Tea Apps and Crowdfunding – Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of  Dec. 3, 2014 —

Connected smallholders… Qi Teamaker… Crowdfunding tea ventures… Many faces of Vietnam… “chai if by land, tea if by sea.”

Tocklai Tea Research Institute App

No matter how deep you travel into tea country, India’s 900 million cell phones are readily visible. Whether riding in rickshaws, farm trucks or bajaj (tricycle taxis) tea workers, especially young tea workers, rely on their cells as much as their peers in urban settings.

That is why the Tocklai Tea Research Institute, the hub of India’s Tea Research Association (TRA) created an iPhone and Android application that gives ready access to the oldest and largest tea research and development organization in the world.

Joydeep Phukan

Joydeep Phukan, Secretary Tocklai Tea Research Institute

Joydeep Phukan, secretary, principle officer and CFO at TRA Tocklai, in Jorhat, Assam, writes that the application is “running well. Currently we are upgrading to IOS8. The feature on asking questions has become quite a hit with small tea farmers and planters.”

Tea farmers can get answers in real time. They can select images of pest damage taken by their phone camera, for example, upload the image and the team at Tocklai will recommend the proper action.

Phukan said the application enables researchers to connect with small holders who can study Agronomy, Botany, Engineering & Manufacturing, Meteorology, Soils & Fertilizers and Water Management & Irrigation.

The application also includes sections with very specific instructions on how to identify and deal with plant diseases, pests and weeds. The encyclopedia of research & development alone contains 1,000 pages of information.

TEABIZ-TocklaiTeaAppTocklai Experimental Station was founded in 1911. It became a part of TRA in 1964. Researchers there are in the forefront of developing drought-resistant tea cultivars; improvements in tea cultivation and processing. The institute is part of a network of 1,076 tea estates covering 6 million acres of Assam, Tripura, Dooars, Darjeeling and Terai.

You can download the Tocklai App for iPhone here or download the Android version here.

Learn more at: TRA Tocklai Tea Research Institute

There’s an App for Everything

Keyway Innovations in Hong Kong and Shanghai recently introduced the Qi teamaker, the world’s first app-enabled kettle with a unique brewing system.

“What makes the Qi teamaker truly unique is its patent-pending brewing system that does not use a water pump or mechanical agitator to create the necessary water flow. This allows for a hassle-free automatic brewing process with simple preparation and cleanup,” writes Rick Ha, PhD, Founder and Keyway CEO.

TEABIZ-KeysslaKettlePress the correct temperature setting for floral, green, black, oolong, or iced tea (cold brewed). Next, select tea strength. The hot water flows over tea placed in a basket in the top of the teamaker and into the clear glass body. The kettle regulates water temperature, brewing time, and water flow and tea leaf expansion.

It even makes bubble tea and milk tea popular in Asia.

Pre-set temperatures range from 75- to 95-degrees Celsius and brew times range from 2 minutes to 10 minutes. The smartphone application enables tea drinkers to customize the auto sets.


Smartphone brewing controls

The kettle is easily disassembled and cleaned.

See it in action on YouTube: Keyssla

I’ve been watching the progress of the design team now lead by Nicholas Roux for the past three years during which the prototypes have steadily improved. The project dates to 2010 with Keyway Innovations launching in October 2012. The Kickstarter project has generated $25,000 in contributions toward its $100,000 goal (as of Dec. 7) with 17 days to go. A $149 contribution earns backers a Vita model and for $199 Keyway will send you the Maestro model, expected to retail for $249.

Speaking of Kickstarter, here is Katrina’s report on how tea ventures are faring in the crowdsourced financing arena.

Digital Investors Finance Tea Ventures

By Katrina Munichiello

In the past, future entrepreneurs saw their path forward as finding people with deep pockets – friends, family, investors – and the way to reach them was through dozens of meetings and personal contacts. Then came Kickstarter.

Kickstarter was launched as a way for individuals to share their creative projects online and to solicit small contributions from people who believed in their vision. The person seeking funding describes their project and establishes a funding goal and deadline. If the goal is reached, the project designer gets the money. To date, 73,000 projects (44% of concepts presented) have been funded.

Tea entrepreneurs have embraced the concept with new projects that include the launch of tea bars, new product lines and special projects.

Atlanta tea blender K-Teas needed funds to get FDA approval for their teas and blends so they could expand beyond local markets to national distribution. They launched their project on September 19 and by November 1 they had the support of 191 backers who helped them surpass their $5,000 goal by nearly $1,500.

