Statistics compiled from a survey of retailers following China’s unprecedented lockdown of 700 million people reveal that while international chains like Starbucks and Costa and big national chains, including Ten Ren and Luckin, experienced severe financial setbacks, independent tea and coffee shops suffered mortal blows.
Now that the contagion has spread to Italy, shop owners are taking a hit comparable to their Chinese counterparts.
“Being in the “orange” zone we’ve seen the downtown area of Milan losing its fabric, most people (not all, fortunately) are just not going out and are avoiding close contacts with others (i.e., any crowded area) We’re currently recording a drop of 40% to 50% both in the store and the tearoom. We’ve adopted the sanitary ordinances that set a “safety perimeter” of one-meter minimum distance from others and have had to cancel all planned events and tea seminars,” writes a veteran shop owner who established his specialty tea business in 2008.
In China, a Kamen survey of 2,000 shop owners, those with ten shops or less, revealed that 75% of the stores closed during the epidemic. Closures were due to policy prohibitions (primarily in Hubei Province) and concerns about personnel safety as well as the absence of foot traffic.
Globally there were 98,000 confirmed cases and 3,347 deaths, including 148 in Italy. The death count in Hubei Province is 3,000, with 23,972 of the 67,466 confirmed cases still in the hospital.
Revenue, compared to the same period in the previous year, declined to zero at 65.9% of the shops surveyed. Business declined 50% to 80% at 19% of the shops. Asked to evaluate the loss, 65.93% of shop operators said the event was devastating, with 30.97% saying the impact is controllable. Only 3.1% reported minimal impact. The Chinese government has announced subsidies, low-interest loans, and relief from taxes for retailers in the vicinity of Wuhan.
Starbucks announced this week that 85% of its shops in China have reopened. In a letter to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Starbucks estimated losses of $430 million from the closure of half of its Chinese shops.
Morocco Hoards Chinese Tea
Fearful of the impact on shipments of green tea imports, Morocco is hoarding tea. The president of the Moroccan association of tea and coffee manufacturers (AMITC), Mohamed Astaib, announced that Morocco had imported enough tea to last six months as a preventive measure. Logistics is partly to blame as hundreds of thousands of containers stacked up at China’s 34 ports.
In an article published by the China Media Times Tea Weekly Yu Lu, vice president of the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA) said that Morocco, China’s largest trading partner, implemented stringent standards for pesticide residue for 60 chemicals. As a result, sales decreased by 4.2%.
Moroccans consume 70,000 metric tons of tea annually, making it the 9th largest tea importer in the world.
The tea floor at Fortnum & Mason in London’s high street is stocked exclusively with tea sourced globally. In first for the company, it will now sell a non-caffeinated children’s tea in four flavors.
The Small & Wild brand, blended by two millennial-aged mothers, launched two years ago. The teas are ethically sourced, sugar-free blends of natural herbs and fruit.
The decision follows a U.K. consumer shift to tisanes, which are growing in popularity. Hardly stodgy, the fabled tea company reaped a windfall last year on sales of a bottled sparkling tea.
Teatime forRampaging Vikings
Fans of the widely acclaimed television series Vikings gave a nod of understanding with word that researchers attribute the Viking’s barbarian behavior to a hallucinogenic herbal tea. Warriors high on a brew of stinking henbane amd alcohol experienced less pain, according to Karsten Fatur, an ethnobotanist at the University of Ljbuljana in Slovenia. Fatur speculates that ingesting this tea before battle led 9th century Norse Berserkergang “berserkers” to howl like beasts as they rushed wildly into battle wearing animal skins and little armor. Unchecked aggression, unpredictability, and dissociative effects, such as losing touch with reality, might have allowed them to kill indiscriminately without moral qualms, writes Fatur.
The coronavirus outbreak is causing logistical havoc in advance of the world’s most valuable tea harvest.
“All parts of the country (except Hubei Province) are gradually returning to work and production under the guidance of the tea district government,” writes Tea Weekly.
Hubei Province, an important producing region, remains under lockdown with 2,500 (2,467) deaths, and 80,000 (78,914) confirmed cases of the fast-spreading epidemic centered in the city of Wuhan.
“China is reeling from the outbreak of novel coronavirus-caused pneumonia,” according to Cai Jun, secretary general of tea with the China Chamber of Commerce of Import and Export of Foodstuffs, Native Produce and Animal By-Products (CFNA). CFNA is an influential trade association that operates under the supervision of China’s Ministry of Commerce.
Setbacks are not due to illness or deaths of tea garden workers; it is the result of a national effort to limit travel, close factories, ban public gatherings and shutdown bus, train, air, and subways to prevent the virus from spreading.
“As far as I know, Chinese tea people are all safe and sound, which indicates that drinking tea helps to strengthen immunity,” writes Mr. Cai.
China’s tea industry saw this coming, according to tea retailer Austin Hodge, founder of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea in Tucson, Ariz. Hodge, who imports tea direct from China, recalls the SARS epidemic in 2003. The Chinese learned valuable lessons from that outbreak, which killed 774 globally.
“No tea is going to waste. They are not plucking if they cannot process,” explains Hodge, who praised the Chinese for “making all the necessary adjustments.”
“In rural tea country, the real issue isn’t the virus; it’s the lockdown and logistics. Everybody is local. They don’t have to travel anywhere,” he said.
He expects his first tea of the year to arrive on schedule in a week or two.
Procedures at China’s largest tea company factory in Erhai are typical. The plant resumed operations Feb. 13 as 700 workers were screened for fever, completed and signed a personal health commitment promising to wear masks, disinfect their hands and periodically visit one of six health test points. Upon entering the factory, they scanned the “Yunnan Epidemic Prevention” QR code with their cell phones, activating a cell phone (WeChat mini app) that tracks their movement and warns employers if they have encountered someone who has come down with the virus.
Effective Feb. 11, all Yunnan residents must scan a QR code to enter and exit public places, including residential complexes, markets, malls, hospitals, and public transit hubs. “No name, ID or other content is stored,” and Yunnan promises to destroy the tracking data once the virus is contained.
A factory manager estimated the increased security reduced productivity by 10%.
In the southern-most tea gardens where the harvest is just beginning, those who prune and pluck tea are required to wear masks and are not permitted to form groups. They must keep a minimum distance of 10 feet apart while working.
The China Tea Circulation Association reports that specialty harvests began Feb. 10 in Gaoxian in Sichuan and on Feb. 20 in southern Zhejiang (Wenzhou and Lishui).
“Under the epidemic situation, while doing a good job of prevention and control, multiple tea-producing areas and companies across the country have also organized tea farmers to start the first batch of 2020 spring tea picking,” according to the association.
“We’re not in picking season yet, so the virus hasn’t had much effect on the tea production and international trade. Although it does affect the sales, it’s overall manageable,” writes Mr. Cai.
Grocery stores and supermarkets remain open, and food and beverage delivery are permitted, but the lockdown has cut foot traffic at China’s premier tea malls to a fraction of normal.
“When most tea markets are not open, companies are encouraged to sell online and micro-businesses,” advises the Agriculture and Rural Bureau of Yuzhou District as reported on the Sichuan News Network. Production of Chuancha in Yuzhou is projected at 1,800 metric tons valued at more than $42.5 million (RMB300 million).
More than 500 million Chinese drink approximately 1.9 million metric tons of tea annually, according to the China Tea Marketing Association. The domestic tea market is valued at $18 billion.
During the crisis, overall retail sales are being stripped of $144 billion a week, according to China’s Evergrande Think Tank (as reported by Forbes).
