• Modern Herbalism from Traditional Medicinals

    Traditional Medicinals is a Northern California-based botanical wellness brand rooted in modern herbalism that inspires active connection to plant wisdom in serving people and the planet. Formulations of more than 60 teas, lozenges, and capsules are strictly limited to science-based botanical ingredients without added flavors and in quantities that meet pharmacopeia standards for efficacy. The company’s single blends and single-herbal infusions are organic, sustainable, and ethically sourced. Traditional Medicinals was launched in 1974, and in recent years, the company has experienced exponential growth as consumer demand fills the sails, expanding distribution from niche natural food stores to mass market outlets. Joining us is Chief Marketing Officer Kristel Corson. She says, “Our teas have been around what seems like forever, but herbals are having their moment, and it is important to educate folks, not just on what has been, but on what medicinal herbalism is today, and it’s very different.”

    Listen to the interview

    Kristel Corson, Chief Marketing Officer
    Kristel Corson, Chief Marketing Officer, Traditional Medicinals
    Kristel Corson, Chief Marketing Officer, Traditional Medicinals

    Harnessing the Power of Plants

    By Dan Bolton

    Kristel joined Traditional Medicinals in 2022 “to focus on building the brand for its next phase of growth, rooted in purpose, and delivering amazing products that harness the power of plants and their many wellness properties.”

    She spent more than 30 years helping beloved brands like Clif Bar, Jamba Juice, Clover Sonoma, and LeapFrog exceed business objectives through a combination of innovative new product launches, strong retail presence, and marketing programs that create positive, lasting consumer connections.

    As chief revenue officer, Kristel helped transform the century-old Clover Stornetta brand from a values-based regional dairy to a nationally recognized conscious-consumer and mission-driven product innovator. Kristel earned a BS in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing from San Francisco State University.  

    “We’ve got a full innovation team thinking up all the different ways to bring these amazing herbs to consumers, make them more accessible, and help them understand the benefits that they can bring.”

    – Kristel Corson

    Dan Bolton: I am delighted, Kristel, that you joined us today on the Tea Biz Podcast. Will you tell us just a little about yourself?

    Kristel Corson: I’ve worked on consumer-packaged goods for over 30 years. About 20 years ago, I found my passion through working for brands driven by multiple bottom lines, more purpose-driven brands that have an impact, and a mission to do better in the world.

    I started with Traditional Medicinals about 15 months ago, and they are the most purpose-driven, impact-driven brand out there, at least that I have come across.

    It is primarily tea. However, our focus is plant medicine and bringing plant medicine out into the world in an accessible way to help with everyday wellness.

    We’ve recently launched lozenges and are looking at different ways to bring this plant medicine, but our mainstay is teas. That’s what started the company about 50 years ago.

    High quality herbal wellness

    Throat Coat

    Dan: Good Housekeeping recently named Throat Coat a category winner in coffee and tea. The kitchen lab experts and more than 1000 consumer testers were tasked with finding the most innovative, high-performing products. They chose a tea that has been around since the 1970s. The citation by the judges encapsulates several modern trends: “Warm liquids can be soothing, and this blend from Traditional Medicinals is designed to support throat health. It smells sweet and like licorice. It’s also slightly woody. It’s organic, and the brand is B-Corp certified,” said Good Housekeeping’s team of experts.

    Kristel: Consumers look to Good Housekeeping because they use consumer panels, they really do their research, and to have Throat Coat called out, as, you know, one of the best teas out there is amazing.

    Throat Coat is a product that has been around almost since its inception. It wasn’t one of the original teas, but it came out soon after. The tea helps your throat while you’re sick or when you’re hoarse, but it’s a tea that’s just for overall throat health.

    Throat Coat has been getting much recognition lately, but for many years, several artists out there, musicians in particular, seem to love Throat Coat.

    Throat Coat
    In 2020, the company announced plans to build a distribution facility in Virginia. Construction was expected to start in late 2023, but the facility has not been built.

    Dan: The uplift from niche natural grocery and health food stores to the mass market was underway before the pandemic but has since accelerated. What is propelling the brand forward?

    Kristel: Well, Traditional Medicinals, as you noted, have always been rooted in plant medicine. We only use medicinal-grade herbs in our teas. We don’t use any flavorings or anything but the true herb.

    This is one of the things we pride ourselves on in trying to introduce the true taste of herbs to consumers. We have a full staff of R&D [Research and Development] scientists and naturopath doctors who understand these herbs, their qualities, and their flavors.

    We create our medicinal herbs, formulas, and blends like Throat Coat, whose key ingredient is the slippery elm, a tree bark from Appalachia that soothes throats. It’s a blend incorporated with many other herbs that provide medicinal benefits, like licorice, which also gives it a nice taste. And so we’re very proud that we can bring that efficacy to our teas with blends that consumers like as well.

    Early 1970s range
    Early 1970s range

    Dan: In its Food Trends for 2024 report, Whole Foods Market named Traditional Medicinals as an example of a women’s health trend labeled “From Taboo to Top-of-Mind.”

    “We’re seeing more brands making products to support periods, pregnancy, postpartum, menopause, and even sleep that address life stages and symptoms previously swept under the rug,” writes Whole Foods.

    Traditional Medicinals co-founder Rosemary Gladstar was selling Mother’s Milk lactation tea 50 years ago. The line now includes Raspberry Leaf Tea for menstrual relief, Pregnancy Tea, and Morning Ease for morning sickness.

    Advanced R&D
    Advanced R&D capabilities

    Kristel: Medicinal-grade herbs have been used for thousands of years to help women through the different stages of their lives. Herbs help with hormonal balance. You mentioned Mother’s Milk, which is one of our original teas. It helps women who are nursing to produce more milk. One of the most recent trends is an herb called raspberry leaf. That is our very popular tea to help women with their menstrual cycles.

    One of the things we do at Traditional Medicinals is develop products that can become part of your everyday wellness cycle.

    Going to the doctor and getting pharmaceutical drugs is necessary from time to time, but daily for overall wellness, herbs have a place in today’s world.

    Dan: So, how’s business?

    Kristel: Our business is going wonderfully. We continue to see double-digit growth, year on year. I think it is about being in the right time and place. Post-COVID, people have taken a hard look at their overall health and wellness and have made changes.

    The younger generations are much more into plant-based products in general. Herbal tea is one of those. I think that herbal tea is something that consumers, for a relatively low cost, can bring into their daily lives and take better care of themselves.

    What’s unique about Traditional Medicinals is how we source the product.

