Like father, like son

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.

Nishchal Banskota

“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.

Nepal Tea LLC Kickstarter campaign

Need to Know (March 24, 2014)

What tea professionals need to start the week —

New York Coffee & Tea Wraps Up…Tough week at the tea auctions… Third Street Chai breaks into Whole Foods in a big way…New book on Homegrown Tea

 

New York Coffee & Tea Another Sold Out Success

This past weekend New York Coffee & Tea Festival filled the floors of the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington Ave. in Manhattan. Once again this year the show was sold out well in advance of the weekend, including tickets for a VIP hour Saturday morning that allowed early admittance to those ticket holders. 7,000 attendees were expected.

Sixty exhibitors set up shop across the 25,000 square foot space. A number of presenters, well-known to tea aficionados, were on the festival schedule. Jeni Dodd of Jeni’s Teas and Thomas Shu of ABC Tea presented on Taiwanese teas. Emeric Harney, the creator and manager of Harney & Sons’ Harney SoHo tea cafe, was on the schedule to talk about the people and plants of tea. Judith Krall-Russo prepared a talk on the history of women and tea.

The pairings are always quick to fill up and this year was no exception. L’Espalier’s tea sommelier and author of Culinary Tea, Cynthia Gold, introduced attendees to the art of pairing tea and cheeses. A Gift of Tea’s Jo Johnson talked tea and chocolate and Capital Teas’ Peter Martino explored tea infusions for cocktails. Shu and Dodd teamed up again to talk about finding “harmony” in tea, solving the mystery of the perfect combinations of tea, water, timing, and temperature.

Given the speed of ticket sales and the fact that next year will be the 10th anniversary, you may want to start planning your trip for 2015 now.

Coffee & Tea Fest Philly is scheduled for November 8-9, 2014.

 

Going once, going twice…Not Sold!

It was a tough week at the tea auctions this past week as prices were lower than anticipated. African Tea Brokers reported that Kenya tea prices were low this week with top grade teas, broken pekoes and pekoe fannings all selling for less than the week prior. Nearly 14% of the tea was unsold and more than 17% was unsold the previous week. Pakistan was the big buyer.

Bangladesh saw lower prices also for the sixth week in a row. A glut of poorer quality leaf that remained from the end of the season was blamed. 54% of the tea was left at the end of the sale, topping the 50% that was left at the previous auction. An auction official blamed the quality of tea on offer, citing big demand for high quality tea which seemed to be at short supply.

Things at Coonoor were no better where the Coonoor Tea Trade Association reported that 34% of their tea remained unsold at the end of the auction even at a lower price point than usual.

 

Third Street Chai Releases Ready-to-Drink Tea Line

Boulder, Colo. based Third Street Chai has been selling this spicy tea since 1995, a time when most people had never heard of the stuff. Nearly twenty years later, they’re still in the thick of things. They’ve established themselves as a source of hand-blended chai (blending and milling whole spices for each batch) and claiming the title of the first Fair Trade certified chai. Now they are preparing to release a new ready-to-drink teas at Whole Foods stores nationwide.

Third Street will be selling unsweetened and lightly sweetened black and green teas, incorporating flavors like raspberry, honey and mint. These Fair Trade certified, non-GMO drinks will be sold in 14 ounce containers.

Whole Foods helped make this product a reality by selecting Third Street for one of its Small Producer loans. Their in-house microbrewing and focus on traceability of ingredients made the company stand out.

Source: Food Navigator

 

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Tea Magazine Evolves…

PHILADELPHIA, Penn. — Tea Magazine® a 20-year-old consumer publication for tea enthusiasts is replacing its bi-monthly print edition with a combined print +online content package for its readers, including a new book-style softcover guide to tea published annually.

In mid-April ITEM Media will launch The Daily Tea (www.thedailytea.com) a subscription-based tea portal replacing www.teamag.com. Visitors to the site will see a mix of free and paid content, along with new articles each month, and some previously published in Tea Magazine. Subscribers have their choice of several different newsletters — for example, newsletters targeted to those interested in cooking with tea; Yoga and tea; tea travel and terroir.