The impact thus far is most significant in congested urban areas. Every province, including Tibet, has reported cases of Covid-19, but tea regions were spared the initial brunt of the epidemic. Hubei reported 64,084 cases and 2,346 deaths.
Enshi tea producers are the closest hot spot, about 500 kilometers west of Wuhan. Plucking generally commences March 15 on Wufeng Mountain. Enshi is a green tea region, one of the few that specializes in steamed green teas. Train and bus service was suspended in January, all 70,000 cinemas in the province were closed, and public gatherings were forbidden. Only grocery stores, gas stations, drug stores, and hospitals are operating.
Generally speaking, the spread of Covid-19 in tea growing areas is slow, and infections in neighborhoods and local outbreaks are comparatively rare. Covid-19 cases in other places such as Enshi and Shennongjia are still attributed to imported cases, and the risk of spread is relatively low,” according to Epidemiologist Dr. Liang Wannian, Beijing’s health chief. His responses to questions from reporters were posted by the State Council of Information Office in Beijing.
How Bad Could It Get?
In addition to tea and coffee, Yunnan is one of the most important growing regions for cut flowers. Harvesting flowers is time-sensitive, and Valentine’s Day represents a significant but fleeting business opportunity.
Fresh-cut flowers from Yunnan are exported to 46 countries and makeup 70% of domestic market share in China’s major cities. Growers earn $64,000 (RMB450,000) per hectare on average selling flowers for $0.20 (RMB1.43) per bloom.
This year the timing could not have been worse, resulting in big losses due to a critical break in the supply chain as trucks, trains, and flights were suspended.
The magnitude of the problem became evident in early February at the Dounan Flower Market in Kunming. Dounan is the largest fresh-cut flower market in Asia. During the period Jan 27 to Feb 5, trade volume in the market slumped 95% to $61,355 (RMB431,500). Sales were 4.78% percent compared to the same period in 2019. Dounan sold 6.53 billion cut flowers valued at RMB5.4 billion last year.
This was compounded by the fact that 50 million consumers were confined to their homes in the Wuhan region and that offices nationwide were closed for as long as two weeks beyond the traditional spring festival travel holiday. The auction was shut down for several days, re-opening Feb. 10.
One-third of Yunnan’s annual cut-flower revenue is earned in February, according to Wang Jihua, deputy director of the Yunnan Provincial Academy of Agricultural Sciences. Mr. Wang estimates that the loss of Yunnan’s flower industry, including supporting industries such as logistics, during the special period will reach RMB3 to RMB5 billion ($425,000 to $715,000).”
Transport options were cut by 90% during the height of the lockdown and are only now being restored. Roadblocks prevented entire villages from access to larger cities and towns. Tea faces a less critical timeline―processing must begin within four hours once leaves are plucked―but the logistics of transportation are the same.
Phil Orlando, Chief Equity Market Strategist and Head of Client Portfolio Management at Federated Investors, told Bloomberg Newsweek the world’s stock markets had not indicated the true impact on trade. “In my humble opinion, it will be bigger than people think,” he said.
Orlando was proved correct Feb. 25 when stock markets globally suffered steep declines.
The last three weeks of February were the first in which the number of patients cured of the disease outnumbers those who contracted Covid-19. It is too soon to declare an end to the crisis, but progress is evident.
“The epidemic is under effective control due to the Chinese government’s prevention and control measures,” writes Mr. Cai. During the lockdown, “most people work from home except those who work in the sectors responsible for the supply of the necessities. We have full confidence and capability to win this fight against the epidemic,” he said.
Mr. Cai said that China’s major tea companies “have shown a dedication to fighting this virus by donating money and necessary supplies to those affected areas.” CFNA was forced to postpone three tea conferences scheduled for March, and several tea fairs, including the spring edition of the Global Tea Fair, are being rescheduled.
China’s 80 million rural tea laborers annually produce 2.56 million metric tonnes of mainly green tea on 3 million hectares of land. Their effort results in half of the world’s annual tea production of 5.2 million metric tons.
Domestic sales by volume are mainly of green tea, but many localities, including Quimen, Fuzhou, Wuyi, and Fuding (in Fujian province) and Pu’er in Yunnan Province, specialize in the production of high-value oolong, white, jasmine, black, and post-fermented teas.
The China Tea Marketing Association estimates 63.1% of domestic sales are from green tea; Pu’er teas represent 14% of sales; oolong represents 11.1%; black tea accounts for 9.9% of sales and white tea for 1.5% with yellow tea estimated at 0.4% in 2018. The Chinese will drink 670,000 metric tonnes of tea in 2020, for which they will spend $18 billion.
Tea plantation acreage has grown substantially since 2006 with most new plantings south of the Yangtze River valley in Guizhou, Yunnan, Sichuan, and Hubei provinces—the four best-known tea growing regions.
Tea grown south of the Yangtze river spans several provinces. It is called Jiangnan and includes Zhejiang, Jiangxi, portions of Anhui, and Hunan provinces. It is the largest tea producing region by volume. Hubei province is split with Wuhan north of the Yangtze and Enshi, south of the river near the Wufeng Mountains. Wuhan is 850 kilometers inland from Shanghai, which is at the mouth of the Yangtze.
Tea grown north of the Yangtze (Jiangbei) spans Henan, Shandong and northern Anhui. Jiangbei is China’s smallest tea growing region.
South China is known as the Huanan growing region. This superior tea growing region spans coastal Fujian, Guangxi, and Hainan island. Fujian is the most important tea producing province by value.
Tea in Southwestern China within the Xinan region is grown in Guizhou, Yunnan, and Sichuan provinces. The earliest teas are plucked in late February in the semi-tropical portions of this zone bordering Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar.
In West Bengal, India massive crowds are pressing for Gorkhaland statehood
Internet service in the Darjeeling Hills was disabled June 19 and service providers remain under orders not to allow online communication through July 25. The order is a security precaution to pre-empt organizers from coordinating protests throughout the region from Siliguri to Sikkim and north to the border with Nepal.
DARJEELING, West Bengal
Residents near the Sadar police station in Darjeeling normally file 30 complaints a day, mostly for petty crimes. Not a single complaint has been filed since June 9, shortly after hundreds of thousands of Gorkha began a strike for statehood now in its 33rd day.
Residents are keeping their distance from local police and riot-clad members of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) following weeks of unrest in which seven people have died and hundreds more, including police, were seriously injured. Heavily armed CRPF were deployed to Darjeeling, Kalimpong, and Sonada on July 14. There are 11 CRPF companies now in place in the region but they are not under siege. In most cities, police stand watch over peaceful gatherings.
Headlines worldwide portrayed the violence with a reminder of the 1,200 killed during similar uprisings from 1986 to 1988.
Residents describe a different story.
Allan Rai is a 20-year-old studying tea management. He asked that his location and personal details remain private at this time.
The protests are orderly and residents are determined to prevail, he writes.
“On reading your recent article as well as sharing it with a few of my companions, we felt that the information you were provided was quite biased and portrayed only one side of the story,” writes Rai.
He counters with these points supporting the Gorkha protest:
Firstly, the ongoing movement is a mass movement not adhering to any political party. The common people of the entire region are supporting the demand for a separate state irrespective of their caste, creed, religion, and other differential status. The Gorkhas from different parts of India as well as those across the world have come in support for Gorkhaland.
With regards to the strike being held off for 12 hours on the auspicious occasion of Eid, our Muslim brothers and sisters are in solidarity for our demand for Gorkhaland and were willing to continue with the strike even on the day of their festival.