    We’re organic, but many of our products are also Fairtrade certified. We try to bring to light how important it is for the producers and growers and the people who collect the herbs to be treated fairly. Within the retail space, consumers are asking for not only good quality products, but also products that are made fairly and ethically.

    As we turn 50, we are seen as offering a product that connects with consumers’ needs. And when you connect with consumers, retailers want you. Our roots were in the natural products industry. We were in health food stores originally, with little mom and pops, and then Whole Foods took us on, leading to other retailers like Sprouts. In the last ten years, we’ve stepped into the mainstream with the likes of Kroger, Publix, Walmart, and Amazon.

    It was old school to think that if you were a true natural product, you would stay in the natural channel. We believe we’re trying to bring plant medicine to the world, to all consumers, so that they can bring it into their daily lives.

    On display
    On display

    That connection and working with retailers to prove the case over the years that herbal teas deserve a spot on the shelf is something that we’re very focused on and very successful. Today, we’re the number one herbal wellness tea.

    Dan: You’ve seen significant online sales growth. Will you describe the role online played in transitioning to mainstream? Sales spiked in 2020. How are online sales now?

    Kristel: online sales definitely went through the roof during COVID. Selling online offers a different experience for the consumer versus brick and mortar.

    When they find you online, you can often tell the story of your products. You can go deep with pictures, articles, and videos so the consumer can be much more educated. And so, by being educated, especially with something like a Traditional Medicinals tea that has so much behind it, you know, it’s a dietary supplement, which FDA regulates. We have several certifications, which are all third-party accredited. People can read about this, get steeped in that information, and make a much better choice.

    Online retailers make it easy for you to subscribe. A lot of them offer discounts if you subscribe. And it becomes part of a consumer’s pantry.

    Convenience is a huge part. You can go online at any time to buy a product, but for us, what we’ve been able to do is tell our story. We’ve provided consumers with in-depth information about how we make our teas, where we get our teas, our ethical sourcing, and everything that we believe in that supply chain side.

    Consumers get to read reviews. And so you know, not only do you hear from the company and everything they bring forward, but many of our top products have amazing reviews that help consumers hit that “Buy Box” when they’re shopping online.

    Active website
    Educational website

    Dan: Renewed interest in herbal infusions and condition-specific and functional teas are trends that will be long-lived. And how do you see the evolution of Traditional Medicinals?

    Kristel: We talk a lot about new products within the four walls of Traditional Medicinals. We are rooted in plant medicine and bringing that to the forefront for consumers.

    Tea will always be the core of the brand because of its ability to deliver plant medicine in a way that people can consume easily. It also gives you that sense of daily ritual to take care of yourself; tea provides an entire experience.

    But as we look to the future, we also see that we can bring plant medicine to consumers in our organic lozenges under the Throat Coat brand, which is already amazing at retail. People recognize the Throat Coat as something that they’ve had in their pantry for years to help with their throat, but now in a more convenient way.

    A lozenge is the perfect product, but there are so many more.

    The future is this combination of continuing education, fair and ethical sourcing, and finding new ways to bring plant medicine to consumers. 

    And so, we’re excited. We’ve got a full innovation team thinking up all the different ways to bring these amazing herbs to consumers, make them more accessible, and help them understand the benefits that they can bring.

    We categorize our teas in two different areas; we have the ones that we’re most known for: Throat Coat, Smooth Move, and Mother’s Milk; these are all teas that the herbalist formulates. They’re all blends. And they are put together to provide specific medicinal benefits.

    But we also have a whole line of what we call single herbs. These we bring straight to the consumer. Peppermint is an example. We educate them on the fact that peppermint is amazing for digestion. We state that on the packaging and discuss the functional benefit each of our teas brings.

    Consumers can study the shelves and figure out what they need most in their daily lives. When Traditional Medicinals brought forth these medicinal-rated herbs, they honored traditions passed down for thousands of years. In addition, we explain ethical sourcing and how we respect collectors and producers. We’ve been a leader in the Fairtrade movement.

    The next level is our Fair for Life certification, which examines the entire supply chain and how we bring products to market. The emphasis is on “responsible supply chains” that incorporate long-term vision. Fair for Life was created in 2006 by the Swiss Bio-Foundation and taken over by Ecocert in 2014.

    As we look to the next 50 years, in addition to educating consumers on plant medicine, we strive to be a role model for other companies doing business in the most ethical way possible. We’re very proud of that.

    Photos are courtesy of Traditional Medicinals. Thanks to Kristel for sharing.

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    Episode 151 | Traditional Medicinals is a Northern California-based botanical wellness brand rooted in modern herbalism to inspire active connection to plant wisdom in service of people and the planet. Formulations of more than sixty teas, lozenges, and capsules are strictly limited to science-based botanical ingredients without added flavors and in quantities that meet pharmacopeia standards for efficacy. Chief Marketing Officer Kristel Corson says, “Our teas have been around what seems like forever, but herbals are having their moment, and it is important to educate folks, not just on what has been, but on what medicinal herbalism is today, and it’s very different.”

  • UN Plans Global #TeaPower Promotion | Tea Advice Taken with a Grain of Salt | China Reports Tea Exports Declined in 2023

    UN #TeaPower Promotion Targets Younger Generations | Tea Advice Taken with a Grain of Salt | China Reports Tea Exports Declined in 2023

    Tea News for the week ending January 26, 2024
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    The Toronto Tea Festival is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend. The Tea Guild of Canada and Tao Tea Leaf are co-founders and sponsors of the event. Organizers expect a big crowd to attend educational presentations, cultural demonstrations, and competitions, and there will be products on display from 50 tea vendors, large and small. Rita Fong helped organize the inaugural event. She is a director and manages social media and marketing of what is now the largest tea festival in Canada. She joins us on the Tea Biz Podcast to share insights on this event’s staying power and growing popularity.

    Listen to the interview
    Toronto Tea Festival Social Media and Marketing Director Rita Fong

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    Tea Power
    UN Tea & Health

    #TeaPower Marketing Campaign Targets Young Tea Drinkers

    By Roopak Goswami
    The Food and Agricultural Organisation’s Intergovernmental Group (FAO IGG) on Tea will launch a global health-focused promotional campaign targeting younger consumers looking for an alternative to sugary drinks.

    “There has been a global increase in consumer awareness of a healthy lifestyle, and dietary habits are changing in response to known linkages between diet and health. However, many campaigns are focused on health benefits that address the concerns of older generations,” the UN agency on tea said in a background paper on Tea and Health, slated for discussion at the 25th session of FAO IGG.

