• Diets that Include Tea Brewed in Teabags Linked to High PFAS Levels | Flavor-enhancing Microbes Are at the Root of Quality Tea | Retail Tea Prices Remain High

    Researchers Link Diets that Include Tea in Teabags to High PFAS Levels | Flavor Enhancing Microbes Are at the Root of Quality Tea | Retail Tea Prices Remain High as Inflation Eases

    Tea News for the week ending February 23, 2024
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-minute Tea News Recap
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    Invented in 1875, the aromatic “qihong cha” or Keemun black tea, grown in Qimen County in China’s Anhui Province, quickly rose to prominence, explains senior tea master Lilian Xia, President of the Canada Tea Institute. She joins Tea Biz to recount the legacy of a Chinese market-savvy entrepreneur, Yu Ganchen, the pioneer of Qimen tea, who developed the processing method for Qimen black tea and expanded its sales overseas.

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    Lilian Xia on the revival of Keemun black tea

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    Diet with tea linked to PFAS
    A diet with tea brewed in teabags was linked to higher PFAS levels in human trials.

    Researchers Link Diets that Include Tea Brewed in Teabags to High Levels of “Forever Chemicals”

    Researchers studying dietary patterns report a link between consuming tea in teabags and high levels of forever chemicals likely leeched from tea bags and packaging. The study was financed by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and was led by chemists at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California (USC)

    According to researchers, dietary changes could lower pre- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) levels in the body based on testing that showed increased levels in human trials among those consuming certain foods and beverages. The research is based on a nationally representative sample of 725 young adults.

    The PFAS levels were highest in those who ate out frequently and those who drank tea in teabags and consumed processed foods. Eating food at home demonstrated the opposite. Every 200-gram increase in home-prepared food showed lower levels of PFOS (perfluorooctanesulfonic acid), one of several forever chemicals.

    A single additional serving of tea was linked to 24.8% higher levels of perfluoro- hexanesulphonic acid (PFHxS), 16.17% higher perfluoroheptanesulfonic acid (PFHpS), and 12.6% higher levels of perfluorononanoic acid (PFNA).

    Totals also rose among those who consumed pork, hot dogs, and processed meats.

    Researchers expressed concern that even metabolically healthy foods such as tea can be contaminated with PFAS, which is known to harm human health.

    Hailey Hampson, a PhD candidate at the University of Southern California, told Technology Networks, “Our primary hypothesis is based on a study published last year, which found that some tea bags contain PFAS. This study, conducted in India, tested 108 tea bag samples collected from the Indian market and found that 90% contained detectable PFAS concentrations.”

    The research team is now testing popular tea brands in a follow-up study. 

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  • Maritime Security Concerns Worsen | Rising Operating Costs Close Nine Uganda Tea Factories | Hydration Concerns Motivate Consumer Purchases

    Maritime Security Concerns Worsen in Suez and The Red Sea as Two Missiles Disable British Ship | Rising Operating Costs Close a Third of Uganda’s Tea Factories | Hydration Concerns Motivate Consumer Purchases

    Tea News for the week ending February 16, 2024
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Weekly Tea News Recap
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    “New tools and approaches are changing the game from always looking backward through the rear-view mirror to giving everyday tea professionals a new crystal ball that allows us to look around the corner and predict what’s coming,” observes Liam Brody, the new Committee on Sustainability Assessment CEO. Brody explains COSA’s role in intelligence-gathering and developing strategic tools that advance sustainable practices with “sound business” underpinnings. He also shares his vision of how artificial intelligence will revolutionize and influence consumer behavior and perception of sustainable practices.

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    Liam Brody, CEO Committee on Sustainability Assessments (COSA)

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    UK Grocers concerned about tea supply
    UK Grocers concerned about tea supply

    UK Retailers Concerned About Tea Supply

    By Dan Bolton
    Shipping company executives see no sign of improvement for vessels transiting the Red Sea, leading UK retailers and tea companies to take steps to minimize shortages.

    As shipping costs surge, suppliers in Kenya and India face a more daunting challenge. Rates from Asia to Europe are up nearly five-fold, rising to $5,000 per 20-foot container. During the height of the pandemic, the expense of shipping containers of tea long distances exceeded the value of bulk tea within.

    Three months into the crisis triggered by the war between Israel and Hamas terrorists, Yemen’s Houthi rebels continue their drone and missile attacks in both the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. On February 18, twin anti-ship missiles disabled a British-owned bulk cargo ship, forcing the crew to abandon the ship, which was taking on water and in danger of sinking.

    Bloomberg reports that last week, ship arrivals in the Gulf of Aden were down about two-thirds compared to early December, according to Clarkson Research Services Ltd., a unit of the world’s largest shipbroker.

    Executives of the largest shipping companies told Bloomberg TV that threat levels continue to escalate. The disruptions could last an entire year. 

    Maersk Chief Executive Officer Vincent Clerc told Bloomberg, “The amount and range of weapons being used for these attacks are expanding, and there is no clear line of sight to when and how the international community will be able to mobilize itself and guarantee safe passage.”

