• 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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    UN FAO Tea Power
    UN FAO Promotes #TeaPower

    #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.

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  • India Tea News: Commerce Minister Meets Tea Industry Stakeholders | Darjeeling Tea Harvest Down by 9% to 6.5 Million Kilos

    By Aravinda Anantharaman | Managing Editor

    India Tea News for the week ending Jan. 12, 2024
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman
    Tea fields at Gopaldhara TE, Darjeeling, India
    Tea fields at Gopaldhara Tea Estate, Darjeeling, India

    Commerce Minister Meets Tea Industry Stakeholders

    Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal met tea industry representatives from Assam and West Bengal on Jan. 6, 2024. The industry sought financial support to tide over the crisis, particularly in wages to be paid during the winter months when gardens don’t see any production. The representation also sought a subsidy for orthodox tea production and greater testing of imported teas for food safety. They have asked for trade delegations to be sent to Iran and other countries to retain old markets and gain a foothold in potential ones. Key to the conversation was the need to resuscitate Darjeeling, which has seen low production, low prices, and an increasing number of gardens being sold due to this financial inviability.

    Darjeeling Tea Volumes Down by 9%

    In 2023, Darjeeling produced under 6.5 million kilos of tea, down 9% from 2022 and perhaps the lowest “normal year output” in the last 50 years! The reason is multifold – some ten gardens here closed last year, and climate change has also impacted the tea harvest. Despite low volumes, prices have not gone up. Average prices at auctions were INRs 315 per kilo, which is not representative of true prices as only about 1.5mn kilos were sold via auctions, with the bulk of tea sold privately. But it’s indicative of the crux of Darjeeling’s problem.

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  • World Bank Report: India’s Cold Chain

    World Bank Cooling Opportunities India
    World Bank Report: Climate Investment Opportunities in India’s Cooling Sector

    Tea News for the week ending December 9

    Without explanation, Iran’s Ministry of Agriculture has stopped registering contracts with Indian suppliers to export tea, rice, and other commodities. Registration is required before Indian goods can be offloaded in Iran.

    Beginning in late November, Indian tea traders and traders exporting basmati rice noticed unusual delays in the routine registration of shipping contracts. Iranian officials did not announce or explain the delays, which led to speculation that the disruption was tied to ongoing street protests, a widening trade imbalance, or possibly ongoing discussions to resume oil exports from Iran to India.

    Masih Keshavarz, speaking for Iran’s Rice Suppliers Commission, told IRIB News, “the ban will be lifted as soon as bilateral trade is balanced out or registers growth.”

    The Business Standard reported that a fifth of India’s tea exports are shipped to Iran. Indian exporters told the newspaper, “the disruption in trade has been triggered by anti-hijab protests in Iran. Asa result, Iranian buyers, have been defaulting on payment obligations.”

    Negotiations between the two countries to resume oil shipments are ongoing. India halted in 2019 due to EU and US economic sanctions designed to convince Iran to cease work on developing a nuclear arsenal.

    Anshuman Kanoria, chairman of the Indian Tea Traders Association, said India’s Commerce Ministry, the Tea Board of India, India’s Foreign Trade office, and the Indian Embassy in Tehran are seeking an explanation. He writes that it is “futile to speculate on unconfirmed guesses.”

    Previously registered shipments continue to arrive at Iranian ports.

    | China Eases COVID Restrictions

    China has eased travel restrictions and will permit people to enter public buildings without showing negative test results (except schools, hospitals, and nursing homes). Residents can travel freely within the country, but international travelers must still endure an eight-day quarantine on arrival. The country remains closed to tourists. The immediate impact of lifting restrictions will be a surge in infections due to a low vaccination rate.

    | World Bank Report Reveals Investment Opportunities for Expanding India’s Cold Chain

    Cold storage capacity in India has grown steadily. Still, a gap of 3.27 million metric tons for long-term storage of fresh produce remains, according to a World Bank report on investment opportunities presented at a government-hosted conference on developing India’s cooling sector.

    The integrated development of the cold supply chain across India is severely lacking. The National Centre for Cold Chain Development (NCCD) estimates that close to $11.75 billion is required to develop the physical infrastructure and transport-related elements, presenting an investment opportunity to modernize the retail end of the cold chain requiring $1.3 to $1.9 billion.

    Building out that infrastructure will spur the consumption of chilled ready-to-drink tea and make it practical to sell refrigerated concentrates and store perishable green teas.

