at Tumoi, in Nandi, they put it in some special aerated baskets to get it to the factory in optimal condition and that’s two or three pickup trucks getting the leaf there rather than one or a tractor adding fuel costs and wages. So again, another increment onto the final product cost.

    Packaging is a really, really good point. Let’s take Satemwa Tea Estate in Malawi. They are a great example because they make mainstream tea and they make some lovely specialty tea as well. The mainstream tea which I buy and use happily in my blends is lovely tea, but it’ll come in a paper sack and you get 60 kilos in a sack and more or less a ton on a pallet.

    The specialty tea. In fact, I’ve got one here that four is kilos net, eight kilos, 8.2 kilos, gross. So you’re shipping more air than product. And it’s in an expensive cardboard carton. So you can probably get nine of those on a pallet that’s just 720 kg in a 40-foot container. That means that the freight alone is almost $5.

    So when you get a freight rate increase like we’ve had this year, you have to automatically add another dollar to the cost. So that’s another cost and, here again, you’re not even taking into account the tea cost yet.

    The product that everyone wants is whole leaf. But for every kilo of whole leaf there is perhaps 25% waste or broken leaf that people won’t pay up for. It’s not as if every kilo that goes out of the factory is getting rewarded at the top price, because there’ll be some by-product as well. I think that is another instance where these guys aren’t always appropriately remunerated.

    It’s easy sometimes to say, I include myself in this, that we were supporting the specialty industry, but supporting the specialty industry is also remembering those other grades that they’re making, the leaf grades where they’re not always recovering a high margin on.

    You can go on and on. I see higher costs right through the process, along every stage of the supply chain but particularly labor because of the attention to detail, and in packaging, because of the attention to quality.

    Dan: When consumers pay a premium for specialty tea, what is the value received?

    Will: I think you’re ultimately investing in quality and an approach to creating a product, that is the best it can be. It’s worth remembering that those people who are making good specialty tea are also improving their mainstream quality as well.

    A large proportion [of that investment] should end up back in the communities that have spent the time in trying to create it for you. So wherever that specialty tea comes from ? whether it’s Japan, Darjeeling, Assam, Dimbula, or Malawi ? that investment in the regions and the districts where the tea is made is something really worthwhile.

    Dan: Why is it good practice to pay farm gate prices that allow sustainable production not just for specialty tea, as you mentioned, but commodity tea as well?

    Will: It’s a good practice because ultimately, we have an obligation to make sure our industry survives and that is reliant upon the people who grow and pluck and process tea. If we don’t pay a sustainable price, they will do something else. Without an appropriate farmgate price we don’t have an industry in my view, and it’s our obligation to make sure that any producer is appropriately remunerated.

    Otherwise, why would you grow it?

    A. Tosh & Sons tea warehouse
    UK-based Fine Tea Merchants partners with India-based A. Tosh and Sons, enabling multiple formats of tea bag and caddy packing as well as bulk exports from internationally accredited manufacturing facilities.

    Fine Tea Merchants

    FTM is a business-to-business supplier of tearooms, tea merchants and small packers in the UK, Continental Europe and further afield. The company imports direct from origin and stores a broad assortment of teas and botanicals in its warehouse in Lincolnshire. FTM specializes in fine and rare teas as well as high quality, mainstream teas and a selection of flavored-, herbal-, and fruit-blends.

    Tea may be ordered in quantities from 1 kilo to multiple containers and shipped as straight-lines, blends formulated to perform well in your local water, or custom blended against your own recipe.

    The World Tea Enclopaedia

    The award-winning book The World Tea Encyclopaedia was published in January 2017, with a second edition in November 2020. It covers every tea-producing country and advises tea lovers on tea cultivation and manufacture, origin, seasonality and local ‘terroir’ and tries to de-bunk tea myths and snobbishness. ? Will Battle

    Publisher: Troubador Publishing
    Hardback | 400 pages | £22.96

    Share this post with your colleagues.

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.