Approximately 70% of people in Darjeeling and adjoining areas of Doars depend on income from tea plantations directly or indirectly. In almost all the tea factories, 99% of the workers are the natives i.e., the Gorkhas. A separate state is the aspiration of each individual worker in these factories.
Tea workers were protesting for the minimum wage act, which has not been implemented in Darjeeling and Dooars. The Gorkhaland movement began stirring among tea workers who fully support the movement for a separate state. They even carry their lunch from home and actively participate in the rallies every day.
The movement would not have gained such vast momentum if it were not for social media. Not only the Gorkhas, but people from other communities in India and from several parts around the globe are in solidarity for the cause of Gorkhaland.
Gorkhaland is not a separatist movement, unlike Kashmir where they are demanding a separation from the nation entirely. Our movement is for a separate state within the Indian nation for the cause of our IDENTITY and DIGNITY that has been denied to us for the past 110 years.
The movement here is rather democratic and apolitical. The only visible violence is the atrocities committed by the Bengal Government by ordering forces to charge and fire bullets at peaceful protestors in broad daylight.
The violence on June 17 that claimed four innocent lives was due to a clash between the protestors and the armed forces. This was because on previous days these armed forces charged women and elders who were peacefully protesting. On June 16 police raided the house of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) chief. The media flashed that they found weapons and explosives when all that they found was an archery kit that was for training school children, agricultural tools and other traditional weapons along with two cartons of fire crackers. The media termed these “weapons and explosives.” This led to a massive rally in Darjeeling. When the armed forces tried to intervene, it led to a clash and resulted in the death of the four martyrs.
Gorkha tea worker in Darjeeling
The Current Situation
Each day thousands of tea workers from the fields join city residents at a now-familiar 10 a.m. gathering at the historic Darjeeling train station. They rally, tour the city along Mall Road and end their protest at Chowk Bazar. Some groups chant in front of the magistrate’s office. Groups of 500 to 2,000 listen as speakers from the organizing bodies address the crowd for about an hour before dispersing.
There is nothing much else for locals to do. The tea gardens are closed, the factories idle. The tourists are too scared to stay, schools are closed, outdoor sporting events canceled. Restaurants, pubs, shops, and grocers as well as banks and ATMs are locked to prevent looting, according to the Times of India.
Residents report that each day you see the same faces whether the march is for the GJM (Gorkha Janmukti Morcha), the GNLF (Gorkha National Liberation Front), the ABGL (Akhil Bharatiya Gorkha League) or the CPRM (Communist Party of Revolutionary Marxists). All support the effort to establish Gorkhaland, a state carved from the upper reaches of West Bengal.
The scene is familiar to travelers. In January in Chennai tens of thousands of protestors expressed their outrage over the ban of a traditional bull-taming contest known as jallikattu. The sport was continued.
Five years ago, thousands in Darjeeling took to the streets to peacefully protest the expansion of 50 Wal-Mart locations across India. I missed a flight to Kolkata due to the resulting congestion in every village along the 60-mile road to Bagdogra Airport. There are many names for the protests which draw the people of India into the streets carrying signs and chanting. Nationwide a cessation of work is know as a hartal. Locally these strikes are called anishchitkal bandh (indefinite strike).
One key difference is the interruption of the internet, which has choked off contact with the Gorkha. The Hindu reports this decision has led to widespread resentment, which is being tapped into by the movement. On Monday the GJM marched to the magistrate’s office demanding that internet service be restored.
Peaceful street protests
“This movement is not a sudden, it has been prevalent for 110 years, however, it was highly voiced out during the year 1986 under the leadership of late Subash Ghising,” writes Allan Rai.
“During the ongoing agitation in those days my father was among the activists for the cause of Gorkhaland. The movement turned out to be violent, killing 1,200 innocent civilians as well as injuring many. Despite this violence the demand for Gorkhaland was not fulfilled,” he writes.
“Instead they settled with the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council (DGHC), a semi-autonomous body to look after the administration in the hills. This granting of autonomy led the masses to believe that now the hills would see better administration and development,” reports Rai.
Here is an excerpt from my upbeat report at the time:
“A new territory was carved from West Bengal’s Darjeeling district but India rejected demands for a separate state. The Gorkhaland Territorial Administration (GTA) will have powers to manage public works, social welfare, health and forests and agriculture including valued tea gardens. Existing land records will be transferred to the authority
“The agreement will end the violence in the hills of Darjeeling and pave the way for development,” newly elected West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee told the crowd of joyous Gorkhas gathered in the village of Pintail. She praised the signing as historic. “There is nothing to fear… Bengal is not being divided. Darjeeling is close to our heart,” she said.
“There will be an elected local body, there will be schools, colleges, hospitals, jobs will be available and Darjeeling will shine,” said Banerjee who shared her vision of Switzerland as a model.
Autonomous Region Fails
“The autonomy status was just a farce and the state still continued to intervene and rule over the region, depriving it of the development it deserved,” according to Rai. “I’ve been well acquainted with this movement. Since I was a child, I heard stories about the agitation of 1986, which our loving elders referred to as the most devastating “chyassi ko andolan” one of the biggest and most violent movement in the history of Gorkhaland,” he continues.
Protests soon resumed, often involving garden workers, with frequent strikes disrupting tea production and reducing productivity.
Tensions are greater now than at anytime since the bloodshed of the 1980s.
“The agitation which has been going on for over one month will turn terrible and it will be a decisive battle for our independence,” GJM Chief Bimal Gurung told reporters Saturday night. “If I need to shed my blood I am ready to do that, but the fight will go on till Gorkhaland is achieved,” Gurung said.
So, Why Gorkhaland?
“Darjeeling tea is our pride and our heritage,” writes Rai. “It has been one of the world’s leading brands of tea. However, the tea plantations and factories in the region do not flourish or prosper to their full potential due to several reasons, one of them being inequitable distribution of monetary resource. The revenue collected from the Darjeeling tea does not return to those who produce it. Thus, there is not much monetary support to maintain the factories and the wages of the workers are very low compared to the wages of workers in other states of our country,” he writes.
“Workers are provided with facilities such as PF, Pensions that do not even amount to $15.50 (INRs1000) per month and medical facilities that are mentioned in the documents for name sake as there are no medical units or hospitals. Owing to these factors many factories in the region have been shut down. This has led to widespread unemployment resulting in deaths due to starvation as well as depression,” he said.
“When visiting tea estates, people usually meet the owners and managers of these estates. This leads them to understand only the owner’s or the manager’s point of view regarding the estates. However, they often fail to consider the daily wage workers of the estate and fail to understand or even consider the terms or the conditions in which they work to earn their minimal standard of living.
I’m sure when people drink our Darjeeling tea they sip it in delight but has anyone thought about the condition of the old lady in the garden who plucked those luscious leaves with her delicate hands? Or the ever-smiling man who turns these tea leaves into an aromatic sipping delight? Has anyone thought that even under these extreme and crucial conditions these simple workers do not fail to do their job and supply us with our world-famous brand of tea?
“The people of this region are very hardworking and generous, they work 8 hours a day for a meager amount of $2 (INRs130) per day. These workers are living in such harsh conditions yet has anyone even bothered to think about them? These are the things that one must ponder upon to realize the potential that the tea plantations will reach, if, a separate state is formed,” he concludes.
Tea Journey Magazine was funded at dawn by more than 560 backers who contributed $128,000 during the past 60 days…
To our backers around the world:
Those who know me well, know that I’m never at a loss for words… until now.
Tea Journey was funded at dawn — fittingly by donations from tea lovers on the other side of the world in China and Australia as their day was winding down.
I fell asleep at 5am and awakened to the news with tears of joy…. and relief.