Frank Horbelt from Zoomdweebie’s Tea/52 teas turned to Kickstarter several times this year, with four successful efforts raising nearly $35,000.

One of Zoomdweebie’s Kickstarter campaigns in 2014

In Horbelt’s first campaign he hoped to raise $500 for a label dispenser to make his new iced tea line more efficient to produce. Supporters came up with almost $18,000. Since that time he has raised money for custom printing projects, a packaging machine and exhibition fees for World Tea Expo.

“We chose Kickstarter because of what Kickstarter is. It’s a dream factory. I honestly believe that the one thing that people love almost as much as realizing their own dreams is helping someone else realize theirs,” said Horbelt. “You can spend a lot of time analyzing what makes a successful project and learn all kinds of tips and techniques that can help your project work better, but the bottom line is, Kickstarter is a market unlike anything else, because it is a market for dreams.  You are selling a stake in your dream.”

Some recent successful tea-themed Kickstarter projects:

  • Tea Spirits 2015 calendar – Raised $10,846 (against a goal of $6,500) – Illustrated wall calendar inspired by tea types
  • Alchemy of Tea – Raised $16,716 from 380 backers (against a goal of $3,000) – poster of the famous tea recipes from around the world
  • Loose Leaf Tea: Sip & Slip into the Leaves of a Story – Raised $5,070 (against a goal of $2,500) Development of a tea line with fairy tale themes. The launcher hopes to open a fairy-tale inspired tea room someday.
  • Anthem Coffee & Tea – Raised $16,080 – To expand their Tacoma, Wash. tea shop and relaunch it as Puyallup’s Living Room
  • The Honeysuckle Tea House – Raised $21,638  – To open an apothecary cafe, selling tea, kombucha, herbs and smoothies with a focus on wellness.
Nguyen Van Dong, 68. Restaurant owner in Dalat, Vietnam

Nguyen Van Dong, 68, restaurant owner in Dalat, Vietnam

The Many Faces of Vietnam

Sense Asia Co. has released a gift set and tea sampler called “Taste Vietnam.” The boxed set features 32 artisan teas organized by function. A grid printed inside the box lid presents four teas in eight categories: morning, body cleaning, mind/performance, power, traditional, with friends, longevity and teas to relax. Along the x-axis at left the tea is further classified as simple, middle, rich and special.

Each sample is packed beneath the smiling face of growers and tea lovers along with those employed in various businesses. The mosaic of faces is telling. Some are quite young, others worldly and wise. They include seasoned masters, busy executives and several women who reveal their love for tea. The selection includes tea and herbal blends, herbals and traditional tea. Since these teas were mainly selected for their health benefits, most are green but the box also holds oolong, pu-erh and a couple of black teas.

The container brews 965 cups of tea, too many for me to evaluate since the box arrived last week but I tried several including the plastic sealed, gold foil wrapped small brick of pu-erh made by Bui Thanh Dung, an 82-year-old grower with 23 grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. He lives at Dak Lak and grows eight types of tea and enough vegetables, pigs, cows and chickens to feed his extended family. The tea brewed richly red-brown and sweet with forest-floor aromatics and pleasant, lingering aftertaste. The tea held up nicely through multiple steepings.

I learned about this grower and many other ordinary and extraordinary Vietnamese in a fascinating booklet enclosed with the tea. The collection is the work of 26 tea professionals who traveled 72 days in Vietnam, tasted 346 teas and interviewed 343 individuals from 28 farms and 17 towns and villages in both the north and south tea growing regions. Their subjects include dentists and fishermen, a fashion model, a cab driver, café owners, an engineering professor, and a bicycle racing champion with 220 bicycles in his garage. They range in age from their teens to 92 years and all love tea. The authors worked eight months on the project which resulted in the tales and curated selection of teas, most of which cannot be found in supermarkets or tourist shops.

The booklet is published in Russian, Japanese, Korean, French and Chinese.

“We hope that while spending time in the company of family and friends you will enjoy these delicious teas, and gain a deeper understanding the beautiful and welcoming country of Vietnam,” write the authors.

Learn more: http://www.senseasia.net

Tea if by Sea

There are hundreds of variants of the word tea and cha. Did you ever wonder why cha became the preferred spelling in places like India while tea and thé and tay are preferred in Europe and the Middle East?

“The word for tea in a country’s native language gives us an idea of how tea arrived at that country,” writes Stacey Geoffrey Tay in Quora.