Chief Media Officer Graham Kilshaw

Chief Media Officer Graham Kilshaw

Subscribers will get at least three new feature articles a month, “…the articles will be accompanied by video, behind-the-scenes interviews and picture galleries, which is a lot more than we could do in print,” said Chief Media Officer Graham Kilshaw.

Since acquiring the magazine in January 2012, “we have built the audience from just a couple of thousand to more than 30,000. Most of this growth has come from our digital platforms, and very little has come from our print media,” said Kilshaw.

“We now see an opportunity to grow our audience significantly beyond its current 30,000 people – digitally. Consequently we are going to make several changes starting in May 2014,” he said.

The 150-page book-style magazine, often referred to as a “bookazine” will have longer in-depth feature articles on science, geography and history and “great photography,” said Kilshaw. There will also be a catalog of tea products, said Kilshaw. The publication will be mailed to all subscribers and sold nationally in bookstores and by grocers including Whole Foods Market.

Annual subscriptions are $24.99 and include the new $9.99 “Tea Magazine 2015 Tea Guide” mailed annually in September.
Kilshaw was upbeat about the new direction which he described as “evolving from predominately print with a little bit of digital to becoming predominately digital with a little bit of print.”

“This is all about aligning our goals and strategy with our resources. Producing the print magazine required us to spend 80 percent of our resources on 20 percent of the content. During the past 24 months print subscriptions increased by a couple of thousand while our digital audience has grown by five times,” he said.

LOGO_TeaMagazine_400px“The change in the mix of media is driven by our readers,” said Kilshaw. “Print generally-speaking attracts an older demographic and we want to reach a broad audience. Younger tea drinkers are forming their tea habits now, experimenting widely and trying out lots of different teas. They represent the future customers of our media clients,” he said, adding , “We want to build a very large audience for the tea community.”

The company expects to soon announce a new content manager to replace Kate Sullivan who left in December.

Learn more: www.thedailytea.com

Q&A with John Smith, Chair Tea Association of the USA

SOUTHAMPTON, Bermuda — John Smith, vice president at Henry P. Thomson tea importers, was recently named Chair of the Tea Association of the USA during the 4th Annual North American Tea Conference.

Smith has been with New Jersey-based Thomson since May 1997. He is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese holds an MBA in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University and graduated with a degree in languages from Georgetown University in 1989.

The family-owned company, founded in 1912, has been active in the association since its founding. One of the firm’s principals is “to share our knowledge of tea with others and to stay at the forefront of the marketplace.”

On taking the gavel from outgoing Chair B.W. Cooper, Smith sat with Tea Biz to outline his views and vision of the association.

TEABIZ: The Tea Association of the USA was founded to protect the interests and promote growth of the U.S. tea industry. For several decades its mission was to serve as a “creative catalyst and vigorous voice of the industry in the pursuit of these goals.” The mandate includes a list of tasks that are continually evolving. As incoming chair will you share with readers two tasks that you view as the most pressing. Why?

SMITH: Earlier this year, incoming President Peter Goggi assembled a diverse group of association members running the gamut from major packers to specialty tea consultants to revise and update the mission statement.

The new statement reads as follows:

TEABIZ-TeaAssociationMission“I think the new formulation, while very close to what we had before, accurately reflects what we need to do as an organization. That said, there are two priorities that I think should guide all of our efforts going forward.”

• We need to expand our membership.

Our current members import and pack more than 90% of the tea consumed in the U.S., calculated either on a total weight or a dollar volume basis. Not a bad penetration rate! To achieve this, our efforts have traditionally been geared toward the larger, commercial entities that dominate the market place. We represent those interests very well.

“However, much of the passion for our product, the drive for new tea experiences and a deeper understanding of the product we enjoy so much can now be found within the individuals and businesses that fall outside our traditional membership. We need to foster an environment where these other voices are recognized and their issues and concerns represented.

“While differences in opinion will always exist, ours is the only organization that provides a venue in which these differences not only co-exist, but serve to bring the tea industry to a better place. As a not-for-profit, our only agenda is what you find contained in the Mission, Values and Vision above.

• We need to gather and maintain as complete a database as possible of all current and pending laws, regulations and standards that apply to our product.