Today is DAY ONE. We can now get on with the joyous task of producing the world’s first truly global, truly collaborative magazine for tea lovers. Its creation demonstrates a rare ability to bridge borders and cultures, to share the stories of the tea lands that introduce growers and artisans to the millions who cherish their labor of love.
You can expect the inaugural issue and both the iOS and Android apps to be ready by the end of the month.
On behalf of the Tea Journey partners and advisors, writers and editors.
Where do the most recent Tea Journey backers live? Here are their names and the home countries of some of the final 50 donors who contributed to the campaign:
Gordon Zhang, China | Margaret Cusak, Australia |Roquen Lómë, Prague Czech Republic | Marc-André Rivet, Montreal, Canada | Richard Tao, US | Jesse Örö, Finland | Debbie Forlanski, Canada | Goh Cheng Fai, Hong Kong | Danny Moortgat, Belgium | Scott Svihula, Florida | Nancy Cocianchi, Argentina | Nigel Melican, UK | Sabine Jürgenmeier, Germany | Wouter Verelst, Malawi | Ernestas Klevas, Frederiksberg, Denmark | Stefano Grassi, Italy |
There is power in this venture that speaks to community more than cash…
The other day, inspired by Jennifer English, the @urbanmommies hosted an online fundraiser for Tea Journey that resulted in nearly 300,000 direct contacts and 5 million social impressions on Twitter and greatest single-day tally of subscribers during the campaign.
The entire world is thirsty for tea knowledge. While the US is home to the largest number of backers, Canada, I’m proud to say, has the largest concentration of subscribers. Tea drinking UK is exploring more diverse teas as are India and Australia. Those in China and Taiwan and Asian tea lands are next, not for lack of knowledge but out of a desire to better understand the markets where they send their precious tea. Gourmands in Western Europe (Germany-France-Benelux) placed their countries high on the list. There are South American fans from seven countries (Argentina tops the list followed by Brazil where out of the goodness of their hearts tea lovers Victoria Bosogno (Spanish) and Kelly Stein (Portuguese) translated and then forwarded the Tea Journey message). Those from tea lands in Africa (including the Middle East) follow. Backers hail from CIS and the Czech Republic, from Mexico and the Caribbean islands and even Iceland where Frank Woolny was the ninth backer to contribute.
The first? That was Peter Wilson, who inspired us with these words:
“…with every tea I taste, and every word I read, I sink deeper into such a joyful state of being that I want to keep going and going. It’s a bit challenging sometimes to find good information about tea in the west, so when I learned of this magazine, not only did I decide that I would contribute, I set my alarm for 12am the morning that the Kickstarter campaign opened, in the hope that I could say I was first to contribute! I’ve told all of my friends, and I’ve also sent letters to all of my favorite tea suppliers (like Harney, DAVIDsTEA, Tea Trekker, and Tea Source), asking them to consider supporting and encouraging more people to become enthusiasts like me. Thank you for all that you do, and best of luck with your magazine! I’m privileged to say that I support it, and I look forward to continuing my own tea journey.”
Backers believe passionately in our mission: Listed below are some of those who donated in the past week to put us over the top.
Mehmet Emin Akyuz, Stephan Baudet, Lorraine Collins, Shawn Geitner, Christopher Day, Peter Ericson, Amethyst Bussey, Nathan Hevenstone, John Alfone, Jaime Chartrand, Eva Lee, Mark O’Deady, Faye Lang, Guy Sirkes, Barbara Broido, Shari Bayer, Jen Piccotti, Joyce Maio, Najat Abdou, Pamela Tucker, Ruth Tobias, Laurence Wooding, Glen Knauer, Dominik Wittenberg, Sean Mates, Rick Ha, Margo Sparto, Raelene Gannon, Kaiting Zhou, David Bess, Brett Holmes, Ellie Chu, Rick Doten, Lisa Braithwaite, Cindy Beeman, Samantha Molineaux, Barb Goldstein, Linda Gaylard, Geena Matuson, Mark Nicholls, Dawn Hoffman, Jeffrey Lorien, Sophia Nadur, Michelle Rabin, Matt Jaffe, Bob Krul, Noah Van der Laan, Andre Gauthier, Rona Tison, Manuel Legault-Roy…
What powered this extraordinary event?
The generosity ofFounding Sponsors:
Camellia Sinensis | Seven Cups Fine Chinese Teas | Young Mountain Tea | Craftea | Mad Monk | Misty Peak Teas | Jalam Teas| Tea Squared | Tealet | Australian Tea Masters | Adagio Teas | Nothing But Tea | Teatrade | Yunomi Tea | Firsd Tea | Smacha Tea Company | Hong China Tea | Teatulia | Lochan Tea Company | Mighty Leaf Tea Company | International Tea Importers | International Tea Masters Association | Rolling Leaf | El Club del Te | Rishi Tea | Tea Total | Teatrade Mart | TeaLula | The Green Teaist | World Tea Podcast | Tea Lifestyle | World Tea Academy | P&T – Paper & Tea GmbH | The Daily Tea | Wild Qi Tea | Tea Vivre | Conundrum Tea | Tea Cosmos | The Tea Emporium | Teas Etc | UK Tea Academy | Mary Cotterman | Royal Tea New York | ITO EN | JoJo Tea | G.S. Haly Co. | Hawaiian Rainforest Tea | 4 Track Tea | Ocha & Co | Hankook Tea | Eco-Cha |
It’s an astronomical, gratifying, amazingly large number of people around the globe.
Google Analytics shows that TeaJourney.pub has attracted visitors from 85 countries. Literally every country in Western Europe where subscribers from UK and Germany lead; seven countries in South America, twelve countries in Africa, the Middle East, Turkey, Iran. India is home to the fourth largest number of subscribers There is great support for Tea Journey in Nepal and Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
There are only four countries in all of Asia where tea lovers have have not visited the website… Iceland and the Caribbean Islands are represented. We love island people from the Azores and Madagascar and the Philippines to Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. Frank Miller paved the way inThailand and Vietnam. A special shout to Kevin Gasgoyne and Jeff Fuchs in my beloved Canada. There are now 600+ paid subscribers and more than 10,000 names on our free newsletter list.
In thirty days, how can this be?
Let me share a quick story: On Thursday Tea Journey was invited to attend a blazingly fast and fun #TwitterParty hosted by @urbanmommies, an online community of mothers founded by Jill Amery. A TwitterParty is a moment-in-time chat room that afforded us an opportunity to share our love for tea and trivia with @urbanmommies. Jill made a special appeal to support our Kickstarter project in the closing days of the campaign.
Together the Tea Journey team generated hundreds of tweets that led to hundreds more re-tweets that encouraged thousands of tea lovers to echo their support — which mushroomed into hundreds of thousands of individual contacts.
That single one-hour event brought us to the attention of almost 300,000 individual members of the @urbanmommies online community and their friends and it generated 5 million impressions globally. It was the GENIUS-INSPIRED work of Jennifer English… executed with precision by the Tea Journey partners, writers and marketing staff.
Early in the week Jennifer English sent out a call that mobilized her friends to organize an online contest with prizes for participants. Marketing director Ashley Sostaric-Finkes and her marvelous social media assistant Alexandra Enns joined the stream with the help of contributing editors Nicole Martin, Dan Robertson and Jennifer Quail, and bloggers Rachael Carter and Geoffrey Norman; and contributors Elyse Petersen and tea companies including Seven Cups and A Gift of Tea, Scandalous Tea and Tea Wagon.
Together we shot a single bright beam in the night typing so fast we got lost in the moment. The resulting surge made Friday our single biggest day for paid subscribers.