The Amoy spelling originated in southern Fujian province and reached the West through the port of Xiamen (Amoy). Hokkien varieties of tea from the Southern coast of China and in Southeast Asia were grown by farmers who pronounced it teh.

Cha is from the Cantonese chàh of Guangzhou (Canton) spoken in the ports of Hong Kong and Macau where Portuguese shipments to India originated. The Mandarin chá was the name for tea that traveled overland to Central Asia and Persia.

Tay writes that current pronunciation “depends on whether its earlier speakers traded with China by land or by sea—chai if by land, tea if by sea.”

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.

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Confederation of Tea Smallholders — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of Nov. 24, 2014 —

ABC’s terrific tea tally… consider a Confederation of Tea Smallholders… Unilever’s first T2 opens in New York shop…. Guinness awards certificate for biggest tea bag… elegant teapot design updates ancient Chinese masterpieces.

ABC Tea Market Report

Everyone in tea will want to study the American Botanical Council’s newly released Tea Market Report. It is the most thorough analysis of the American tea industry sales by channel I’ve seen. The report, which appears in the November issue of the American Botanical Council’s HerbalEgram, is authored by Sage Group principal Brian Keating and ABC Executive Director Mark Blumenthal with Ash Lindstrom and Mary Ellen Lynch, SPINS director of consumer insights.

AMERICAN BOTANICAL COUNCIL LOGOSales of tea (loosed, bagged, concentrated and herbals) grew by 5.9% in the U.S. in 2013 reaching $1.7 billion while ready-to-drink teas in mass market, natural and specialty gourmet channels remained flat at $2.4 billion compared to 2012. Total RTD sales including convenience are estimated at $5.1 billion in the report which cites a Canadean study predicting RTD tea will grow by 6% to $5.3 billion in 2014.

The authors predict “a banner year” for both brewed and RTD tea sales in 2014.

The significance of their work is the breadth of sales channels covered. Herbals and medicinal teas are tallied as well as chai and Rooibos. These are important, fast-growing categories that can be difficult to research.

Chai in bags grew 21.4% compared to 2012 across all channels while Rooibos sales are up 3.5% in bags and 11.1% in loose leaf.

ABC’s first tea market report includes 12 tables covering mainstream, multi-outlet, natural and specialty/gourmet channels along with details on niche categories that include organic, Fair Trade teas and non-GMO labels.

“More impressive than the current size of the tea industry is the fact that, for more than a decade, annual sales totals … have grown consistently in the United States with very few types of tea showing anything other than consistent gains,” wrote the authors. “The onslaught of hundreds of new retail tea outlets — and thousands more projected to open in the next few years — parallels the germinal stages of the fledgling US natural foods industry circa 1980-2000.”

A significant advantage to this report is that it brings to light data on the herbal segment. The top selling herbal is chamomile with 2013 sales of $48 million, followed by mint infusions which earned $35 million and ginger which brought in $3.8 million, a distant third. Medicinal tea in bags enjoyed sales of $177 million.

Even packaging is documented with sales in cardboard boxes accounting for $1.1 billion of all tea and canisters grossing $276 million. Conventional packaging is challenged by tea in capsules and pods which saw a 32.8% increase in sales in 2013 to $138 million surpassing packet tea for the first time.

ABC plans to present its 2014 annual tea market report in HerbalGram issue #105 (January-March 2015).

Source: HerbalEgram

A Confederation of Small Growers

Every two years the United Nation’s sponsored Committee on Commodity Problems, under the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), takes a close look at tea. This is because the $90 billion tea industry employs close to 15 million people and provides critical trade dollars essential to the stability of several countries. The Intergovernmental Group on Tea (IGG) brings together delegates from all the producing countries. These include government employed agricultural officials, tea board directors, research institute directors, tea association managers and tea executives from the larger brands.

The IGG met in Bandung, Indonesia earlier this month. Climate change, the harmonization of Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) and the challenges facing tea smallholders were on the agenda along with a discussion on how to increase consumption in producing countries. The group also heard a report on Codex Committee on Pesticides Resident (CCPR) will now recognize and accept that there is an alternative method with scientific merit for establishing MRLs in tea. The CCPR invited tea-producing countries to submit reports containing scientific evidence to establish safe levels of residue in brewed tea.