    Download: Climate Investment Opportunities in India’s Cooling Sector

    | PLUS THIRST has completed its initial assessment of human rights in the global tea sector and is now seeking to understand the root causes. THIRST founder and CEO Sabita Banerji says the non-profit will conduct confidential surveys of tea producers during the New Year. In this episode, she discusses the process with South Asia Correspondent Aravinda Anantharaman.

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    Hear the Headlines

  • The French Finish

    Emilie’s retail shop and tearoom, founded in 2017, spans 2,500 sq. ft., seats 20, and is co-located with Centered Spirit, a cultural and Holistic Center, housing her husband Alex’s holistic medicine practice. Emilie was born in France and grew up in Paris. A graduate of the Sorbonne in business management with post-graduate degrees in marketing. Fluent in Spanish, Emilie was the marketing director for Lacoste in Mexico City. Emilie curates a selection of brands that share the “French Finish,” a style that showcases French expertise in wine, culinary, essential oils, and perfume for more subtle and smoother tasting blends.

    Caption: Emilie Jackson in the shop’s classroom where she teaches customers about tea.

    Emilie Jackson on the evolution of retailing specialty tea.

    Emilie's French Teas
    Emilie’s French Teas is located near downtown Kansas City, Missouri, a city of 500,000 in the US Midwest.

    Emilie’s French Teas

    By Dan Bolton

    Specialty tea retailers in the US and Canada that survived lockdowns are now experiencing a precarious “post-pandemic” “pre-recession” economy marked by steep inflation and rising interest rates. Retailers say that while the pandemic increased demand for better quality tea, in-store traffic has declined as consumers enjoy their tea at home. Home has always been the preferred option for tea drinkers, but before 2020 tea in food service accounted for 20% of global tea revenue. Until office workers return to the world’s cities for daily lunch and afternoon tea breaks the 20% threshold will be difficult for the tea industry to achieve.

    See: Foodservice is Recuperating

    To attract customers back to their cafes, tea rooms, and shops, retailers seek to make each location a destination. To encourage in-store purchases retailers teach courses in person and via webinars, promote happy hours, host evening entertainment, conduct food pairings and tea tastings, schedule travelogues with demonstrations on tea making, and offering delivery services, curbside pickup, and even drive-thru.

    Dan Bolton: How do you describe teas that define French tea culture?

    Emilie Jackson: There’s a difference for me between tea cultivation and tea culture. Tea cultivation is where you actually grow the tea. I explain to our customers where tea comes from and how I pick the partners that I work with. I make sure they know it’s fair trade and that the teas have no pesticide or anything like that. It’s one thing common to all the tea we collect from all around the world.

    We suggest that for most of our teas customers first drink it without milk or sugar because you’re gonna miss some of the subtleties, right? So, we have real aficionados and some others who don’t know as much about tea. I say to them maybe you don’t like this particular tea, ‘try another’ I say, there’s a tea for everybody.

    “What really makes the difference in teas from France is how we finish the blend. We use our wine, culinary, essential oils, and perfume expertise to make the right blend.”

    Emilie (Potier) Jackson

    What really makes the difference in teas from France is how we finish the blend. We use our wine, culinary, essential oils, and perfume expertise to make the right blend.

    France has a long history with wine. When you think about grapes, there are different grapes for different styles of wine. For a long time we were one of the only places who knew how to grow the best wines. Wine makers came to learn and soon there were new regions and new cultivars. Now you get great wines from all over the world. Sometimes in places that you would not even expect. Tea is traveling a similar path. I think tea is experiencing a constant evolution. There’s different regions there’s different soil and climate (and now the impact of climate change) in countries that goes into the tea itself — without even talking about scented tea. You can get some great blends with subtle notes not just because of the terroir but also because of the year it’s been picked. So that’s fascinating and that’s why I like about French style tea blends. When we do a scented tea we never overpower the tea itself you always can taste if it’s a black tea, green, oolong, or white.

    Dan: Do you perceive that your customers are trying to refine their taste in tea and buying more expensive tea? Or do you feel people are beginning to trade down because of inflation and concerns about a recession?

    It’s a good question. First of all, for us, we’re already a niche market. We were more, you know, high-end products in the specialty tea category. So the people that come to see us, whether they know our brand, or they’ve been to France, experience some of that here. They come here looking for that. So we’re already more niche. So I think, yes, we’ve probably been impacted by the fear of a recession. And we probably are going to experience a greater impact. I hope people can still find small pleasures that they can buy, like a good loose leaf tea. And that’s one thing about our teas: price ranges are higher, but there are small things you can do for yourself that don’t break the bank.

    Dan: Is experiential retail the key to customer retention?