There is still work to do. We have only three days and we are still $4,000 short of our goal. Backers have contributed more than $10,000 in the last 10 days.
Together we can do this. The entire tea world is watching. Wednesday June 1 is the deadline. Click here to show your support.
To date, there have been more than 280,000 creative projects on Kickstarter — phew! Whether you’re a backer looking to find great ideas, or a creator looking for inspiration for your own project (or both), we want to help you find compelling ideas that are thoughtfully presented, exciting, and that bring communities together. With this in mind, we’re excited to introduce Projects We Love, a simple way for us to feature projects that go the extra mile.
Projects We Love is an evolution of Staff Picks, a feature we used in the past to connect creators and backers around best-in-class projects. The difference is that Projects We Love automatically get a nice little badge, so that everyone can tell when we’re extra excited about a project. Projects We Love are featured by a team that works to surface extra-bright projects. They’re not paid endorsements, and like any other project, they retain complete creative independence. Most simply, a Project We Love badge is a show of respect and enthusiasm from us at Kickstarter.
Take a look at some existing Projects We Love, and you’ll see well-crafted videos, striking images, a clear plan, an excited community, and a lot of creativity. While there’s no recipe for making a Project We Love, we do have some tips on how to get featured. We also send out a newsletter every week featuring three Projects We Love — sign up to receive it, and you’ll be on your way to discovering world-class projects that delight and inspire.Onwards and upwards!
Last week donors pledged $15,000 to bring Tea Journey to life.
As you read this note our total paid subscriptions will top 325 and our Kickstarter campaign will have reached nearly 30% of the final goal. There are now 30 days left in the campaign. Many Kickstarter ventures are fully funded in a 30-day window but we need to act quickly to draw attention to our “replenish rewards.”
We need to make the most of each day…
Founding sponsors have committed an additional 1,000 packets of tea and several new tea experience rewards totaling $20,000. This boosts the value of Tea Journey rewards to $95,000 USD (our current goal).
The word is getting out. We have 185 Kickstarter subscribers (and another 130 who subscribed direct from the website). They hail from Iceland and Indonesia to Eastern Europe, India, UK and New Zealand. Those who see the prototype tell us they love it.
The combination of support from bloggers, media and social media has brought us this far but reaching goal depends on peer-to-peer appeals to your friends in tea. Eighty-two percent of our Kickstarter donors are friends in tea. They are responding to short personal notes at a rate of 1% – that’s 5 per 500 notes sent.
A simple note is all it takes: 70% of millennials prefer a “peer” endorsement and rely on non-celebrity bloggers over the glitz and glam of stars. Only 3% of the 14,000 consumers surveyed by Collective Bias say they even consider buying a product endorsed by a celebrity.
The articles, images and video in Tea Journey are authentic, unvarnished, detailed and devoted to tea. Your note should be the same.
Do these five things and we will be celebrating our success on June 1.
1) Open a PayPay account and add $30 (for up to 500 names). GreenInbox only accepts PayPal payments.
2) Signup for GreenInbox.com (and select and upload either your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, Linkedin connections or email contact list). Click the check box beside the names of everyone you think will be interested in Tea Journey (up to 500).
3) Personalize the note below.
4) Click send.
If you are short of cash I will be happy to reimburse you…. better yet, send a note to email@example.com with your Paypal email and I will send you $30 in advance.
I emailed 317 appeals this week and there were 60%+ opens resulting in several donors.
I know a lot of people but not nearly enough to reach the Kickstarter goal.
If you help us by doing this, I am convinced that together the tea community will reach the $96,000 goal but it needs to be done now…. send as many as you can as quickly as practical. It takes donors several days to evaluate the magazine. In many instances it takes appeals from three or four of you to tip the scale.
Tomorrow is too late.
Dear (or Hello, or Hi) <first_name>
Tea Journey magazine presents authentic and elusive tea knowledge translated from publications in China and other tea lands. The mobile app and website is a collaboration between western tea journalists and tea experts to introduce readers to the world’s finest gardens and teas. Choose from these awesome tea rewards: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teajourney/tea-journey-magazine
1) Focus the message on the recipient, not you.
2) Make the message positive
3) Keep the message short.
4) Include a clear call to action.
5) Do not use shortlinks (like bit.ly)
Most email providers (like gmail) will mark your message as spam if it includes bit.ly, goo.gl, tinyurl etc. Moreover, better to use the full link since people like to know what’s the target web page. Using the full link will increase the number of people that actually click on it. https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/teajourney/tea-journey-magazine
During the past decade I have met thousands of tea drinkers on a path of discovery, a journey to find the special teas that tantalize their sense of taste and reward them with tales of exotic terroir and artisanship so compelling they are eager to share.
I believe that there is a perfect tea for each of us and that finding that tea is the key to fully realizing the health and wellness tea brings.
But finding that tea and preparing it correctly requires knowledge not easily obtained.
Ron Studd put it this way: “I have a strong feeling that there are many interested in getting to the next level with tea, but they don’t have a good way to get there specifically with knowledge. I know that was a problem I had when I returned to the States. You get people that say they’re enthusiasts, but when their depth of tea knowledge and practice is so shallow, it’s tough to find inspiration and encouragement that can only come from a wider community of other enthusiasts at or beyond your own knowledge.”
In the past year I assembled an awesome team of journalists and tea experts in the tea lands and their counterparts in the west dedicated to obtaining and sharing authentic, elusive and exclusive knowledge. We call our venture Tea Journey. It was christened by Tony Gebely and ratified by a group so passionate about tea I am humbled to stand as their leader.* Together we created something very special, a digital magazine available online, via iOS and Android and downloadable as a PDF.
This mobile magazine features articles written in the tea lands by native-speaking writers. The articles are beautifully illustrated and there are informative videos that bring history to life and describe the amazing work that goes into creating tea:
Click to view the prototype we created. I know you will find the content compelling. Then join us.
Three hundred enthusiasts already have invested $25,000 in making this Kickstarter project a reality.
Ron Studd continues: “When reading the magazine articles, I kept thinking ‘this is exactly what I need!’ Even for topics that I may be familiar with, there’s so much effort that went into making the content intuitive and interesting that any level of enthusiast will enjoy. It’s also just nice to know ‘I’m not the only one interested in this!’ ”
Dan Bolton, Editor/Publisher Nan Cui, Associate Publisher Si Chen, Senior Editor Hans Niebergall, Business Development Ashley Sostaric-Finkes, Marketing Director Suzette Hammond, Education Director Beibei Lu, Art Director Jennifer Sauer, Video Editor Kathe Meseman, Finance Director
Ian Chun, Origins
Jennifer English, Podcast
Jennifer Quail, Teaware & Antiquities
Cynthia Gold, Culinary Tea
Bruce Richardson, Tea Retail
Dan Robertson, Origins
Jennifer Sauer, Videography
Jennifer English, Tea Journey Podcast
Cynthia Gold, Tea Cuisine
James Norwood Pratt
Victoria Bisogno, El Club Del Te
Kevin Gascoyne, Camellia Sinensis Tony Gebely, World of Tea
Austin Hodge, Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea Joshua Kaiser, Co-founder Rishi Organic Tea Brian Keating, Sage Group
Bob Krul, Boreal Wildcraft Andrew McNeill, Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea
Dr. Nada Milosavljevic, Harvard Medical Elyse Petersen, Tealet Jane Pettigrew, UK Tea Academy James Norwood Pratt, Tea Lovers Treasury Dan Robertson, The Tea House
Founding Sponsors: Camellia Sinensis | Seven Cups | Mighty Leaf | Mad Monk Tea | Tealet | CrafTea | Tea Squared | Jalam Teas | Misty Peak Tea | Tea Total | Yunomi Tea |Tetulia | Lochan Tea | Teatrade Mart | Rishi Organic Tea | Adagio Teas | World Tea Academy | Hong China Tea | Smacha | Young Mountain Tea | Nothing But Tea | Australian Tea Masters | ITI | Paper & Tea GmbH | International Tea Masters | Wild Tea Qi | The Green Teaist | El Club Del Te | Rolling Leaf | World Tea Podcast | Tea Lula | Daily Tea | Conundrum Tea | Tea Vivre (watch for updates as additional founding sponsors sign up every day.)