    Ajay Jalan, former president of the Tea Association of India, said, “In current times, health and wellness have become central factors in consumer choices, offering a unique opportunity for the tea industry to tap into new consumer markets, especially among Gen Z and millennials.”
    Tea Biz correspondent Roopak Goswami writes that the gathering provides a forum for intergovernmental consultation and exchange on trends in production, consumption, trade, and the price of tea, including a regular appraisal of the global market situation and short-term outlook.

    “The world market for tea continues to be in oversupply, as yields per hectare have risen without a matching increase in global demand. Critically, the next generation of consumers has a wide range of beverages to choose from, and Tea must compete for a share of throat,” according to IGG.
    This is the first time IGG has met in Assam, a tea-growing region that contributes around 12% of the world’s tea. The three-day session begins on Jan. 31 and is preceded by Batic 2024, a celebration of Assam’s bi-centenary of commercial tea production.

    “Tea Power is the perfect pitch for younger generations looking to increase their performance and energy levels while staying healthy. With carefully crafted messaging, we can create a powerful campaign that will inspire and encourage young people to make tea a part of their lifestyle.”

    – UN Working Group on Health & Tea
    Tongue in cheek release from US Embassy in UK
    Tongue in cheek release from US Embassy in UK

    British Take Tea Advice with a Grain of Salt

    By Dan Bolton

    Professor of Chemistry Michelle Francl caused an uproar this week with the publication Wednesday of her book “Steeped: The Chemistry of Tea.” 

    The text advises tea drinkers to add a pinch of salt to over-brewed tea, a recommendation found in 8th-century manuscripts from China. 

    She reports that salt ions block the bitter receptors in your mouth, resulting in a tea that tastes less bitter.

    The tongue-in-cheek response in media that quoted “agast” British culinary and beverage experts drew the attention of the U.S. Embassy in the U.K.

    “American chemist inspires a moment of diplomatic levity with controversial brewing suggestions,” reads a headline in The Guardian. “US Pledges Support for UK After Egghead Suggests Putting Salt in Tea,” reads a headline in Politico.

    A satirical release said her findings regarding “the elixir of camaraderie, a sacred bond that unites our nations,” could jeopardize relations, placing diplomacy in “hot water.” 

    The ambassador cannot “stand idly by as such an outrageous proposal threatens the very foundation of our Special Relationship,” reads the release. The Embassy declared that adding salt is not official U.S. policy and “never will be,” and jokingly chastised Francl, whose advice in the text is sound.

    Francl, who teaches chemistry at Bryn Mawr, recommends loose-leaf tea. Those seeking convenience will find a large tea bag allows better infusion than a small one. Dunking reduces the release of tannins, she advises, lending scientific backing to the adage  “brew, don’t stew.” Remove the lid from a takeaway cup to enjoy the aroma, she says, and add a squirt of lemon juice to disburse tea scum in the cup.

    Related: The Physics of Black Tea Film

    Francl called for scalding a stout mug before pouring from the pot as the warmth increases the amount of caffeine and antioxidants released. She suggests tea drinkers should not be “miffy” (milk in first). Milk should be warmed before it is added to the tea to prevent curdling. Fancl, who analyzed research papers, ancient texts, and several books on the topic, wrote the book to educate others on how to make a better-tasting tea. She observed with a scolding:

    “I’ve had better cups of tea in gas stations in Ireland than very nice restaurants in the U.S., she told Forbes.

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    Episode 152 | UN #TeaPower Promotion Targets Younger Generations | Tea Advice to Take with a Grain of Salt | China Reports Tea Exports Declined in 2023 | PLUS  Toronto Tea Festival Social Media Manager and Marketing Director Rita Fong share insights on this event’s staying power and growing popularity.

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  • World Tea Academy Partners with Australian Tea Masters to Refresh Online Curriculum

    World Tea Academy is making a fresh start in the new year, unveiling a new website and a refreshed portfolio of online and on-demand classes at lower fees. The curriculum spans the interests of tea enthusiasts and offers five certifications for those employed in tea. Australian Tea Masters Founder Sharyn Johnston designed the new curriculum and developed the website. She is with us today to talk about joining forces with Questex, owners of the World Tea brand. “This partnership marks a landmark moment for us, offering an extraordinary opportunity to showcase our deep commitment to tea education on a global stage,” she said.

    • Certifications include Tea Specialist, Tea Professional, Tea Sommelier, Tea Health Expert, Tea Blender, and Tea Aroma Expert.

    Listen to the interview

    World Tea Academy Head of Tea Education Sharyn Johnston
    World Tea Academy Head of Tea Education Sharyn Johnston
    World Tea Academy Head of Tea Education Sharyn Johnston (CEO Australian Tea Masters)

    Low-Cost Foundation Course is Key to Training Baristas

    By Dan Bolton

    Sharyn Johnston is the newly named head of education at World Tea Academy. She was the founder in 2011 and remains CEO of Australian Tea Masters, a global resource for tea training, tea blending, tea consultancy, and tea education in Australasia. Sharyn has authored two handbooks on tea, one defining the role of the sommelier and the other explaining the basics of tea blending. She is a skilled taster who buys, sells, and blends millions of kilos of tea annually as the head of Australian Tea Masters Wholesale and Blending—the company’s trading arm. With offices in Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia, it was launched in 2017.

    Sharyn is a member of the advisory board and Head Judge of “Tea Masters Cup International.” Sharyn has traveled to more than 20 countries, where she often speaks at conferences and festivals attended by tea enthusiasts and professionals. Tea Masters offers a portfolio of approximately 30 tea courses across all sectors with a strong focus on specialty teas.  Australian Tea Masters has organized and will operate the newly updated education platform the World Tea Academy uses.

    “This partnership marks a landmark moment for us, offering an extraordinary opportunity to showcase our deep commitment to tea education on a global stage.”

    – Sharyn Johnston

    Dan Bolton: What do you enjoy most about teaching people about tea?

    Sharyn Johnston: Number one is the people I meet worldwide when we run a class; they’re all so different. They’ve all got different likes and dislikes in tea and different backgrounds. It’s just a great opportunity to travel, meet people, and learn more about tea every day; I always learn something new myself.