    Emilie: I’ve been in the retail business for a long time, and experiential is not new. When we created the shop, it was always about sharing our love of travel and our love for different cultures. You can see that I am from another culture. The photos, decor, and items in the shop are from places we have traveled to and the tea gardens we visited. Experiential retail creates an experience, a universe where people can feel transported.

    What I’ve seen before and after COVID is that fewer people are visiting retail shops in general, whether it’s fear of being around people or whether it’s just a change of habit, a lot of people, even the older generation who like to purchase their tea in-store now has learned to do so online. Online shopping has increased. I have people close by who order online and then just pick up the tea. So, in that regard, that’s what has changed.

    I have observed that people in the US go out a lot. COVID and everything refocused their attention on home habits. People started during the pandemic to make things at home, including many people who turned to tea because it was comforting. Tea came indoors. So that was good for us so far as packaged sales, but at the same time, making it at home meant fewer trips to the tea room.

    So if you look at the tea room itself, of course, that’s going to have an impact, right? So, as far as changing strategy, it’s more about how you deliver your product or put it in the hand of your customers, whether they want that to be in-store or just want to have the product delivered.

    I don’t know if it will change my strategy because it’s all about education. And I’ve always wanted to educate people about the different types of tea because there’s so much misinformation out there. Social media has pros and cons. One of the cons of online selling is that there is a lot out there, and the information is not always good. So how, as a consumer, do you find the right information?

    Dan: Online sales were a lifeline for many, many smaller tea rooms when they were ordered to close and later as they faced restrictions preventing their previous service level. Your client base stayed loyal, but some appear to have changed their buying habits permanently.

    Emilie: First of all, we were kind of, I mean, lucky in some ways; it’s just like when COVID hit, I was just finishing the online store. So, when clients started to ask, Hey, can you, you know, do curbside or anything like that? We were able to do it, you know, it’s a learning curve plus the technology. As far as logistics and everything, people sometimes don’t understand that tea made from Camellia sinensis is mainly grown in Asia, Africa, and India. When it comes to deliveries in the fall and winter, you get even more sales because, in the US, there is a spike when it’s colder. Everybody was ordering online, and all the different services, UPS, DHL, and USPS they didn’t have enough workers.

    It’s hard for us because everything else also increased if you think about it, you know, the overhead for just having a brick and mortar shop is very high. People don’t think about that. But that is a lot of the costs incurred, and then shipping has definitely increased. We don’t have the volume in order to decrease the shipping cost when shipping prices go overboard — we’re talking about a quarter or even one-third of the cost of goods. Sometimes when the client is close by, I will deliver it myself.

    Dan: Did you pass these costs on to your customers?

    Emilie: Well, actually, not that much, not as much as it was suggested I do. But it’s pretty hard, you know, to know at which point the customer can take it.

    Dan: Will you discuss the role of retail in educating consumers?

    Emilie: It depends on your market, and you know, how you position your brand. I like teaching, it’s my passion, I love learning, so anything that I learn, I always pass it on to the customer.

    Most often, I think they enjoy that. Some maybe don’t care, but most like to learn the processes. People are becoming a bit more aware that from the same plant, you get six types of teas. I explain how producers can get a white tea that is aged which makes it even more complicated. I answer many questions about caffeine.

    I also compare tea to coffee with people who are more into coffee. They understand the differences between regions and how it affects taste. In the same way, I explain how tea is picked and how that impacts the taste of each tea. At the end of the day, it’s fascinating. That’s what I love about tea you can learn something new every day until you pass away.

    Alex and Emilie Jackson

    Centered Spirit

    The Centered Spirit Cultural and Holistic Center holistic healthcare resource for the local community with several health practitioners that complement each other’s skills along with an apothecary and teaching area.

    The Center provides a safe environment for healing, relaxation, and a place to learn about cultures, traditions, and tea rituals around the world. Founders Alex and Emilie Jackson share a passion for the healing traditions of Central America, Mexico, and Europe. Their love for these and other cultures is embedded in every part of the Center, allowing everyone who enters to feel transported, embraced, and at peace.

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  • AVPA: More than a Medal

    AVPA’s annual tea competition offers more than a medal. During the past five years, AVPA has elevated the status of tea producers large and small, not only on the global stage but most importantly in their local markets. The deadline to enter the 5th Teas of the World International Contest is Aug. 1, 2022.

    Caption: Ksenia Hleap manages AVPA communications and development

    Communications and Development Director Ksenia Hleap

    Entrants Receive Ongoing Support

    Since its founding as a competition to showcase agricultural products, AVPA has expanded its services to include tasting workshops, technical support, and staff training for distributors.