I will tackle all these topics in the weeks ahead but today the discussion I find intriguing is establishing an International Confederation of Smallholders. Smallholders are the fastest growing group of tea producers accounting for roughly 9 million of the 13 million tea workers and 60% of production. As the colonial model of estates crumbles in many countries smallholders will be responsible for growing most of the world’s tea. In some countries smallholders grow most of the tea, but often account for only a relatively small slice of the high-paying premium teas for export. India, Indonesia, Kenya and Vietnam are all working to improve the skills of smallholders to the point where they can sell direct to Western markets, ideally through cooperatives that provide efficiencies of scale and quality control.

At Bandung this discussion coalesced in a motion to establish an International Confederation of Smallholders identified by a global brand that will help retail customers better understand the contribution made by small tea growers.

The decision may encourage commercial tea brands to inform customers that all or some portion of their product comes from small family-owned gardens.

This is not a cumbersome third-party certification, it simply expands on the idea of traceability and provides an incentive to brands that market to consumers aligned with the idea that smallholders should be encouraged to make better tea.

In China, where 80% of the workers are small holders and only 20% work on estates, the finest teas are produced by smallholders who get top dollar in both the local and overseas market. Once organized as is done in Kenya, this could be a winning model for the world.

Comment below if you think this is a good idea and I’ll start a Linked In group discussion.

Unilever expands T2 to NYC

Last month Unilever opened the first of its Australian-based T2 tea shop on Prince Street in New York’s SoHo. The shop was warmly received and remains busy a month after an opening night party that brought founder and managing director Maryanne Shearer into the limelight of America’s specialty tea scene.

TEABIZ-NTK121124_T2“I have always felt like T2 and NYC were made for each other,” said Shearer. “My goal is to get more people to drink tea in general, and the way we do tea at T2 is different—we modernize it and make it a fun experience.”

New York has witnessed a surge of high-end shops including French Le Palais des Thes’. In April T2 opened a shop in London.

Kevin Havelock, Unilever president for refreshments, said that the company intends to build hundreds of T2 locations, expanding on the 40 in Australia and clearly not limiting its domain to the Asia-Pacific region.

Sales in conventional channels declined for Lipton, Unilever’s top brand, while specialty offerings gain momentum.

Marketers point to the fact that 1.8 billion people will move into the ranks of the middle class by 2020, many in tea drinking cultures. There are also signs of a lessening enthusiasm for coffee shops in Western Europe and renewed expansion of specialty tea shops in France, Poland and Germany.

Source: Unilever

The biggest tea bag ever

The British fittingly held the Guinness World Record for the largest tea bag until last week when an enterprising Arab firm took the prize.

TEABIZ-NTK121124_BiggestTeaBagRabea Tea, a Saudi brand manufactured by Ahmed Mohamed Saleh Baeshen & Co., created a tea bag weighing 250 kilograms, enough to make 100,000 cups of tea. The bag, held aloft by steel truss, measures 13 feet by 10 feet (four meters in height and three meters width).

The event coincided with the launch of the company’s full leaf tea bags, which required a decade of research and development.

Once certified in Jeddah the bag began a tour of Saudi cities Riyadh and al-Khobar before the tea was donated to charities.

Source: Saudi Gazette and Rabea Tea

Tea Pottery Inspired by Ancient Chinese Masters

A report in PSFK notes that despite its rich history and cultural significance, Chinese tea culture is being slowly eroded by contemporary culture. Instead of fighting this trend, the Guanfu Museum in China commissioned Jeff Dayu Shi to design a series of nine unique teapots and a highly crafted bamboo chest. Each teapot corresponds to a different tea and method of preparation, all packaged in a way that appeals to younger generations.


Guanfu Museum Jiu Gong teapot by Jeff Dayu Shi

All of the pieces incorporate functions and aesthetics perfectly. Color transformations that occur as the result of substance changes during the heat and curing treatment have to be carefully managed by a skilled craftsmen with years of experience. Inside the pots, there is even a beehive structure with tiny sesame-sized openings that enhances the flavor of certain teas by facilitating filtration.

All of these teapots are housed in an expertly-crafted bamboo chest used a traditional Chinese tiered handle case as its inspiration.

Learn more at: www.psfk.com

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Oprah Can Sure Sell Chai — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of Oct. 20, 2014 —

Oprah Winfrey sure can sell tea… Mighty good match… Starbucks will test a pre-order app and Apple Pay starts today… Sensient announces a promising tea flavoring technology… Which do you prefer: Milk or Tea In First?

Starbucks Donates $2 Million from Chai Sales

Starbucks announced the other day that it had donated $2 million to benefit educational opportunities for youth through the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation.