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  • The Confederation of Tea Smallholders Will Relocate to India | Iran Tea Imports Plunge by 62% | Economists Describe Stable Soft Commodity Prices in 2024

    The UN FAO IGG Confederation of Tea Smallholders Will Relocate its Headquarters from China to India for the Next Four Years | Iran Tea Imports Plunge by 62% | Economists Forecast Higher but Stable Prices for Beverage Soft Commodities in 2024

    Tea News for the week ending February 9, 2024
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    Delegates from 44 countries (and 14 official observers) who attended The 25th Session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG Tea) on Jan. 31 expanded the organization’s mandate beyond trade aspects, ratifying initiatives addressing all three dimensions of sustainability – economic, social, and environmental. Peter Goggi, IGG TEA delegate representing the US as President of the Tea Association of the USA, discusses #TeaPower, a new health and wellness campaign, FAO’s ongoing support of smallholders, and the economics of oversupply.

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    Peter Goggi, IGG TEA delegate representing the US as President of the Tea Association of the USA

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    UN FAO IGG Confederation of Tea Smallholders
    UN FAO IGG TEA Confederation of Tea Smallholders

    UN FAO IGG Confederation of Tea Smallholders Relocates to India

    By Dan Bolton

    The headquarters and staff of the Confederation of International Tea Smallholders (CITS) will relocate from China to India for the next four years. Delegates to the 25th Session of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG Tea) ratified the decision during their recently concluded three-day session in Guwahati.
    According to IGG Tea, smallholders hold a position of growing importance in the tea sector, where they cultivate 70% of the global acreage under tea. Smallholders pluck 60% of raw tea leaves and produce a sizeable amount of finished tea.

    The announcement notes: “Their vitality and integral role within the tea supply chain cannot be overstated. Solving this sector’s issues is essential for the long-term viability and health of the tea industry, not to mention the farmers and their communities themselves.”

    IGG delegates, one each from 44 producing countries and non-voting officials from 14 countries, praised the Government of India and the Assam government for their significant investment in the development of the small tea growers’ sector, citing the dedicated research and development work at the Tocklai Tea Research Center in Jorhat.

    The federation (CITS) was established in May 2016 by delegates to the 22nd Session of FAO IGG on Tea meeting in Naivasha, Kenya. The federation was envisioned as “a forum for developing policies and solutions to strengthen the global tea smallholder sector by acting as a convener, catalyst, and resource to improve the consistency of tea policymaking on a global level.”

    BIZ INSIGHT – Joydeep Phukan, Secretary of the Tea Research Association at Tocklai and Coordinator of the FAO IGG on Tea for India, told Tea Biz’s Roopak Goswami that “Moving CITS to India will synergize the efforts of federal and state governments as well as the Tea Board of India in bringing the global best practices to small tea growers of India.”

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  • Lunar New Year Boosts Tea Consumption | Nepal Recovers from Currency Crisis | Pakistan’s Tea Imports (Legal and Smuggled) Climb

    Lunar New Year Will Boost Consumption and Tea Travel | Nepal Recovers from Foreign Currency Crisis | Pakistan’s Legal and Smuggled Tea Imports Climb

    Tea News for the week ending February 2, 2024
    Hear the Headlines | Seven-Minute Tea News Recap
    India Tea News | Aravinda Anantharaman

    The Toronto Tea Festival concluded on January 28, marking a turning point in 2024 as the crowd surged from a low of 2,600 in February 2020 to 4,000 attendees – a 25% increase from previous highs. Joining us today to discuss the changing dynamics is Tao Wu, co-founder of Tao Tea Leaf and one of the festival’s key organizers… but first, let’s listen to the excitement ON THE FLOOR at the weekend event.

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    On the Floor at the Toronto Tea Festival | Tao Wu, festival co-founder

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    Lunar New Year
    Lunar New Year is Feb. 10-17

    Lunar New Year to Boost Consumption and Tea Travel

    The New Year that begins Saturday will bring renewed vigor to China’s tea economy as travel experts predict strong sales during the extra-long holiday.
    “A year after COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in China, the eight-day Chinese New Year (CNY) holiday is expected to see a major surge in travel and consumption as people head home for family reunions or set off for a week of travel and tourism,” writes China Briefing.

    Last year, Chinese border control agencies recorded 5.2 million inbound and outbound transits, a 4.7-fold increase approaching pre-pandemic totals. The Ministry of Culture and Tourism reported 135 million domestic trips. This is roughly in line with the figure seen during the holiday in 2019, according to the administration.

    East Asian cultures celebrating the holiday include Koreans, Vietnamese, Tibetans, and Chinese. The Chinese New Year falls on Saturday, February 10, 2024, beginning the Year of the Dragon—the Wood Dragon.

    The 2024 Spring Festival Holiday Travel Forecast Report, jointly compiled by Baidu Maps and the Highway Science Research Institute of the Ministry of Transport (MOT), forecasts that travel volume over the 2024 holiday will exceed last year by more than 40%, with the busiest day of travel being on the last day of the holiday (February 17) as everyone returns home (departures are more staggered).

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  • Modern Herbalism from Traditional Medicinals

    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 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.”

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    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 built a 125,000-square-foot distribution facility in Virginia.

    Dan: The uplift from niche natural grocery and health food stores to the mass market was underway before the pandemic but has since accelerated. In 2020, Traditional Medicinals spent $30 million building a 125,00 sq. ft. distribution facility near the Port of Virginia to serve East Coast customers. What is propelling the brand forward?

    Kristel: Well, Traditional Medicinals, as you noted, has 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.”

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