  • Mechanical Tea Harvesting

    Mechanical harvesting gets a bad rap. This is because poorly trained operators using poorly maintained equipment damage bushes, lowering yield and leaf quality. Simple routines such as level trimming in one direction, in a single long sweep over only half the plucking plain produces excellent leaf. Innovations like creating a seasonal calendar to regulate plucking rounds and paying workers for the area they shear instead of by the kilo keep yields high. Smallholders sharing equipment to save time can then use the many hours of labor saved for field maintenance and to complete agricultural chores like pruning, mulching, and weed abatement to deliver leaf of exceptional quality to factories.

    Listen to the interview

    Harkirat “Harki” Sidhu discusses the quality advantage to mechanical harvesting

    Mechanical tea harvester
    Harki Sidhu instructs women equipment operators in Bhumipradha, Indonesia. Photo courtesy Harkirat Sidhu.

    How to Stay on Top of Plucking Rounds

    Harkirat (Harki) Sidhu, 72, Rainforest Alliance India’s Consulting Program Coordinator for Sustainable Landscapes & Livelihoods and owner of Technologies Outsourcing is an expert in mechanical tea harvesters. He makes a compelling argument for improving tea quality using labor hours gained on farms that invest in these time-saving machines.

    Machine Harvested Tea Leaves

    Dan Bolton: Let me begin by just asking why we need harvesters?

    Harkirat Sidhu: In most geographies where we are harvesting tea, we are running out of workers who will work on farms. As a result, what happens is fewer plucking rounds that lead to tea overgrowth, and with overgrowth, you’re not going to make quality tea. So, we need to make sure that we stay on top of the plucking rounds.

    The fear that people have is that if you bring in mechanical harvesting, you’re replacing labor. But that’s not the idea. The idea is to plug the gap. The labor shortage in some places will be 40%. Another place there’ll be 25% fewer workers than required, but whatever the gap is, mechanical harvesting will plug that gap. That’s the whole idea of mechanical harvesting. Without that, we cannot manage today. The more you look at Sri Lanka, at Indonesia, India, China everywhere, everywhere we got the issue of a shortage of skilled labor coming up.

    “Mechanical harvesting is required today because we cannot complete plucking rounds frequently enough by hand. We need mechanical harvesting in addition to hand plucking, not to replace hand plucking.”

    – Harki Sidhu

    Dan: How does harvesting by machine impact the tea bushes and processing?

    Harki: Mechanical harvesters are not the same as hand plucking. So, we need to reorient our processing techniques and re-evaluate the actual processing of tea. Let’s talk for a moment about that. See, the difference between a harvester and hand plucking is that when hand plucking the plucker can selectively leave fresh leaf and other [maintenance] leaves.

    Whenever a harvester is required, we go non-selective at a particular height. The idea is to maintain that height because you will have problems if you go up and down. That’s why we need to make sure that we change the whole way we look at harvesting.

    Because it’s non-selective, we need to ensure that we pluck at the predetermined level and that there is no maintenance foliage coming into the harvest. So, for that, we need to set the table straight. If we don’t adjust these techniques, we will lose crop. You see many videos of people using harvesters, and they keep sweeping over the bush — every time you do that, you’re double cutting. And also it’s very difficult to maintain a level plucking plain. So we don’t recommend that.

    Dan: Could you explain the economics of mechanical harvesters?

    Harki: You don’t need a discussion on it; it is so simple. There are three basic types of harvesting. One is hand plucking which we have been doing for ages. Then shears were introduced, they are like scissors. We call them semi-mechanical harvesters. The third is, of course, the mechanical harvesters which are bigger machines. Some are operated by a single man, and some require two or more operators.

    Now, if you look at the economics, the kilograms plucked per man-day by hand might give you 30 kilograms. Shear harvesting might give you 38 or 39 kilograms, but the mechanical harvester will give you 150-200 kilograms per man-day, depending on the field. So that’s the difference straight away.

    There is a 20% to 23% saving in man-days if you are shear harvesting; there is a 74% to 75% saving in man-days when doing mechanical harvesting.

    What is happening today is that many governments and many organizations realize the need, but a basic subsidy is required for the mechanical harvesters because they are much more expensive.