Oprah Chai Gift Set

Oprah Chai Gift Set

It’s been less than six months since Oprah supercharged the chai category and the beneficiaries extend well beyond Starbucks and Teavana. The company donates 25 cents for each Teavana Oprah Chai prepared beverage and $1 for every 2 oz. loose-leaf packet as well as $1 for the chai gift set or storage tin. The large gift set nets the foundation $4 for each one sold.

If half of the donation is from prepared beverages that would mean 4 million chais served and if half the donation is from packages and tins (accounting for another million sales) that suggests just under 1 million transactions a month for the past five months. That’s a huge increase from a single drink just introduced in March, especially since Starbucks sells several other chai drinks.

Starbucks sells an average 4 million cups of coffee a day.

Apple Pay Starts Today

The fingerprint purchase option on my new iPhone 6 is so convenient I’ve been buying iTunes and Apps on a whim – exactly as the genius Steve Jobs intended. Combine that convenience with the ability to pre-order Oprah’s Teavana Chai and the fast-pay option could boost traffic and speed service.

Starbucks customers with an iPhone will soon be able to shop 150 locations near Portland, Ore. Android apps are expected in 2015.

“This is the beginning of a national rollout. We feel we’re going to be constantly learning and improving how mobile ordering works,” Starbuck’s Adam Brotman, chief digital officer told Bloomberg.

Currently 15% of Starbucks sales are from mobile orders, representing 6 million weekly transactions from 12 million active mobile users in the US and Canada.

Source: Bloomberg

Mighty Good Match

Acquisitions of tea companies total more than $1 billion in the past three years with Teaopia, Teavana, T2, Tea Forte, Pickwick Tea and Mighty Leaf Tea among the top deals.

Two months after its sale to Peet’s Coffee & Tea the legions of Mighty Leafers loyal to the brand are witnessing a smooth transition.

“Now that we have completed the transaction, we really can’t imagine a brand that we could really feel as comfortable with,” co-founder Jill Portman told the San Francisco Business Times.

LOGO-Mighty-Leaf-TeaAcquisitions are often acrimonious but these tea-friendly firms benefit from a nice fit. Co-founders Gary Shinner and Portman credit the benefit of a year-long courtship after Peet’s which approached the company following its own acquisition by German conglomerate Joh. A. Benckiser in July 2012.

“This is a win for both Mighty Leaf and Peet’s as we both share a dedication to premium quality and craft mastery that will become even stronger together,” Shinner said in announcing the sale.

Peet’s is legendary in specialty coffee. The founders were visionaries and the company, under the direction of CEO and President David Burwick, has continued to raise the bar on quality offerings first set by Alfred C Peet in 1966. Mighty Leaf has a similar pedigree.

“We’re both Bay Area companies with core values built on the highest standards of quality and deep commitment to craft – it’s a natural, complimentary fit,” said Burwick.

“This is an important step in Mighty Leaf Tea’s journey, and we’re excited to take our brand to the next level with Peet’s Coffee & Tea,” said Shinner.

Portman and Shinner were living in Chicago when they discovered great tea. Portman worked in architectural design and Shinner was an investment banker. The couple began dreaming of their own tea company in 1992 and relocated to San Francisco in 1996 to open Tea and Co., a shop that could be mistaken for the latest iteration in style and selection. Alas, it was ahead of its time and closed its doors in 2000 after the dot-com bust.

Shinner and Portman retained their wholesale clients and launched Mighty Leaf Tea just as loose-leaf became popular with hotels and resorts and a few restaurants concerned with sustainable practices.

The company used high-quality ingredients, chose more expensive biodegradable (backyard compostable) sewn pouches and ultra-premium positioning that landed Mighty Leaf contracts to supply cruise ships, department stores including Nordstrom and national airlines. In 2007 private equity firm VMG Partners, itself a new venture, bought a 20% stake and financed the move to supermarkets. Eventually Mighty Leaf would find itself on the shelves of 14,000 stores from Kroger and Safeway to Publix and Stop & Shop. Revenue is estimated at $31 million at the time of the sale.

Peet’s is headquartered in Emeryville at the other end of the San Rafael Bridge. During discussions the two like-minded ventures found common ground. Peet’s is undergoing rapid expansion, adding 60 stores by year end. It plans to sell Mighty Leaf blends alongside its existing line of single-origin teas in 300 retail locations.

Shinner and Portman will stay on until summer. Peet’s is recruiting a new chief executive to take their place.