“While a very tall order, it is imperative that we fully understand current regulations and their impact on our members.

John Smith

John Smith

TEABIZ: The Specialty Tea Institute offers the most comprehensive professional training program in the United States, teaching the art of tasting which is fundamental to operating a tea business. Will you share your vision of STI in the year ahead.

SMITH: STI does a great job training people on the basics of tea. We do not attempt to offer professional or business guidance and I do not see us pushing that agenda for some time to come. I would like to see STI become a bridge toward membership in the Tea Association. This requires adding value for members. I will be working to develop ideas in this area.

“That said, we are the premier organization representing tea in the United States. There are other groups and organizations that work with tea, but none serve as an impartial, non-commercial voice that defends the industry from both outside influences and well intentioned, but misguided industry members. My vision is to have an organization in place that needs no coercion to join. Whenever a tea professional asks “should I join STI?” the only realistic response should be “of course”!

TEABIZ: The Tea Association is known as a champion of tea’s health benefits. What initiatives will you undertake to enhance/maintain this role?

SMITH: The “Tea and Health” message is as powerful as it is because the industry stays out of the way of professional researchers. We disseminate scientifically sound information as it comes forward. Through the Tea Council’s sponsorship of the International Scientific Symposia on Tea & Human Health, we are able to facilitate the availability of peer-reviewed, solid research to the public. In order to continue the Symposia, we will once again start setting aside the necessary funds to cover the next event – likely scheduled between 2016 – 2018.

“This is another area where members should stop and examine the benefits provided by the U.S. Tea Association. The resources to organize a successful scientific symposium that has the full support of the appropriate scientific and governmental entities are substantial. It may not seem that a $250 annual membership in STI does much toward this, but every bit helps! If your tea shop, your consulting business, your speaking engagements benefit from the Tea and Health message, you might want to consider staying involved in its evolution and continued propagation by maintaining your STI membership and contributing toward the Association in that arena. Inertia will not keep this process going. Left untended, the bush will continue to grow, but the harvest will be greatly reduced.

TEABIZ: Members of the Association also belong to the Tea Council of the USA, whose mission is to promote tea in the U.S. In the past the Tea Council spent between $300,000 and $550,000 to promote tea, including specialty, mass-marketed, and RTD teas. Discuss programs and current level of funding for Tea Council programs designed to promote tea.

SMITH: Let me clarify that statement. Since the Bermuda accord, back in 1991, the Tea Council has spent its funds entirely on either the Scientific Symposia or on the Public Relations efforts that follow publication of the papers. Our PR efforts are fully supportive of the Tea & Health message. Clearly, this effort has paid off, as tea continues to be viewed as one of the healthiest, good for you foods that you can consume…

TEABIZ: Annually the Tea Association jointly hosts a conference with the Tea Association of Canada that provides an opportunity to foster open exchange with exporting countries. Discuss your view of the relationship between the U.S. and major tea exporters.

SMITH: The relationship between the U.S. Tea Industry and its major producing partners has always been strong. The tea industry as a whole is very collegial. There is a mutual respect between most of the participants and a noticeable lack of the cut-throat, anything-for-an-extra-cent competition frequently encountered with other commodities.

“That said, the recent increase in regulations governing U.S. Trade and the multitude of interpretations regarding those regulations have caused issues. I do not advocate a laissez-faire approach. Some rules are necessary. However, when I read phrases in legislation like “scientific and risked based principles,” I would like to see some indication these words have been taken into account. In many instances, that does not seem to be the case.

“In our excessively risk-averse modern culture, any form of disclaimer is immediately discounted. Most responses to proposed regulations exhibit a knee jerk quality that disregards principles based on a solid grasp of statistics, cost benefit or risk assessment.

“I digress. As the Association improves its database, listing specific regulations accompanied by any specific enforcement details we can provide, this area of tension should certainly decline.”

Hans P. Theyer to Oversee Fairtrade America

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Hans P. Theyer is the first executive director of Fairtrade America.