Companies interested in becoming founding sponsors should contact Suzette Hammond at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire.
Location data is critical to retail success and essential to expansion planning. Market research firm AggData offers a revealing tool that TIME Labs used to rank the richest retail locations in the U.S.
The interactive form compiles the U.S. median income of brands based on updated 2013 Census data. TIME ranked 2,996 chains by comparing the median income of the counties where stores are located. TIME used this information to rank the richest department stores, grocery stores, and restaurants by location. You can use it to perform some useful local reconnaissance on tea, coffee and cafe chains.
I started with 390-store Teavana and DAVIDsTEA. The table only ranks U.S. locations which include 311 Teavana stores and 24 DAVIDsTEA locations along with 30 Argo Tea locations. In 2013 the median household (inflation adjusted) income for the entire country was $51,939 according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
DAVIDsTEA has located its shops in very high income counties (Chicago, Boston, New York, San Francisco) with a mean income of $73,226. These stores are located in counties ranking in the top 30% of U.S. incomes. Teavana is more broadly dispersed with mall stores in 46 states. Teavana Tea Bars are located in places like Manhattan and Beverly Hills. The median county income for Teavana locations is $62,304. Teavana locations are situated within counties with households in the top 41% of U.S. incomes. Argo follows with stores in five states and a median county income of $56,263. These locations rank within the top 44% of U.S. household incomes.
By comparison Starbucks has 12,231 locations in all 50 states (and two territories) with a median $52,739. The company also operates 27 Seattle’s Best Cafes in 16 states where the county median is $56,261. This number does not include the many thousands of non-branded locations where Seattle’s Best is sold.
To investigate competitors within your own market click this image and scroll to the bottom of the TIME page. Then use the search box to compare chains including Dunn Bros. Coffee, Coffee Beanery, Dutch Bros. Coffee, Tim Hortons, Gloria Jean’s Coffees, Tully’s Coffee, Panera Bread, Au Bon Pain etc. Peet’s Coffee & Tea was not listed.
Household median income, from the 2013 American Community Survey, is averaged across all counties for every retail location available from AggData to find the “median shopper income.” Estimates for shopper’s income would likely show greater disparity if calculated by geographies smaller than counties, which include a broader spectrum of household incomes. Only brands with stores in 20 or more U.S. states are considered national chains and used in the lists above. Though all brands are available in the search feature regardless of the number of states they operate in.
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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs good decision-making in business. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.
Tea Biz posts are available to use in your company newsletter or website. Purchase reprint and distribution rights for single articles or commission original content. Click here for details.
China is making its biggest splash in tea in modern times this summer at Expo Milano 2015 the world’s largest food and beverage tradeshow.
“Never before has Italy hosted so many tea experts from China all together with so many companies representing the excellence of Chinese tea,” writes Marco Bertona, chairman of the Tea Association of Italy. The China Pavilion in Milan is shaped like fields of wheat rippling in the wind to reflect the theme, “Land of Hope, Food for Life.” It has been visited by almost 250,000 tourists since it opened in May.
“Chinese Tea Culture Week” which ended Sunday brought to light a political mandate to make China the world’s greatest tea exporter.
In 2013 Xi Jinping, China’s new president, proposed The Belt and Road Initiative, a modernization of the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. The goal is reviving ancient trade routes between Asia and Europe. The proposed trade and infrastructure network passes through more than 60 countries and regions, with a population of 4.4 billion. Nations along the route produce more than 80% of the world’s supply of tea.
China Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015
Unlike past initiatives which emphasized quantity over quality, this time China is determined to dominate the global market for premium tea.
In 2014 more than 80% of China’s tea exports were low grade green tea destined for Africa, Europe and Russia. Right now there is a surplus of commodity tea and a scarcity of premium tea making this a good time to export fine tea. During the past decade the green tea that China exported sold for between $1 and $2 per kilo. In December 2014 the world average price for tea sold at auction was $2.56/kg down from $2.72/kg the previous year. The average dropped an additional 30-cents to $2.42/kg by the end March 2015, according to statistics compiled by the Central Bank of Sri Lanka.
China Daily reports that the average price of Chinese tea increased to $4 per kilo during the past few years. Last year Chinese tea exports $4.19 per kilo. This is a big improvement but is still not enough to be profitable, according to Chinese traders.
China’s tea market was valued at $56 billion (RMB 350 billion) in 2014. Exports comprise only $1.27 billion of market value, but were up 2.1% compared to 2013. Export volume declined 7.5% during that same period, an indication that China is shipping greater quantities of higher-value tea.
Sri Lanka, the world’s second largest tea exporter, gets the highest average price for commodity teas auctioned anywhere in the world. But the Colombo Tea Auction average is still less than $5 per kilo. Asia Syaka, a global commodities brokerage notes “Sri Lankan orthodox black tea continues to command premium pricing in the international market with prices averaging $4.97 per kilo.”
Specialty teas, in contrast, sell for $150 a kilo with some bringing $350 to $400 per kilo.
In 2013 China was the world’s second-biggest tea exporter at 322,600 metric tons behind Kenya’s 494,400 tons. That year Sri Lanka exported 319,600 metric tons. In 2014 Sri Lanka stepped up exports, setting a record at 327,800 metric tons and China fell to third.
China is without doubt capable of meeting global demand for premium tea. It is the only large tea producing country capable of mass producing all six kinds of tea. China already produces 40% of the world’s tea and is developing thousands of additional acres per year. Tea is grown there on 6.7 million acres (2.7 million hectares) and it is exported to 120 countries. China’s tea is marketed by more than 200,000 companies representing the work of 30 million growers.
China retains its customary lead in the production of green tea, exporting 79% of the global total and accounting for 80% of value. In most instances exported Chinese tea is blended with herbs and fruits. In the US sales of green iced tea have increased significantly as national restaurant chains promote green tea’s health benefits. At least 10% of the nation’s restaurants now serve green tea alongside traditional black.
Despite its massive production capability “China is not strong enough in exports of tea leaves, tea extracts and deep-processing elements which are fundamentals of the tea industry,” according to Wu Zhibin, vice chairman of the Chinese Tea Culture International Exchange Association told Taiwan-based Want China Times. Deep-processing is the Chinese term for what in the west is known as value-added tea.
“The domestic market values low-production, handmade teas but the global tea market prefers mass-produced teas that are standardized in quality and taste,” according to Wu Jing, editor-in-chief of tea portal chayu.com. He told China Daily that “export teas are grown specifically for that purpose and not consumed domestically.”
Tea Culture Week at the Chinese Pavilion is an opportunity “to support top brands of Chinese tea industry in their path towards growth and worldwide development,” said Zhibin. He praised the top Chinese exports brands which were recognized at as special award ceremony in Milan.
“With rising production costs in China and competition that is likely to intensify, Chinese tea producers have to find new strategies to boost Chinese brands and their sales on the global stage,” says Ji Xiaoming, president of Jingwei Fu Tea Co and chairman of the Shaanxi Tea Association.