    I’ve gone to origin in so many different countries, I’ve trekked around the tea farms, I’ve met the small farmers, I have put a huge amount of energy in the last seven to eight years with at least half a year each year I have spent traveling to tea farms and meeting the people at the ground level. I wanted to experience making tea with them and understanding the processes. I want to be able to share that through education. That will probably be my big focus, showing the real world of tea, not the commercial world, but showing the real world of tea through education.

    Dan: Tim McLucas, VP and Market Leader of the Bar & Restaurant Group at Questex, writes that Australian Tea Masters is “uniquely positioned to support the growing demand for online tea education, plus provide new opportunities for professionals to meet and learn in person and connect face to face with the tea community including producers, retailers, suppliers, and other key industry stakeholders.”

    I hold World Tea in high regard, and as the first editor and publisher of World Tea News, I have followed their competitions and education programs since they were created.

    It sounds to me like you are well-paired in this new venture.

    World Tea Academy Head of Tea Education Sharyn Johnston
    Sharyn Johnston

    Sharyn: Oh, thank you. I’m honored to have been asked to collaborate with The World Tea Academy. Twelve or 13 years ago, when I started in tea, I went to the World Tea Expo to try and learn more about tea. I was so impressed with the classes; having people together all love tea was such a great experience.

    I’ve attended almost every World Tea Expo since then, and I’ve always loved it, so I can’t believe I have this opportunity to work with and collaborate with World Tea Academy. I see great opportunities in the education side of tea.

    Dan: How will you differentiate your program from others? I’d like you to share your vision of how the academy might evolve with readers.

    Sharyn: We’ve built a new website that is very modern, enhanced all the content, and added more than 1,000 new photos, images of tea plantations, and things like that. We’ve got a long way to go.

    We’ve got some amazing ideas for the future, and we want to build on that. One of the things we’ve already introduced is a new Basic Foundation course in tea.

    That was one of the important things missing from the academy curriculum. We developed the world’s first tea 101 course online about nine years ago before it was the thing to do. And we’ve just had so many positive comments from that course over the years.

    World Tea Academy Foundation Course
    World Tea Academy Foundation Course

    Dan: The Foundation Course is only $85. It is a self-paced course in eight lessons that covers a broad range of topics from tea types and origins to cultivation and processing, brewing techniques, and tasting tips, as well as ceremonies and culture, serving etiquette, health benefits, and even food pairing.

    Why is basic education in tea needed more now?

    Sharyn: If you look at coffee, the specialty coffee industry has gone from instant to granulated freeze-dried coffee to professional baristas.

    When people walk into a cafe and want to know about a coffee product, where it comes from, how it is processed, and how to prepare it, all that information is available.

    We’re still so far behind in tea. Go into a café and the only thing you usually get offered is English breakfast, Earl Grey, Peppermint, or Chamomile. And that’s why education is critical to the tea industry moving forward.

    We want to change that. We want World Tea Academy to be the best education platform in the world and to have a lot of exciting content so that we inspire younger people. I think that’s the key to moving forward. So that’s one of the things we want to focus on: how can we make tea a bit trendier and easier to understand? We want to share the amount of different teas out there and how fascinating tea can be.

    We’ve got some really good ideas, especially on the specialty side, that we’ll release in the next month or so. That’s one of my key focus areas.

    World Tea Academy Core Courses
    World Tea Academy Core Courses

    Dan: Retailers rely on well-trained staff. Kevin Gascoyne, a partner at Camellia Sinensis in Montreal, told me that the amount of information most clients need is quite small. But he said, “All this in-depth information helps to drive the company culture and inspire the staff to sell it.  It keeps their geekiness and enthusiasm for the product alive. It also drives that percentage of the tea-drinking population that is really thirsty to know more and more because it’s become an intellectual, learning, and collecting hobby, not just a gourmet hobby of consuming.”

    Sharyn: We are so grateful to the coffee industry because the baristas are already there. They already understand what it takes to educate people in specialty coffee. If we can educate the baristas, many are already doing pour-overs, and they are using AeroPress. They’re using all the modern tools for serving coffee to brew tea. We’ve been doing this now for, you know, for four or five years in Australian Tea Masters. We’ve been educating our students in using the alternative brewing methods that they use for coffee with tea. So, you don’t need to go and get an extra tea person. Often, these businesses can’t afford to hire a tea specialist, so we must try to train the hospitality staff.

    We want to show them their options without changing how they do things in the cafe.  For example, they can serve tea using coffee equipment. When I did one of the classes last year in Singapore, we put tea in the group heads on the espresso machine and ran some trials, and it was quite an amazing experience. So, there are lots of things that just haven’t been done. And I think once you show the baristas or the staff in a cafe, they’ll be excited when they realize what can happen with tea.

    It becomes easy to serve tea with just a bit of knowledge. This is where the Foundation Courses are very important because the Foundation Course will give a barista some good basic knowledge about tea, and that’s why we’ve chosen that to be one of the priorities. It is also a great tool for beginners in tea and the public.

    So yes, I think the people are already there — they just need to be educated. We don’t need to go and look for people; we need to utilize the people already there within the hospitality sector. Of course, don’t forget the bar staff. The idea of integrating Bar and Hospitality with the World Tea Expo is a great opportunity to cross over into education.

    Dan: I experienced that in Australia, where shop owners present themselves as specialty beverage retailers instead of dedicated tea or coffee shops. There was always an expresso machine and a selection of high-quality tea. Retailers assume their customers prefer premium beverages of all types.

    Sharyn: The American market is very different. I’ve educated tea enthusiasts and professionals in many countries, and consumer preferences in each country are very different. Take Singapore; we have offices there, and flavor profiles for clients are very different than flavoring levels in the US. Australia, in contrast, prefers minimal flavor levels. You also have as much as 30 to 40% higher flavor levels in the US and Canada. There’s a big gap compared to the specialty tea market, where you’re trying to have pure teas. Flavored teas are a great stepping stone to more sophisticated teas. I think there’s a massive opportunity for the specialty tea market now.

    World Tea Academy Advanced Courses
    A sample of the 14 Advanced Courses offered by World Tea Academy

    Dan: You’ve designed it to be broad-based. Who benefits from this training?

    Sharyn: I think the hospitality sector, you know, number one.

    The basic course is for the general public and the hospitality sector, so they will start asking questions like: Why can’t we have good quality tea?

    So, education in general. Just educate them to realize that tea is quite an easy beverage to serve, and hopefully, with a bit of knowledge, there’s some new excitement happening. Also, educate them about the varieties; I mean, we literally have thousands of different tea types available, so we have so many opportunities to excite people.