    • Editor’s Note: A small Kawasaki electric hand harvester sells for around $100, a more capable electric model costs $250-$350; a one-man, gas-powered version sells for $400-$600. A two-man harvester sells for $950-$1,200. A Williames Tea track mounted Selective Tea Plucker sells for $30,000 to $35,000 and the Magic Carpet model sells for $80,000 to $90,000.

    Now, the question comes, can a smallholder afford a mechanical harvester, which costs a lot of money, even if he’s getting a subsidy? The answer is yes.

    What we do is we get two of them to purchase a harvester. Now the requirement for the owner of the harvester might be only a day, and he can cover his area. So, he can then charge the rest of the farmers to do the harvesting for them, and charge them per area, whatever area they’ve got; so, the other farmers don’t need to employ workers, their cost comes down. And the one who’s bought the harvester makes money and recovers his cost. In plantations, the return on investment is seven to eight months, with smallholders it’s a little more.

    That’s why we encourage people to go in for mechanical harvesting. We consider the life of a harvester to be two years. So after two years, they cannibalize a few harvesters to make a new one and buy a new one.

    Smallholders always have an issue with money. As soon as you tell him it costs so much, he says, “Oh my God.” So, then they go in for cheap harvesters, which are half the price, but create double the damage. Your quality goes down, your crop yields go down, the life of the harvester is shorter, so you’re soon buying a new one. So, we encourage them to follow certain principles on maintenance and to buy good equipment, pay for it, and it’ll pay for itself.

    Dan: Quality has often been questioned when the use of mechanical harvesters is involved. Talk to us about why quality does not suffer when one uses a mechanical harvesting strategy.

    Harki: The quality improves. I’ll tell you why. One is you are getting good leaf and you can get a very fine leaf. You decide on the target of your leaf. Most of the time, in hand plucking, by default, the leaf is becoming longer because you can’t harvest on time. So everything is based on the target shoot. You know I might say that in the second flush in Assam, you can do it in ten days, or nine days in October — every place is different. We tell them, you take your target shoot and record the time and date. As it reaches the target again record that time and date and when it reaches again, harvest and keep recording the interval. This becomes your calendar for next year. Once you’ve done it for a year, you got an obvious calendar that lets you plan the plucking schedule. I’m going to be nine days here, ten days here, 12 days at this time, and 13 days round of the season. Right? So it’s so much easier.

    When calculating these plucking intervals, you include in this gap all other agricultural practices that you should be doing during that period. Otherwise, everyone is on harvesting. No other job is being done.

    The harvester buys you all that labor time (75%) so that you can invest all that labor from the savings.

     If you do mechanical harvesting, your quality will suffer by just putting a harvester in place to remove the leaf, which is on top of a bush.

    You must alter many things, as I talked about, unidirectional harvesting, making sure that you’re not taking any maintenance foliage in your harvest, keeping the level not basing pay on kilograms per harvest worker.

    The biggest problem is that growers, once they put the machines in, continue paying that man per kilogram. So, he takes it a little deep, and then the leaf doesn’t come back for another three weeks because he’s done a light skiff, it’s chaos. In three months, the man’s machine goes down broken because he wasn’t taught maintenance. So, adjustment of blades, oiling of blades, If you don’t do that, they overheat and they damage your bush and the stock left behind.

    If you overcome these, which just requires training to understand what these machines can do, you alter your operations based on these machines. It will give you a fantastic quality.

    • Harki has contributed to his Tea Chai blog about tea technology since 2005.
    Single sweep in one direction harvest pattern at Namchic Tea Estate in Arunachal Pradesh. Photo courtesy Harkirat Sidhu.

    Share this post with your colleagues.

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.


  • A Medicinal Tea from the Sea

    Tea has an ancient history of medicinal applications, many of which have been validated by scientific research. The same is true of seaweed which contains antioxidants (vitamins A, C, and E) as well as trace minerals and protective pigments. Joining us from Tokyo for this week’s podcast is Hiroshi Takatoh, CEO, founder, and blender at Japan-based Teatis Tea. Takatoh is exploring, with his team of food scientists and doctors, tea formulations to assist diabetics and pre-diabetics control their blood-sugar levels.