“Only if the Chinese tea industry is strong, the Chinese tea culture can be innovative and can be promoted all around the world,” Wu told Xinhua News Service.
China Daily reports that “One Belt, One Road” is a rare opportunity to turn Chinese tea consumption into a global phenomenon.
“That is the dream of the country’s tea companies – which are still largely unknown to the world. They are ready to grab a piece of the action in an anticipated market boom,” according to the newspaper.
“The Belt and Road Initiative is not just a rejuvenation of the ancient silk road, but also a comeback of the ancient tea road,” said Jiao Jialiang, chairman of LongRun Group, a Chinese conglomerate specializing in food and health products.
Jiao, who is also a member of the 12th Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, told the newspaper that “China’s tea industry will embrace an unprecedented window of opportunity as the Initiative presses ahead.”
Growers and producers spent generations refining the Chinese way of manufacturing tea with its many unique regional variations,” according to the newspaper: “Tea is not simply beverage, but a unique opportunity to share China’s culture.”
“It’s believed the practice of tea culture can take the spirit and wisdom of humans to a higher level, and its study covers a wide field with rich content,” the paper reported.
Tea culture will lead the way boosting the Belt and Road Initiative, said Jiao, “as tea culture spreads around the world, the whole industry will take off,” he said.
Although export figures may continue to trough in the short term, says Wang Jianrong, director of the China National Tea Museum: “The future of Chinese tea exports will be bright if we continue to penetrate overseas markets with tea culture, something that is not reflected in trade figures.”
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An informal assessment of China’s export market for tea.
China has the land, tea varieties, tea quality, government incentives and motivation to excel in tea exports. The growth of tea retail outlets (T2, Teavana, DavidsTea, TenRen) is a very promising development. 1400 years ago China was the top tea exporter and even after India replaced it as a quantity supplier China always offered more varieties and higher quality orthodox, remaining dominate for centuries. India is the only producing country with similar capacity and it cannot effectively compete. Kenya will remain the dominate commodity supplier of black tea, but remains an insignificant supplier of green. Anything the Chinese can do with green they can industrialized and scale for black, but doing so is not profitable with Sri Lanka, India and Kenya in the picture. China is expert at orthodox green and while it will step up its black tea production for Asian consumption, European and US export, it will make its greatest gains in premium green/white, pu-erh and oolongs. China’s RTD tea market is valued at about $29 billion. China’s Ting Hsin International Group not only dominates China’s RTD market but the international RTD market as well with a 10% global market share, according to a financial report by LD Investments, published by Seeking Alpha. Look for breakouts in RTD and value-added tea products from concentrates and extracts to supplements and cosmetics. These are more likely to be developed in collaboration with Japan (ITO EN) and Taiwan (TenRen, Tingyi and Master Kong) using inexpensive Chinese tea from the mainland. Right now China is primarily developing extracts and “deep-processed” tea for its own domestic market.
Globally the demand for black tea is much greater than green. Right now there is a glut of commodity black teas and a shortage of “quality” CTC that is clean, certified and reasonably priced. China loses money producing cheap green and loses volume if they focus only on premium. Conversion to a dominate black tea supplier offers little financial incentives. Ultimately demand for fine green teas will grow due to its health benefits and the adoption of green by foodservice (in US Wendy’s green iced tea at 6,000 stores). Tea exports represents such a tiny fraction of foreign trade that the Chinese government stands to gain very little (other than prestige) from the increase in tea exports. Tea exports earned $1.27 billion which represents about .056% of China’s $2.25 trillion exports. Electronics and other agricultural products generate a lot more money than tea. Unlike the more profitable exports which receive significant government support, much of the investment on outbound marketing will be made by the 200,000 existing tea companies, none of whom are well known brands. Even the largest holds minuscule market share compared to multi nationals like Unilever, Tata Global Beverages or Nestle.
Chinese tea culture is fascinating, varied and universally appreciated. China exports tea to 120 countries. The country will more fully develop its impressivle portfolio of prized teas (premium green, oolongs and pu-erh) and that will generate significant income for regional producers willing to undertake mass production. Ultimately these firms will spend the money it takes to promote their offerings in Europe and North America. China’s domestic market currently values low-production, hand-made teas. The global tea market prefers mass-produced teas that are standardized in quality and taste. In time China will show the benefit of its hand-made teas by making them more available in the global market while at the same time collaborate with Western ventures such as Starbucks/Teavana and Unilever/T2 to produce more commercially successful mass-market teas. In sharing its finest teas China gradually transitions from a commodity producer earning $4 per kilo to a quality producer capable of marketing teas at 10-times that rate and with the capacity to supply the entire world’s demand for premium teas.
A slowing economy makes it more difficult for Chinese firms to invest the marketing dollars it takes to win share in export markets, but its own domestic demand for cleaner tea will help offset these costs. Learning to market value-added tea domestically is a precursor to global expansion and tolerance for the millions it takes to promote a Lipton or Tetley brand (ie. its latest global ad campaign cost Lipton $40 million, no Chinese company has ever invested that kind of money to promote a tea brand). Another threat is global instability that impacts trade (China territorial expansion, tension with Japan, aggressive behavior by surrogate North Korea) are factors. However, the single greatest threat in my view (and a primary motivation for exports) is the fact that young people in China consider traditional tea “old fashioned” and are not practicing the tea traditions of their parents. Consumer surveys reveal that nearly 70 percent of those born in the 80’s do not like to drink tea. This rises to 95% for those born in the 90’s. Tea is not cool, shops are largely antiquated and there is no marketing beyond basic grocery display. Relatively little good tea is purchased in grocery. Ultimately tea must appeal to a new generation of consumers. As one critic noted: “if all the tea stores look like archaeology dig sites and antique stores, then it won’t attract a lot of customers.” Revenue from a lively domestic market is essential to expansion of exports.
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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs good decision-making in business. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.
Tea Biz posts are available to use in your company newsletter or website. Purchase reprint and distribution rights for single articles or commission original content. Click here for details.
Brian R. Keating, 62, a specialty tea visionary, well-respected tea blender, formulator, market researcher and consultant died Sunday, Sept. 2.
Keating was visiting long-time friend Mary Greengo at her Queen Mary Tea Room in Seattle when he collapsed in the Tea Emporium. Paramedics responded. He was later pronounced dead at the University of Washington Medical Center.
Keating worked in the tea industry for more than 30 years. His marketing reports, first published in 1993, foretold the growth of specialty tea industry. Sage Group published 10 “Specialty Tea is Hot” reports on every facet of the industry, co-authored several culinary works and “How to Make Tea” (2016) a consumer title distributed globally.
Keating was the first tea buyer and blend-master at Whole Foods Market (via its subsidiary Allegro Coffee) where he was responsible for creating 40 new tea products in a lab of his design. He previously owned one of America’s most successful specialty tea shops and cafés.
Keating pioneered may innovative tea beverages including the first tea-based energy drink, SPORTea. His role with World Tea Expo dates to the inception of the event.
Only a few hours remain in the already-successful Kickstarter campaign to launch Nepal Tea, LLC. This is the time to pour it on. Donors can contribute through Wednesday, March 8. – Dan Bolton
Nischal Banskota at Kanchanjangha Tea Estate
Nishchal Banskota is 24.
He is pictured at right in his not-so-long-ago teens, perched on a rock in the family’s Kanchanjangha Tea Estate, the first tea garden in Nepal to achieve organic certification.
His father, Deepak Prakash Baskota, is nearing four score. The path these two men travel closely adheres to the ancient proverb “Like father, like son” a beloved truth first published in the 1300s but with an oral tradition as old as mankind.