Source: Peet’s Coffee & Tea, San Francisco Business Times

Fast Drying Flavor Coating

Blenders typically apply flavors to enhance the appeal of teas that contain dried fruit, floral and spice. Customers examining a colorful tea expect a whiff of pleasant aroma. In teabags the impact is less critical but the more expensive and showy the tea, the greater the expectation.

The most common technique is to spray liquid flavorings on the tea. The intense mist saturates the leaves but the good strong flavor remains for only a relatively short time after the leaves are exposed to air.

Special packaging such as vacuum or foil wrappers is necessary to retain freshness of these flavors.

LOGO-Sensient_FlavorsSpray drying resolves some issues, but a great deal of dust is generated during the flavoring process. And both spray dried and liquid flavorings are hygroscopic, and are thus not ideal for use in tea bags as they can cause unappealing stains.

Dry flavoring is less aromatic in the tin but bursts to life when wet in the cup. These flavorings are more stable over time but somewhat unsightly as they dust the tea and inclusions, dulling its luster. Depending on the mesh, dry flavors can also settle, sifting through pyramid bags. Applying agglomerated flavors is a low-dust way of adding flavor to the leaves but best suited to tea that will be filled in tea bags.

Sensient Flavors, headquartered in Hoffman Estates, Ill., has developed a fourth option, a fast-drying, colorless coating ideal for blending premium tea.

These flavor coatings are not limited to tea leaves and can be applied to pieces of apple, for example, or lemon and orange peel. This allows manufacturers to add additional interesting components to blends that really grab the attention of consumers looking for that something extra special from their tea.

“The invisibility of the flavoring is a crucial aspect,” explains Hans-Juergen Sachs, General Manager Sensient Flavors, Beverage Europe. “Tea is a very natural and authentic product. Flavorings which are too heavy or characteristics which make the tea look artificial won’t meet the consumer’s desire for a sophisticated, premium product. With our new spray-coating technology, we have been able to improve the sensory profile of flavored tea without influencing the natural characteristics of the raw material.”

“This proprietary technology opens up a whole new world of possibilities for adding premium appeal to tea,” according to the company.

Coated leaves preserve a balanced sensory profile over a long period of time. The production process is virtually dust-free and the resultant tea has diminished hygroscopic properties.

The process results in a homogeneous blend with a constant flavor profile, according to the company. Leaves are completely dispersible and are thus easy for manufacturers to process. Flavoring is done at Sensient’s facility which means there are no extra costs for additional equipment. After treatment, the tea can be further processed by the manufacturer as usual.

A wide range of natural flavors are available for use with tea leaves. Samples are available based on black tea combined with a selection of popular flavors: bergamot, garden mint and jasmine. However, there are virtually no limits on possible compositions. For example, fruity notes can be combined with “creamy” flavors such as caramel or vanilla, suggests Sachs. And even cocktail notes can now find their way into the tea segment.

Sensient Flavors & Fragrance Group is a division of Sensient Technologies Corp., a $1.5 billion venture operating in 35 countries with a staff of 3,600. Learn more at www.sensientflavorsandfragrances.com

Tea in First

Tea In First launched a line of ready-to-drink low-calorie all natural chai this summer that is made with fresh milk.

Founder Nishita Mody said that he “wanted to create a modern take on the very traditional Masala Chi, while keeping in mind the health consciousness of our consumers.”

Tea In First All Natural Chai

Tea In First All Natural Chai

The Long Island-NY company starts with high quality tea. Tea goes in first, said Mody.

The Spiced Chai contains his unique blend of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and black pepper. To replicate the rich flavor “you’d have to spend time obtaining all the spices and combining them with tea and milk in a saucepan,” says Mody. “Now you can just go to your local store and enjoy it chilled or you can heat it up and have a hot cup of chai anywhere…in minutes!” he said. The 110-calorie, 9.5 oz. bottles are distributed at natural food stores, delis and convenience retailers in Boston and New York City. A suggested unit price was not disclosed. The bottles are available in four-packs. He plans to add a Matcha Latte to the line. Learn more at: www.teainfirst.com

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Capsule Tea Makes Big Gains — Need to Know

Capsule Tea Makes Big Gains — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of Sept. 22, 2014 —

North American Tea Conference trends and impressions… Tony Gebely leaves Chicago to fly with an extraordinary Phoenix in San Francisco… IRI Worldwide data indicates capsule tea is making big gains.

Troubling Tea Trends

The North American Tea Conference annually brings together industry executives, growers, government officials from producing countries, marketers and suppliers, making it a good occasion to discern trends and concerns among those who view the US and Canadian market with interest.