    Dan: In announcing the refresh, Questex said there will be new opportunities to conduct face-to-face training. I owe a lot to STI volunteers like Suzette Hammond, who invested thousands of hours in face-to-face instruction. Norwood Pratt once told me that to really understand tea, “each one, tea one.”

    Sharyn: I’ve been teaching mostly face-to-face for the last ten years. We did develop the online course about eight years ago, but, you know, all our courses are about tea mastery in the modern sense of tea mastery. You know, this is one of the reasons I got involved in education. I tried to learn about tea. It was just so difficult to learn about the global perspective of tea in one location, and that is where we really want World Tea Academy to be the best education platform in the world.

    You could go to China and learn about their teas, and you could go to Sir Lanka to learn about their teas, but pulling it all together was very difficult.

    So, I think that has been helpful. And we will continue with those face-to-face classes. We still hold those classes in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and Australia. But you know, the thing is, people are busy these days. So online is very helpful. We want to make the courses much more self-paced so they can really sit and relax and enjoy their education online.

    They both have their place. They’re both very important. And, well, the World Tea Expo is still a great venue for people to come in and have a great experience, cram knowledge for two to three days, and learn a lot about tea.

    I will be there. This year is exciting, of course. And it’ll be exciting to see the new speakers that they’ve got because they always manage to pull a good lineup of speakers. Anyone interested in tea will find it a great place to go.

    Photos are courtesy of Australian Tea Masters — all screenshots are from the World Tea Academy website.

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    Episode 150 | Australian Tea Masters CEO Sharyn Johnston, the new Head of Education at World Tea Academy, says her company built a modern online education platform with enhanced content for the Academy to train waitstaff and advance the quality of specialty tea in food service. “One of the things we’ve already introduced is a new Basic Foundation course in tea. We’ve got some fantastic ideas for the future, and we want to build on that,” she said.

  • A Humble Titan in Specialty Tea

    In 2023, the tea industry said farewell to several notable figures. In this episode, we pay tribute to David C. Bigelow, Jr., an industry icon who died in June at 96. A member of the silent generation born in the roaring 20s, David was a World War II veteran and 1948 Yale University graduate who transformed the specialty tea segment. He steered a boutique tea blending business launched in his mother’s kitchen into a multi-million-dollar mass-market brand. Joining us today is David’s daughter Cindi, President and CEO of Connecticut-based and family-owned R.C. Bigelow, a $250 million B-Corp known for innovations that redefined tea service in restaurants and grew the company to become the US market leader in specialty tea.

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    Bigelow Tea President and CEO Cindi Bigelow reflects on her father’s innovations in specialty tea.
    David C. Bigelow
    David C. Bigelow, at Avon Old Farms School in Avon, CT

    David Bigelow’s Tenacity Established Specialty Tea in US Grocery

    By Dan Bolton

    The 55 million members of the Silent Generation were hardworking and humble. Survivors of the Great Depression and the horrors of war – they were careful with their money, patriotic, and ambitious. The generation displayed characteristics of thrift, simplicity, patience, and a need for financial security and comfort. Cindi Bigelow is the third generation to lead Bigelow Tea, founded in 1945 by her grandmother, Ruth C. Bigelow. During her years as chief executive, sales have increased from $94 million in 2005 to more than $250 million. Bigelow Tea produces over 100 million-units of tea boxes annually and employs 450 people.

    ““My father was my mentor for my entire life, personally and professionally. He never wavered from the traits I admired the most. He was a humble, grateful, and kind man. He leaves a big hole for my family, our extended family at Bigelow Tea, and far beyond, but we will continue with the lessons he taught us all… think about others before self.”

    – Cindi Bigelow

    Dan Bolton: I speak for many who admired your father for his business success, the life he shared with your mother, Eunice, the family he reared, his philanthropy, and the quiet impact he exerted at a time of transformation. He was a man who led by example.

    Cindi Bigelow: I just hope to share with the world, especially those in the tea sphere, the story of how my father and my family were so influential in bringing the specialty tea category to where it is today.

    Dan: Let’s begin the interview there. Could you talk about his role in expanding distribution and pricing? He pioneered a way of looking at tea that forced it up higher on a shelf in grocery stores. There was always an expensive tea from England, but this isn’t an import; this is tea blended and packaged in the United States – and your dad was doing something quite extraordinary.

    Cindi: Well, first, it goes back to him expanding his specialty tea category. My grandmother introduced specialty tea when she created Constant Comment in her kitchen. She also expanded it to include many different flavors. Now, all of those teas were sold in gift shops.

    When my father took over, he modified the tea offerings in the specialty tea category as well as their flavor profile.

    He was the one who transitioned into the grocery stores, where he had to build an entire shelf presence. With his broker team and distributors, they carved out space for the specialty tea category, which was priced at a premium level because it was not a commodity tea. There was a lot more that went into it.

    But it was a very slow build.

    His tenacity is why we’re now number one because when it started, no one even knew what specialty tea was, and no one wanted to spend that kind of money on it. They had to go through all kinds of creative ways to get it on the shelf and then keep it on the shelf — it was completely new in the industry.

    David C. Bigelow with his mother Ruth and father David Bigelow, Sr.
    David C. Bigelow, 33, with his mother, Ruth, and father, David Bigelow, Sr.

    Constant Comment
    Constant Comment

    Dan: In 1945, a 2.25 oz jar of Constant Comment sold for less than 75 cents, a “premium” price point. The price had more than doubled by 1960, at a very early stage of consumer awareness of the specialty tea category retail. R.C. Bigelow blends were “top shelf” packed in tins with premium Ceylon tea and ingredients. Sales, however, were a modest $1 million. By 2005, under David Bigelow’s leadership, sales increased to $94 million as the brand transformed into food service and a mass-market favorite that retained its appeal as a premium blend.

    Cindi: Well, it wasn’t until the ’70s that my parents started to put the product into foil and then fold cartons. That started because my father’s forays into the food service arena with the individual product team went back. He had been at the University of Hawaii, and they had our product in loose bags in a basket.

    They came back and said that just doesn’t seem like the right way to sell it. So, they found a company that could put it in foil. It was not ever done before. And we started producing foil-wrapped tea bags going into boxes that we could now sell in the food service.

    That’s when he realized this would revolutionize the tea industry if we could get this on the retail shelf because you can bring the ring down so it’s a little bit within reach of everyone to enjoy a cup of tea, which is still our motto. We want everyone to be able to afford a cup of Bigelow tea, but it is still premium and is no longer in a canister.