TWEET: New Fairtrade America executive reasserts smallholders role.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

Hans P. Theyer was named executive director of Fairtrade America May 13 of the newly organized affiliate of the international Fairtrade system. He is charged with articulating the organization’s social mission after a schism invited major retailers to abandon Fairtrade certification in favor of a rival program run by Fair Trade USA.

Theyer confronts the challenge of re-establishing relationships with suppliers severed in January 2012 when Fair Trade USA cut its ties to Fairtrade International, diverting millions in funding after 13 years as an affiliate. The staff at Fair Trade USA, based in California, introduced a new label and began certifying large plantations and estates. The group also introduced programs that emphasized the importance of growing fair trade sales through marketing by major retailers and member suppliers.

Theyer is not without allies. Equal Exchange, the largest fair trade coffee company in the U.S., refused to accept the policy change and campaigned publicly to convince other suppliers to remain with Fairtrade International.

“Fair Trade, a product of years of sweat, sacrifice and risk, belongs to the farmers. But Fair Trade USA has abandoned the legitimate international system, not paid its dues, and changed the rules to allow large-scale plantations and private estates into the coffee system. With this move, they threaten to reverse decades of hard-won gains while potentially putting at risk the very survival of the farmer co-operatives,” declared Equal Exchange Co-Presidents Rob Everts and Rink Dickinson who made their point in full page newspaper advertising addressed to coffee giant Green Mountain Coffee Roasters.

Their appeal “to leave Fair Trade USA and rejoin the international certifier in which small farmers have a true seat at the table and governance power” was ignored.

Tea blenders, roasters, retailers and others holding Fair Trade certifications in many instances were forced to pay both Fair Trade USA and Fairtrade International.

Theyer’s zeal for small holders is apparent. “I have seen first-hand the incredible difference fair trade can make for farmers, workers and entire communities in developing countries,” he said. He also made clear his intent to raise public awareness of Fairtrade’s core mission “in partnership with companies, retailers, producers and all fair trade advocates that share our vision of building a vibrant fair trade movement in the United States.”

The stakes are high. Globally, fair trade certified goods amounted to $6.6 billion in sales in 2011, up 27 percent since 2009. Retailers in several categories including sugar, coffee and tea now find stocking their shelves with fair trade labeled goods essential to attract a growing niche of customers. Fair Trade USA founder and Chief Executive Paul Rice argues the split was essential to maintain this momentum. “We are after results,” he told BusinessWeek
after announcing the decision. “We want to get things done.” His announced goal is to double U.S. sales of fair trade goods by 2015. To achieve this goal additional products such as fair trade cotton will be certified. More controversial is the decision to certify products made with a combination ingredients. In considering chocolate bars for example, cocoa in some Hershey Bars earned the Fair Trade USA seal even though the sugar used to make the chocolate bars was not fair trade certified. In March Hershey’s, the largest American chocolate maker, announced it would source 100 percent of its cocoa from fair trade certified suppliers including both Fairtrade and Fair Trade USA. The decision followed a seven-year campaign by the Raise the Bar, Hershey! Coalition.

Prior to joining Fairtrade America, Theyer helped create and run a consulting practice specializing in developing social impact strategies for businesses. He previously served as Executive Director of Agros International, a non-profit organization dedicated to rural poverty alleviation throughout Central America and Mexico. Hans was a leader in Microsoft’s Rural Computing effort, an initiative to empower emerging markets throughout the rural, developing world with access to information and communications technology.

Originally from Chile, Theyer holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degree from London Business School. His business experience includes sales, marketing and business development positions with Microsoft and leading international banking institutions.

“Hans brings tremendous assets to Fairtrade America, including a fantastic combination of business and international development experience, strong connections and work with rural communities across Latin America and Asia, and fresh ideas and vision for growing Fairtrade in the United States,” said Bama Athreya, Board Chair, Fairtrade America. “Under Hans’ leadership we look forward to collaborating with our business and non-profit stakeholders so that more Americans will learn about fair trade, buy Fairtrade products and have the opportunity to play an active part in empowering small farmers and workers to improve their lives.”

Dan Bolton

©Mystic Media 2013

LinkedIn: Hans Theyer agreed to a five question Q&A with Tea Biz. What questions would you pose?