Nishchal is Deepak and Dambar Baskota’s youngest son. He graduated last year from Colby-Sawyer College in New London, New Hampshire, settled in Jersey City, NJ and in May 2016 launched Nepal Tea, LLC.
Nepal Tea is one of very few companies that imports single-origin tea direct from the garden. This guarantees quality and freshness and a good return for growers who can bypass middle-men in the supply chain.
“Not only does Nepal Tea believe in providing the best quality tea to the tea drinkers around the world,” Nishchal says proudly, “It infallibly does so with the “Do Good to Others” motto and farmer’s first approach. This is what distinguishes us from the numerous commercial tea whole-sellers/retailers.”
Did you hear his resolve in that statement?
Six decades ago when his father was only 15 year old, Deepak Prakash Baskota recalls the first time he saw the thousands of hectares of tea gardens that blanket the foothills of India’s Darjeeling tea growing region. He left inspired. On returning to the village of Phidin, he shared his vision of planting a tea garden near Ranitar in the remote hilly region of Panchthar district in the rugged Himalayan foothills. In 1954 growing tea was a new concept. Villagers questioned his ambitions and his grandiose dream of one day building a tea factory.
Deepak Prakash Baskota, his wife Dambar and youngest son Nishchal
In response he decided to dive head-first into the project. First he read everything he could find to read, borrowing books to better understand what was required, and then exploring the nearby hills in search of terrain suitable for tea. Ranitar is 50 kilometers north of tea-rich Ilam but the only way to know for certain whether tea would thrive was to conduct soil tests. Deepak learned that the nearest soil laboratory was in Siliguri, West Bengal and so he walked 167 kilometers across the foothills of northern India carrying two heavy sacks of soil. The trip took three days. Later he discovered that delivering a handful of soil would have been sufficient.
Encouraged by the positive results but unable to purchase land, he and his wife, Dambar, planted the first tea trees in their backyard. Then, as the trees matured during the next four years, he invested in new plantings, visiting Darjeeling as often as possible to learn how to make tea.
Gradually villagers began to grasp the potential and offered adjacent land for expansion until there was more than 200 acres. Growers established a cooperative to sell their leaves. Eventually they produced enough leaf to require a factory which was completed in 1984.
The family prospered, making Nishchal’s childhood very different than that of his father and mother. Yet he developed the same confidence and self-motivation that led him to found a national newspaper at 17 and manage a project to build a school for underprivileged children during his college years. He volunteers for the Nepal Red Cross Society and 4 E’s Social Service programs. He worked as a financial planning analyst during his school years.
“While finance remains my keen interest of study, it has not limited me to explore beyond my apparent horizon and make a difference,” says Nishchal, “I constantly attempt to challenge my entrepreneurial spirit to drive change.”
Nepal Tea is a fine purveyor worthy of your donations but its mission runs deeper than commerce.
Children in Nepal do not receive a free education. One-in-four live in poverty and only 57% of Nepali adults can read and write. Banskota said a portion of tea sales are donated to a scholarship fund that has educated 2,300 students since 2002.
Nishchal would like every child of the 600 farmers who work at the Kanchanjangha Tea Estate and Research Center (KTE-RC) to have the opportunity he enjoyed.
This is your opportunity to make the vision of two generations of dreamers a reality.
Tea: A User’s Guide
Purchase at World of Tea
Eggs and Toast Media
If you are one of those who load the software and ignore the user’s guide then regret never fully utilizing its features, you need to read this book. Tea is as complex as you make it—many dunk and run, but if you savor the nuances of specialty tea and want to really immerse yourself, this book contains the most thoughtful and detailed insights of any Western author. Eggs and Toast Media, 250 pages, $20 (PDF Download at World of Tea). Also available on Kindle and in print at Amazon.com.LEARN MORE
A User’s Guide to Tea You will Use
Reviewed by Dan Bolton
Start with a bountiful quantity of leaf, and a second steep reveals nuances that delight. And so it is with a second reading of Tony Gebely’s remarkable new book, Tea: A User’s Guide.
As Gebely, 33, explains it: “Multiple steeps allow us to achieve snapshots of the tea as dissolution begins, runs its course, and slowly putters out…. These snapshots accentuate nuances in the tea that may become muffled during longer infusions.”
His brilliant 250-page work distills and organizes hundreds of posts from the award-winning World of Tea blog that established Gebely’s reputation for clarity on a complex topic. The blog has twice been named best blog in the annual World Tea Awards.
Tea contains an estimated 30,000 polyphenolic compounds, writes Gebely in an opening chapter on tea chemistry that introduces the pigments, enzymes, amino acids, carbs, volatiles, and mineral building blocks that make tea such a remarkable beverage.
The body of the book describes 130 classic specialty teas with the precision of a high-level computer scientist. Gebely works as a chief technology and integration officer and has assisted several tea retailers configure web and in-store software. He applies rigorous conformity throughout the book; every tea is photographed (leaves and liquor) in a cup that holds precisely 20 cubic centimeters of water from Clairvic Spring in Volvic, France. The pH-neutral water contains 130 parts per million of total dissolved solids with a mineral content in mg/l of calcium (12), sulfates (9), potassium (6), silica (32), and chlorides (15).
A second read prompted a dozen margin notes underscoring the points he makes about preparation and the insights he offers in the chapter on processing. In his introduction, he establishes that “this book isn’t about all tea. It’s about specialty tea. The goal of this book is to celebrate the diversity of fresh, complex loose-leaf specialty teas.”
Gebely provides the knowledge needed to develop a personal style of tea appreciation, particularly salient in the West, where brewing tea is mainly “dunk and run.” There are few mentions of tea culture in this reference: “Early on while writing this manuscript, I realized that by separating tea culture from objective tea study, we are left with a much better framework for tea education,” he writes.
What Western tea drinkers need is to hone their skills in selecting and preparing fine tea. Gebely’s simple steeping chart is a starting point. Instead of the typical manufacturer’s temp and timer icons, Gebely introduces a grid.
Blocks represent a safe zone of both time and temperature given the recommended dosage.
“Your ideal parameters may vary, especially the steeping time,” he writes, explaining the relationship between dosages, time, and temperature.
This user’s guide is just that, explaining tea chemistry and processing and presenting historical background (without mythology) covering a most intriguing collection of teas. He offers a very useful explanation for establishing “altered tea” as the seventh main category.
The majority of teas sold in the United States are altered in some way, observes Gebely. Some of the most exquisite specialty teas (think jasmine scented) are altered. The category embraces flavored and scented teas, blends that feature inclusions such as fruit, nuts, and florals along with breakfast blends of pure teas that deliver consistency in flavor despite the annual variance of the harvest. Herein lies masala chai and Japanese genmaicha, a mix of sencha and roasted rice and beloved Earl Grey, a tea flavored with oil of bergamot that accounts for a quarter of U.S. tea consumed by volume.
Gebely’s diverse tea descriptions demonstrate the 35 nations that grow tea and offer a style for every taste. However, more critical, in his view, is giving readers the confidence to brew any tea they might want to try.
In The Kinetics of Steeping section, some 182 pages in, Gebely announces “the most important part… the entire reason for your tea journey.
“Steeping is the final step in the lives of tea leaves. And in their final act, they slowly unfold and unravel, creating a beverage that tells the story of where they came from. Every time we drink liquor from the steeped leaves, it tell us what the weather was like before they were plucked and how they were handled, processed, and stored before they reached your cup,” writes Gebely.
It is these chapters on preparation, including tea evaluation, and storage that the margin notes in your edition will likely equal or even exceed the margin notes in mine.