    So, he moved us into foil wrappers to be able to handle the food service arena brilliantly. At the time, we were first into the food service and away-from-home marketplace.

    Then, with that, they recognized that these cartons and foil individual wraps could make a big difference on a grocery shelf, so they started in Arizona and tested it down there, and it was a huge hit. Sales went up three times. From there, it was rolled out throughout the country.

    We went from pneumatic machines to IMA machines and Teepack Constanta. He completely revamped the organization in the 70s and early 80s.

    Dan: Something else he did to encourage the selection of tea was to put those foil packs in tea chests on the counter or bring them to the table, where the waitress would say, “Please choose from our selection of fine teas.” There may have been a selection of 8 or 10 in the chest.

    Cindi: He had a great team of people in R&D (research & development), one who also passed away a few years ago was brilliant in creating the tea display chest, which again completely revolutionized the way the restaurant business, the catering business, everything about it they were not afraid to really push into industries with products with packaging that had not been seen before.

    One of the points of this article is to let people understand the impact that he and his team had. If he knew I was giving this interview and using his name and not listing everyone who did all the work, he would be very upset with me, Dan. It’s under his leadership and his drive that our company was able to transform the tea business.

    Dan: Who did he pal around with? Was it the guys at the grocery chains like Kroger and A&P? 

    Cindi: Believe it or not, my parents established really close relationships with the distributors. He was huge down in Florida. I can’t think of the names of all the distributors and brokers. They were so close, so close. Also, they had really good friends in the tea industry.

    My father was wonderful, but networking wasn’t part of his MO. And I always admired that about him. He let the brokers and distributors do the work. He believed in letting them take the lead and do what they excel at. He made sure they were educated, they knew who we were, and then let them go.

    Dan: Will you help readers better understand the breakthrough years when Bigelow expanded from a niche gift shop and regional brand to reach markets in the big cities and eventually saturation across the country?

    Cindi: Well, we weren’t dominant anywhere in the 60s. We were in California, which was a big market for us. It wasn’t a national brand. If you have no sales, you dilute it. Moving into the big cities, there are even fewer sales. So, there was no market where Bigelow was dominant.

    We were in gift shops in the ‘60s and on university campuses. A lot of the college kids enjoyed Constant Comment. It was cool to drink, Constant Comment* ” But sales were so small. We finally achieved $20 million in sales in 1985. So, we were a very small company. In the ‘60s, sales were a million and a half maybe.

    David and Eunice Bigelow
    David and Eunice Bigelow in the tea-tasting lab at Bigelow Tea

    Dan: There was a business breakout, though, during the ‘80s

    Cindi: Part of that growth was the foldable cardboard packaging and carton boxes on the shelf from the late 70s to the early 80s. At that point, we took off because we were now very stackable. We could have a price that was more thoughtful of the consumer. Then, there were line extensions. My father really got into the herbals in the ’80s and expanded to green teas in the ’90s. There weren’t even any green teas out there. Bigelow tea is the one that would put green tea on the shelf. I still think it is such a great product to consume. It is so helpful. But to be honest, there are many green teas out there that are very hard for the average consumer to enjoy. We are very blessed that our green tea is number one. We have a 40% share, and that is because we believe that our taste profile is a very drinkable, enjoyable tea. The 90s was a real rocking time for us for sure.

    Constant Comment in tins
    Constant Comment in tins

    Cindi: Truth be told, Mo Siegel started the herbal business with the launch of Celestial Seasonings. He pioneered the herbal category.

    My father looked at it and wasn’t quite sure. He asked, “What is this? Is this where we want to be?” Because he was a tea guy. He was a camellia sinensis guy. And you know camellia sinensis people are camellia sinensis focused, and so he, you know, waited a few years and then with good counsel said, “You know what, I do think we want to get into the herbal arena.”

    Today, the herbal category is the largest in specialty tea, hovering around almost 60%. So, we are the number two player. We’re number one in the tea arena, within one specialty tea the number one tea, but in the herbal subset, we are number two, but we are gaining and getting a lot of attention for the good herbs we are launching in that arena. They are experimental.

    My father’s foray into the foil wrap, which protects the vulnerable oils, whether it’s the Camelia sinensis or the volatile oils of a chamomile or a mint, that’s what gives you the health profile. That’s what gives you the taste profile. So, putting that into the foil allowed us to put those kinds of mints in there to protect them from losing it and getting exposed to light air moisture. And so, when we did move into the herbal category, we were able to, you know, move in in a big way, and it’s a big part of our business now.

    “He didn’t have to pass away for me to appreciate him. He knew I appreciated him every single day, and that’s one thing that I’ll be able to carry with me forward even though he’s gone. He knew how much I loved him.”

    – Cindi Bigelow

    Dan: So, let’s discuss his character, integrity, and worldview. David is admirable, in part because of context, as these guys were beaten down by the depression and fought a war. Your dad was a Japanese military interpreter. The survivors came home, earned degrees, started businesses, built companies, and prospered. The death and destruction, fears and dreams, and experiences changed their point of view and made them better human beings. In the family business, you describe your dad as a mentor, someone you admire. That’s a good starting point.

    Cindi: Well, I think, watching him in action, watching him listen to people, watching him ask questions, watching what an amazing conversationalist, watching how much fairness meant to him, you know, making sure everybody has a voice, watching his reaction if he was getting what he considered to be an untruth or sort of a slippery slope answer.

    You know, all of those are really what formed who I am today: having a father who wasn’t greedy, having a father who didn’t focus on making money, having a father who never talked about money, having a father who would be generous with you, but just was overall all careful with the dollar.

    I don’t say that in a way that he was afraid to spend it, but he just didn’t need to buy many things. We had one nice car. I remember when we got a Lincoln Continental in the 70s. He was very proud of himself and the Lincoln Continental, just in his own way.

    He was always there whenever I needed somebody or something. So that’s how I’ve tried to be with my own family: when that phone rings, I pick that phone up. They want me to drive up. They want me to go somewhere. They want me to fly somewhere. I do whatever it takes. Your family is first, and I learned that from him.

    I run this company where it isn’t about making money. I mean, you have to make money. You must be able to buy the things you need. Money, to me, means paying the employees a bonus.

    I learned that from him.

    Dan: So, let’s talk about his philanthropy for a minute. He cared about his neighbors, community, and schools. He established a local foundation to support local causes. Your company donates more than $800,000 a year.