Traditionally the ones watching the market most closely are Indian, African and Chinese tea industry representatives, all of whom report increased sales to North American wholesalers and, in some instances, increasing sales from retailers buying direct from growers large and small.

I filled a notebook attending three days of sessions that range from food service trends to discussions on global supply and tea and health to advice on attracting millennials to tea.

That’s too much to cover in one post. I’ll elaborate on several trends in the days ahead but here are three topics to get the conversation started.


Dr. Norman Kelly, the newly named chairman of the International Tea Committee in London, was attending for the first time. He replaces Sir Michael Bunston who served many years leading the ITC, which operates as the industry’s statistician. Tea at one level is a game of numbers.

Kelly shared two important observations. One can point with enthusiasm to the charts detailing tea production increases of the past 30 years. Supply is clearly anticipating increased demand and while some new acreage is under tea, most of the gains are through improved agricultural practices. There is much work ahead extending these practices to the smallholders who produce most of the world’s tea, but the largest tea gardens are models of efficiency, making greater use of mechanized harvesting equipment (35% of the total harvest); introducing new cultivars to resist drought and pests and innovative techniques such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM) adapted to the diverse regions in which tea is grown.

China is particular has put its foot on the accelerator at 1,924 million metric tons, most of which is consumed domestically. India reached 1,200 million kilos and Kenya reported 432 million kilos of processed tea last year. Combined production by these three tops all others tracked by ITC.

What is quite extraordinary is that racing as hard as they are at turning out more tea, both China and India are just keeping up with internal demand “leaving less and less for export,” said Kelly.

TEABIZ-NormanKelly_Presentation (7) ExportChart

Source: International Tea Committee

Production remains ahead of demand but “supply might tighten and it is not beyond the possibility of exceeding supply,” he said. Note in the chart above that only 38% of the tea produced is available for export, down from 47% available in 2004. Per capita tea consumption is rising in both China and India and Kenya is making greater efforts to interest domestic tea drinkers.


Pricing is closely tied to production and Richard Darlington, managing director of AVT in London, pointed out that the abundance of land and desire to produce additional quantities will keep China in the lead globally despite the fact that “practically all the new tea is consumed internally.”


Richard Darlington

It seems remarkable, but it’s true – 90% of the new tea produced is consumed by the countries in which it is grown, according to Darlington. Classic economics suggests an abundance of tea will lead to soft prices and while that is true in some markets, much of the world’s tea is selling at a premium.

There is “a paucity of good tea – hence prices are high” while “there is too much medium and low tea around – hence prices coming down,” Darlington explains.

He predicted consumption increases will continue to come from established tea producing countries.

On the topic of production inputs, costs are rising and government support “is vital to the sustainability of tea in many producing countries,” said Darlington.

The situation in Sri Lanka is noteworthy as it illustrates the extreme.

Colombo auction prices are very high and have risen entirely due to a supply squeeze, said Darlington. “The crop has not kept ahead of very strong demand for orthodox tea at a time when India is cutting back on orthodox tea production,” he said.

“The cost of production in Sri Lanka has risen from $1.35 per kilo in 2005 to $3.10 per kilo on 2013,” he said. Government privatization grants are depleted and “investment in new tea areas is prohibitively high. Producers are reluctant to take the risk,” he said. A recent study for the Sri Lanka Tea Board predicted producers will need to get “$14 per kilo to sustain their businesses!!”

Source: International Tea Committee

Source: International Tea Committee

Darlington’s country-by-country assessment was insightful and not altogether bleak. There is oversupply in Africa and falling yields in Turkey, competition from alternate crops in Indonesia and a drought in Vietnam that will influence local markets.

Averaging all tea sold at all the global auctions shows prices falling slightly from last year’s all-tea, all-auction average of $2.60 per kilo. Kelly’s ITC data indicates a $2.46 per kilo average for 2014 year-to-date.

In general supply exceeds demand and trends negatively impacting pricing will probably continue for some time, said Darlington.


Pesticide use, the challenges of reconciling conflicting and inconsistent global regulations and a growing unease with public disclosure of pesticide residues by groups like Greenpeace was the topic of the week. After-hours and during  presentations open to the press, pesticides generated few impassioned debates. I placed it third in my reporting because production and pricing have a much greater day-to-day influence on the industry.

A talk by public relations expert Louise Pollock, who has advised the Tea Association of the USA for 20 years,  included a slide or two on crisis management as she discussed marketing the health attributes of tea; the Eurofins presentation hinted at worry that a beverage touted for its health benefits could be tainted by pesticide residues is justified, but media attention and public concern is a long way from crisis levels.