    AVPA is making a special effort to present highlight South America's tea and herbal producers.
    AVPA is making a special effort to highlight South America’s tea and herbal producers. In South America Yerba Mate is an integral part of the culture. The same applies to many other products that AVPA wants to introduce to the world.

    Kesnia Hleap manages communication and development for Paris-based AVPA (Agency for the Valorization of Agricultural Product) a non-governmental, non-profit organization that judges edible oils, chocolate, coffee roasted at origin, and teas. Beyond the great classical origins (China, Japan, India, Sri Lanka …) the tea competition encourages consumers to discover new producers in Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia and even Europe. A veteran marketer, Ksenia discusses the many benefits of participation.

    Dan Bolton: Welcome to the Tea Biz podcast. How does AVPA, and specifically its Teas of the World Contest, benefit the tea industry?

    Ksenia Hleap: AVPA exists now for 20 years. We created this contest to help the producers since the very first year. This will be our fifth edition of the tea contest. We have teas from all over the world, not only monovarietal teas [Camellia sinensis] but also herbal teas, infusions, and blends. AVPA enables producers to compete with the best from different countries and to obtain feedback from a very professional French-speaking jury. So, each time they enter and for every tea entered, producers have access to comparative jury scores and feedback. If they win the medal or not, they will have this possibility.

    Dan: AVPA seeks to elevate awareness of tea producers globally, not just in France although French gastronomy is the framework by which judgments are made. Will you talk a little bit about AVPA’s recent initiatives such as the effort to increase participation by African producers and efforts to draw attention to European tea producers?

    Ksenia: The contest is to inform the producer that we exist and to help recognize their work done. With the AVPA medal, producers receive recognition from an international organization that confirms the excellence of their products and reassures their standing in the competitive environment.

    What we are doing after the contest for the producers, if they need our help, is to do help with marketing or strategy decisions. Our jury members are international consultants in the tea industry, tea experts. They can help the producers in Africa or Latin American countries for sure. We are always in touch, we are trying to be in touch with the cooperatives or tea associations in these countries. We explain why it is important to help the producers from PROM Peru for example and the Rooibos Council in South Africa.

    The association helps not only tea producers but also coffee and chocolate producers to send the samples for the competition and after the competition to find the distributors.

    The medal not only opens new markets – most important, it’s recognition of the producer’s efforts in the local market. It’s recognition for work well done.

    Dan: AVPA then provides marketing support to contestants long after the awards ceremony?

    Ksenia: AVPA support doesn’t end with the award ceremony. Once the contest ends, the producers are free to reproduce the medal on their packaging. But unfortunately, not every producer understands why they need to do this. So, we have some videos to explain. We scheduled zoom meetings with the winners after the contest and other resources describe at this link “How to use the Medal.”

    I am an experienced marketer so I explain to the producers how they can use their medal not only on the packaging but in their communication strategy which is very important. Here is a helpful video on How to Use AVPA Medals.

    Medals are a fantastic commercial instrument. For example, if producers need to apply for credit at the bank to buy new machines or funds to finance an expansion, it is very, very helpful to explain that they have a diploma and are recognized in Paris by an international tea contest. It is a reassurance to clientele during ongoing negotiations. It supports support favorable decision-making and improves the producer’s prospects.

    Dan: You must love tea; will you share your preferences?

    Ksenia: I love tea. Frankly, I prefer different herbal teas because, in my childhood, I used to drink a lot of herbal teas, but now with five years of experience at AVPA my passion is to taste the different teas from different countries. To find out new origins and tastes. I’m always looking for something very original, authentic.

    Contest winners are announced in October. Winning brands receive a diploma and may display the award on their packaging.


    Agency for the Valorization of Agricultural Products

    2021 Winners (Camellia Sinensis)
    2021 Winners (Herbal Infusions)

    Monovarietal teas are evaluated by a jury chaired by Carine Baudry an expert in sensory analysis and founder of Quintessence.

    How AVPA Elevates Origins

    Recognition, professional education programs, and contests build self-esteem and economic success that directs a larger share of the value chain to the country of origin. “This is why we cling to local transformation of agricultural products so that producers benefit from the pursuit of excellence,” says AVPA President Philippe Juglar. Read more…

    Every tea has its own story that is just waiting to be told.

    Competition Tea

    Tea competitions that “speak” for their respective markets are great for the industry. In the tea lands, skilled growers and tea makers can infinitely adjust their pluck, style, grade, and sort for export – but first, they must understand market preferences. In France AVPA judges companies from around the world for excellence “based on gastronomic rather than standardized refereeing.”
    Read more…

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