    Cindi: Well, he loved to share the story of when he started the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge 36 years ago. He was motivated by me; he said, “You know, I’m watching my daughter give so much money back to the community.” He rallied this community around this event, donating more than $2 million to charities in Connecticut (See below).

    He said, “I want to do it in a bigger way.” And not in a competitive way. So he started to put funds in place that he was able to distribute to the community, with the largest being the Bridgeport Public School system. So yeah, for a good 20 years, he has been very, very philanthropic, and you know, it’s very sweet to talk about what triggered him. You know, he was not a man to have an ego, right? So he said, “I like what she’s doing. I want to do that, too. So, it became a big part of my parent’s life. And it’s something that they’re very proud of, and it is a great legacy.

    The Foundation will continue focusing on education in the Connecticut Bridgeport area. He really did love that he would always be so impressed he would go whether it was the high schools we would be putting on performances. Dad and Mom would be funding the costumes, lighting, and music, and he would be so proud when he came back about what he saw and always so impressed with the students. He would go to the STEM programs, the robotics, the girls that code, and my mother as well. They were so touched by what they saw in the community, and they got to see firsthand, and he got to see firsthand, before he passed for many years, the good work of his Foundation.

    Eunice, Cindi and David C. Bigelow
    Eunice, Cindi, and David C. Bigelow

    Dan: He made a difference in his 96 years in tea and leaves a legacy in your work.

    Cindi: Oh my God, everything I do rests on the shoulder. He’s the first one to tell you that everything we do is on somebody else’s shoulders. And you need to honor that.

    I think your original question was, ‘What was it like being his daughter?’ You know, he did do it all. He wasn’t a different guy in the office than at home. He did have a little bit of a temper when he thought you weren’t telling the truth. But he was a very kind individual that was very engaged. I always knew he had my back. He was always there for me.

    The company felt the same way. I never felt shortchanged, not for a minute, not for a minute. The company certainly felt loved by both my mother and my father. And so it truly was a family. I mean, I didn’t know any better.

    I was very little, wearing an outfit and handing out Christmas presents, as was my sister to everyone at the Christmas party, and my mother said to me, ‘You have to stop kissing everyone. You’re just going to get sick.’ I didn’t know anything except for the family business.

    He loved tea so passionately that I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to do it like he did. He was passionate about the product, right? I consider myself more of a businesswoman who loves tea, and I think I’m pretty good with tea, but he was a tea person who ran a business — different story. So yeah, I was very lucky. I was very lucky.

    I was very fortunate to have good schooling leading up to my running the company, but he was a great teacher. Perhaps my greatest teacher.

    *Yes, it is true that musical composer and singer Leonard Cohen, in his famous love song Suzanne, was inspired by the brand. Cohen told NPR in 2016 that the line, “and she feeds you tea and oranges that come all the way from China,” was, in fact, inspired by Constant Comment. “She fed me a tea called Constant Comment, which has small pieces of orange rind in it, which gave birth to the image,” he said.

    Related: David C. Bigelow’s Obituary published in the Palm Beach Post

    David’s Favorite Tea

    “He loved our Ceylon Premium Tea, which was really put together for the airline industry,” recalls Cindi Bigelow.  We sold a beautiful Ceylon product in that category, and he loved that tea.  It was his absolute favorite.  And, you know, you’d compete with other companies to sell to the airline industry, and you couldn’t quite describe to them that the price they were getting for that outstanding Ceylon tea was like nothing else you would ever imagine—people who know this tea love to sell it for you. So, that was his favorite. He had that every single morning. True story: During COVID-19, we had difficulty getting that tea and had some difficulty shipping from Ceylon. What we could get was different from our gold standard, and he absolutely knew that, and he stopped drinking it just like that. “I’m not drinking it until we get the good stuff back,” he said.

    Bigelow Tea Community Challenge

    Seventy-nine sponsors contributed to the 2023 campaign, including several prominent tea industry suppliers. Beneficiaries include YMCA of Fairfield, Mercy Learning Center, Cardinal Shehan Center, Neighborhood Studios of Fairfield County, Center for Family Justice, Connecticut Food Bank, Operation Hope, Burroughs Community Center, Grasmere by Park, Caroline House, Bridgeport Rescue Mission, Janus Center for Youth in Crisis, Norma Pfriem Breast Center, Bridge House, CT Challenge, Taylor YMCA, Camp Hi Rock, Horizon’s at GFA, McGivney Community Center, Pivot Ministries.

    Photos are courtesy of Bigelow Tea—special thanks to Cindi for sharing family photos.

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    Episode 148 | In 2023, the tea industry bid farewell to several notable figures. In this episode, we pay tribute to David C. Bigelow, Jr., an industry icon who died in June 2023 at 96. David transformed the specialty tea segment in the US, steering a boutique tea blending business launched in his mother’s kitchen into a multi-million-dollar mass-market brand. Joining us today is David’s daughter Cindi, President and CEO of Connecticut-based and family-owned R.C. Bigelow, a $250 million B-Corp known for innovations that redefined tea service in restaurants and grew the company to become the US market leader in specialty tea. 

  • A Year of Fire and Now, Ice | UC Davis Colloquium: Tea in a Changing World | SYSTM Foods acquires HUMM Kombucha

    Iran Tea Company CEO Implicated in $3.7 Billion Embezzlement Scandal | Shipping Shock: Missile Threat Diverts Suez-Bound Tea Cargo | Malawi Anticipates a Steep Decline in Tea Production

    Tea News for the week ending Dec. 22
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    In 2023, the tea industry bid farewell to several notable figures. In this episode, we pay tribute to David C. Bigelow, Jr., an industry icon who died in June at 96. A member of the silent generation born in the roaring 20s, David was a World War II veteran and 1948 Yale University graduate who transformed the specialty tea segment. He steered a boutique tea blending business launched in his mother’s kitchen into a multi-million-dollar mass-market brand. Joining us today is David’s daughter Cindi, President and CEO of Connecticut-based and family-owned R.C. Bigelow, a $250 million B-Corp known for innovations that redefined tea service in restaurants and grew the company to become the US market leader in specialty tea.

    Listen to the interview
    Bigelow Tea President and CEO Cindi Bigelow reflects on her father’s innovations in specialty tea

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    Shipping Shock Tea Rerouted to Avoid Drone and Missile Attacks

    Shipping Shock: Missile Threat Diverts Suez-Bound Tea Cargo

    Houthi missile and drone attacks in the Red Sea are diverting ships laden with tea away from the industry’s primary access to Europe, costing time and money.