    Listen to the interview

    Teatis Tea Founder and CEO Hiroshi Takatoh explains the health benefits of blending tea with brown seaweed

    Hiroshi Takatoh, CEO Teatis Tea
    Hiroshi Takatoh, CEO Teatis Tea

    Matcha and Powdered Seaweed Tea Aids Diabetics

    After acting as caretaker during his ex-wife’s battle with cancer, tech industry veteran Hiroshi Takatoh recognized the need for easy-to-make, nutritious foods that were suitable for the dietary requirements of medically fragile consumers. He then consulted with a wide array of doctors and food scientists for innovation within the condition-specific food and beverage space and discovered that diabetes was a challenge he could tackle in his latest business venture. The company has received $1 million in seed capital.

    Dan Bolton: Your two new powdered teas “CALM” and “AWAKE” are condition-specific blends formulated for diabetics and pre-diabetics with high blood sugar levels. Why did you focus on diabetes?

    Hiroshi Takatoh: There’s a huge population to diagnose in diabetes, and many who suffer lack the time to manage their diet. So we wanted to provide a fast way for them to control blood sugar levels.

    There are more than 400 million people with diabetes globally with 122 million people in the US diagnosed with diabetes and pre-diabetes. That is a very huge problem. Many lack the time and cooking skills to effectively manage their health. I think consumers with Type 2 Diabetes lose an average of two and a half hours a day. We want to solve this problem by providing the fastest way to manage nutrition without any cooking skills.

    Seaweed is harvested in large quantities in Japan for use in food and for its medicinal properties.

    To further support consumers with diabetes, every Teatis purchase contributes to our “Diabetes Advocate Tax,” which is donated to Insulin for Life USA, a non-profit that provides disease management supplies free of charge to diabetic patients worldwide.

    Dan: The “Calm” blend is a mix of traditional herbals, such as turmeric and ginger. “Awake” contains matcha and powdered peppermint. Tell us a little bit more about the health benefits of brown algae (Eisenia bicyclis) and the interaction of tea and turmeric with the seaweed.

    Hiroshi: Both Teatis powdered teas utilize the power of seaweed extract (Arame) that is proven to suppress the absorption of sugar from the intestinal tract and moderates blood sugar levels. Seaweed polyphenols show clinical evidence of inhibiting digestive enzymes from digesting food into glucose. Through a proprietary manufacturing process, Teatis is able to harness those nutritional benefits of seaweed, without passing along the flavor or aroma, and blend the seaweed seamlessly into matcha and turmeric powders.

    The two flavors are both good either hot or cold in the summertime. I love this kind of taste and definitely recommend it. The best way to use these is to put our tea in some skim or plant-based milk. Use one teaspoon per cup. That is the simple way to use our product. Some customers using our turmeric blend add it to their soup, others use Teatis to make green smoothies. So maybe this way is more fit for the matcha flavor.

    Dan: You’re making the point that its convenience and versatility encourage people to drink these tea blends in soups or smoothies or in a warm plant-milk-based latte.

    Hiroshi: The most important thing is that it is easy to drink. I want customers to enjoy their wonderful tea time and take just a tiny step toward prevention. So please enjoy.

    Many people like to add milk or milk alternatives to create a special at-home latte. Some add the matcha-flavored powder to smoothies and include the ginger-turmeric blend in soups. The powdered teas are accessible to cooks at any skill level and versatile, allowing diabetics and low-sugar dieters to be creative and craft beverages to their preference while managing their health.

    Share this post with your colleagues.

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.


  • Jolene’s Tea House

    The rugged Canadian Rocky Mountains thrust nearly 20,000 feet into the sky, a haven for hikers that inspired a unique style of high-mountain tea houses built to provide warmth and shelter along the trail. In Banff, Alberta, Tea Biz correspondent Jessica Natale Woollard visits Jolene’s Tea House – a refuge for mind and body.

    Listen to the interview

    Jolene Brewster on the re-launch of her retail brand.