    Passage through the 120-mile Suez Canal connecting Europe with Asia is one of the world’s most important maritime choke points. A shipping crisis unfolds at the southern strait called Bab-el-Mandeb (the gate of tears). Yemen-based insurgents have deployed hundreds of drones and fired the first anti-ship ballistic missile to strike a commercial vessel, Palatium III.

    This week’s decision by all major shipping lines to bypass the Red Sea route will affect 53% of the global container trade. Dry bulk carriers, oil tankers, and smaller container ships will likely follow their lead. War risk insurance rates have spiked along with the price of oil. About 9.2 million barrels daily transit the canal, approximately 9% of global demand and 4% of the world’s liquid natural gas (LNG).

    The US, UK, and French navies are providing escort with the USS Carney downing a swarm of 14 drones.

    On Dec. 17, the Suez Canal Authority reported that 55 ships that were scheduled to transit the canal had been diverted. That same day, 77 ships passed through the canal, a much higher number than the 50-ship daily average.

    Tea bound for the UK, Rotterdam, and German ports from the UAE, East Africa, and Asia will now travel approximately 11,169 nautical miles around Africa, compared to 6,436 via the Red Sea and Suez Canal. Adding transit days is costly. Operating a container ship costs between $25,000 and $85,000 per day, excluding fuel, which adds up to $130,000 daily. Transit from India to the UK vial the Suez Canal is usually 17 to 21 days. Alternate routes can take five to six weeks.

    In 1869, when the eight-meter (26-foot) deep canal opened, the largest ship that could pass was 5,000 tons, but the cost of transportation and access to the Indian and Sri Lankan was far easier, making Suez a primary trade route for tea. Over 20,000 ships carrying approximately 12% of global trade each year pass through the Suez Canal, carrying 30% of all global container traffic and more than $1 trillion in goods yearly.

    Debsh Tea executives, CEO Akbar Rahimi (4th left). Photo appears on Debsh website.
    Debsh Tea executives and CEO Akbar Rahimi (4th left). The photo appears on Debsh Tea’s website.

    Iran Tea Company CEO Implicated in $3.7 Billion Embezzlement Scandal

    By Dan Bolton

    Akbar Rahimi, the CEO of Iran’s leading tea company, is under arrest, accused of a five-year embezzlement scheme that generated $3.37 billion in ill-gotten gain.

    Privately held Debsh Agriculture and Industrial Group engaged in “large-scale financial malpractice” dating to the presidency of Hassan Rouhani in 2018, according to NCRI. The publication cited unnamed government sources.

    “Several banks, institutions, and ministries, including the Ministry of Industry, the Ministry of Agriculture, the Customs Administration, the Central Bank, the Trade Development Organization, and the regime’s Food and Drug Organization, have been implicated in this widespread corruption scheme,” writes NCRI (National Council of Resistance of Iran).

    Here is how it unfolded

    Debsh Tea ordered grade 1 Darjeeling tea at $14 per kilogram to mislead resellers. In practice, it imported far greater quantities of tea from Kenya and seconds from Iran that sold for $2 per kilogram “with the Food and Drug Organization confirming the quality of the imported teas,” according to NCRI. Origins were falsified, and corrupt customs officials apparently looked away.

    The company also bought domestically grown tea and “re-imported” it, masquerading as expensive foreign grades.

    The tea was traded at the Central Bank’s official exchange rate, known as the “Nimaee-dollar,” which values US dollars at 37,000 tomans, “a rate accessible exclusively to traders affiliated with the regime,” according to NCRI. This compares to the market exchange rate, which hovers around 50,000 tomans per dollar [USD$1 equaled 42,340 IRR on 12/20/23]. “Consequently, each dollar contributes approximately 13,000 tomans to the coffers of the regime’s embezzlers. When multiplied by the billions of dollars received in foreign exchange, this translates to astronomical figures,” writes NCRI.

    Iran’s General Inspection Organization noted a spike in the annual budget, which usually allocates around $300 million for tea imports. The government’s allocation for tea and tea processing equipment tripled in 2021, with $1.472 billion earmarked for machinery.

    Imports totaled 110,000 metric tons, about double the usual amount – quantities sufficient to depress sales of domestically produced tea.

    “Tea cultivators have suffered huge losses,” writes Maryam Shokrani with the state-run Sargh daily newspaper. Mohammad Sadegh Hassani, executive director of the Union of Northern Tea Factories, told NCRI the embezzlement scheme “upset the market balance, confronted the industry with a crisis, and led to the accumulation of a large volume of tea in warehouses.”

    Akbar Rahimi is one of a group known colloquially in Iran as the “smuggling brothers,” who were implicated in another significant case related to irregularities in the import of paper at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The term “smuggling brothers” refers to organized groups exploiting state connections, particularly with the Revolutionary Guards, to conduct extensive trafficking to bypass international sanctions,” according to NCRI.

    Judiciary spokesman Masoud Stayeshi, on Dec. 5, confirmed, “Various collaborations have been made with this company [Debsh], and a significant amount of foreign exchange and national resources have been allocated to this issue.” Other Islamic Republic officials implicated in the embezzlement include Javad Sadatinejad, the Minister of Agriculture, who resigned in April; governors of the Central Bank; chiefs of the Iranian Customs Administration, and others.

    Iran International reported that Chief Justice Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Eje said the government had dismissed 60 individuals in the case and later clarified the dismissals included those involved in non-related incidents during the past two years. Government spokesman Ali Bahadori Jahromi said earlier this week that several low and mid-ranking officials have been arrested over the case. According to Iran International, the company’s CEO, Akbar Rahimi, is reportedly under arrest. The court refused to name the suspected collaborators, several of whom are likely highly placed in the government of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

    Reformist newspaper Etemad writes that “the main problem is that, aside from a general headline, no details have been released.

    Iran’s Inspection Organization revealed irregularities on Nov. 30. Besides the abovementioned embezzlement, Rahimi may have traded $1.4 billion in Iranian government-held foreign currency on the open market. The case against government bodies that had provided foreign currency for the firm is to be sent to the Public and Revolution Court of Tehran for certain violations, according to IFP News.

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    Episode 148 | Iran Tea Company CEO Implicated in $3.7 Billion Embezzlement Scandal | Shipping Shock: Missile Threat Diverts Suez-Bound Tea Cargo | Malawi Anticipates a Steep Decline in Tea Production | PLUS  Cindi Bigelow, President and CEO of R.C. Bigelow Tea pays tribute to her father David C. Bigelow, who passed in June at 96.

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