    Jolene Brewster, left, and partner Jess McNally in front of the tea house located in the historic Old Crag Cabin.
    Photo by Gareth Paget, courtesy Jolene’s Tea House

    Customers Enjoy an Educational, Interactive Experience

    Jolene Brewster’s new tea venture is the culmination of years of passion and business experience, along with a healthy dose of contemplation, courtesy of time spent in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. About 15 years ago, the entrepreneur from Banff, Alberta ran a tea café. Then she moved into selling tea exclusively online and at farmer’s markets. Now she’s back with a new business partner, a refined business concept, and a new name — Jolene’s Tea House.

    Jessica Natale Woollard: Jolene, our listeners from around the world may not be familiar with the tradition of taking tea in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Tell us a bit about the history of tea in the Banff region?

    Jolene Brewster: We live in a place where tea houses are unique to Canadian culture. They are a part of history here in Banff. The tea houses that we have were built by Swiss guides to be a refuge for hikers and explorers travelling and enjoying this countryside.

    And with the spirit of that, with the spirit of people having tea, drinking outside, having tea on the trail, over the fire, climbing a peak, and having a rest along the way. We’re still doing the same thing today. We are still a place that people come to enjoy this incredible atmosphere, the mountains, to find what their looking for, to explore, to have their, honestly, to have their minds explode with the beauty around them. And tea is the beverage of choice. That’s what you take in your thermos out in the mountains. And I really believe that whether you’re at home in front of your computer, working all day, we need those moments of pause, of presence, of introspection, of enjoyment, and a good cup of tea can give you all of that.

    To avoid distractions, the shop offers only dry tea. Photo by Gareth Paget, courtesy Jolene’s Tea House

    Jessica: Your original tea retail store closed in around 2010. Eleven years later, what lessons learned have you carried into your new business venture?

    Jolene: One hundred percent, the model of our retail business going forward is so similar to what I’ve done at markets, at farmer’s markets, and I’ve done hundreds and hundreds of local markets around Alberta, British Colombia, and across Canada. I’ve been to huge gift shows like the One-of-a-Kind show in Toronto, which is magnificent. And a lot of work!

    It was successful, and the interaction we had with people, it worked. I love that people can come into our shop; they can sample different teas, they can smell. It’s an educational process. The one thing that surprises people, especially because we’re promoting the culture of tea houses, and we’re making that as much an interactive experience as possible within our own beautiful heritage cabin here in Banff, we don’t serve tea. We don’t do food and beverage. I learned doing the markets that if I want to be able to talk to people and make it more educationally focused, we’re not able to constantly be pouring cups of tea and have that business and distraction. We’re not creating a to-go environment.

    Jessica: How is the business of tea different today than it was your first time around?

    Jolene: I think there’s been some amazing companies, like DAVIDsTEA, who’ve really made tea fun for people. They’ve brought people who normally wouldn’t be interested in tea, they’ve brought teenagers in, they’ve made it a modern exciting environment, and I think that has opened the door for us to go to the next level, to delve even deeper into the organic, the quality, the minute differences.

    Jessica: Paint a picture of the ideal Jolene’s tea drinking ritual.

    Jolene: Outside. if you can take a moment in your backyard, on your balcony, after your morning run. Something with activity outside. I’m an avid horse rider and trail riding in the mountains is one of my passions, and to be able to take a small saddle bag and pull out my thermos and have a drink of tea after my ride is incredible. My partner Jess would most likely run up a mountain and have a cup of yoga chai up at the top.

    To discover how the Canadian Rocky Mountains are infused in Jolene’s business, visit:
    Jolene’s Tea House
    211A Bear Street
    Banff, Alberta

    Located in Banff National Park, Lake Louise was named in 1884 after the daughter of Queen Victoria. In 1899 the Canadian Pacific Railway hired mountain guides from Interlaken, Switzerland to lead tourists on excursions into the mountains. It was these guides who built tea houses for refuge on the trails beginning in 1901 with the Lake Agnes refuge and later at Abbot Pass and the Plain of Six Glaciers.

    Share this post with your colleagues.

    Signup and receive Tea Biz weekly in your inbox.


Verified by MonsterInsights