The Tea Association of the USA was concerned enough to host a 1-1/2 day presentation on the topic following the conference.

No reporters were permitted to attend these sessions out of concern that delegates would not speak freely if their comments were made public. As a result I can only write about the events that I witnessed, but I listened to a lot of after-hours conversation and I have covered this topic for more than a dozen years.

Consider this the first in several installments intended to identify challenges and weigh solutions — not frighten the public into foregoing tea.

Tea is an agricultural crop and there is not a crop consumed in which the corresponding industry has not been faced with the task of explaining why various chemicals are necessary to cultivate and process these foods. Perhaps more importantly, the public increasingly demands to know which of these chemicals are necessary and why. The new generation of label readers is a far more formidable audience to appease. Straight talk, transparency and thoughtful explanations of its proven medical benefits will protect the reputation tea justly deserves.

There are no reported instances of people being harmed by tea, Peter Goggi reminded delegates. The discussion of pesticide residues is largely centered on bureaucratic procedure, conflicting regulations and the differing rules of various certifying bodies.

It has never been clear to me why apples were singled out when pears, grapes and other fruit tested high in Alar residue, but 25 years ago the disclosure of Alar (Daminozide) in apple juice practically destroyed the apple business. Alar had been approved for use since 1963 but growing evidence of its carcinogenic links led the EPA to propose a ban and the manufacturer withdrew the pesticide from the market.

Public outcry cost apple growers an estimated $100 million according to a lawsuit following a CBS News broadcast on the program 60 Minutes. There is no question Alar was a financial boon to the apple industry. Application improved fruit-set maturity, fruit firmness and coloring, reduced pre-harvest drop and improved market quality of fruit at harvest and during storage, but the threat to human health was too great. Eventually it was proven to be a carcinogen in humans but at a very high ingestion level. It would require drinking 5,000 gallons of apple juice per day to equal the dose that produced tumors in mice. The lifetime cancer risk was set at 5 per million for humans. Generally EPA considers lifetime cancer risks actionable at 1 per million.

Apples once again topped the list of the most pesticide-contaminated produce this year, the fourth in a row. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a Washington DC based non-profit, annually publishes the “Dirty Dozen” list of produce and a corresponding list of “Clean 15” fruits and vegetables. The residues are from different chemicals, but the fact remains that chemical applications remain important in protecting this crop.

Tea makes neither list because it is not one of the 48 most popular produce products tested annually by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. USDA conducts an analysis of 32,000 samples.

This is not to suggest government regulators should ignore the obvious lapses in enforcement. In the Greenpeace report on Indian tea, 78% of the samples showed DDT residue, a pesticide long ago banned for use on food.

The tea industry tests far more samples and routinely discards leaf that exceeds Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) established by importing countries. China learned the hard way when European Union buyers found they could not land thousands of containers of tea, at great financial loss. EU inspectors adhere to tough maximums. Unfortunately these differ widely by country making it possible for growers in places like Vietnam to find a market for tea that could not pass inspection in Japan, the US or EU. Uniform MRLs is an important global initiative.

One of the key presentations during the conference was by Christine McIntosh of Eurofins Scientific, a company that analyzes food products for safety and compliance with a range of import regulations.

There are now 450 pesticides, a number so large that it is not financially practical to test for all. Given that many are exotic, a short list might suffice, but neither the US or Canada established MRLs for many of the common pesticides used in tea. This is because regulatory bodies in both countries give priority to pesticides used within their boundaries. Since little tea is grown by either nation, establishing MRLs for these pesticides is not a priority (or likely to suddenly become a priority). Until they are researched and listed, the US assigns a 1 part per billion “default” threshold.

As a result, McIntosh listed 26 pesticides commonly found in tea for which no MRLs exist. In each instance the European Union has tested these products and determined a maximum residue level. In many cases this threshold of safety is well above the 1ppb default used by the US.

McIntosh offered some constructive suggestions beginning with a database of global pesticide suppliers. This will help identify firms engaged in producing suspect chemicals. Reputable firms should have no concerns as they are regulated in the countries in which they operate.

Evaluate risk within the country of origin/use that takes into consideration combinations of pesticides used by farmers and impact on nearby crops.

  • Consider regulations (many countries either do not have or do not enforce regulations)
  • Establish specifications/acceptable limits (maximum safe residues clearly establish whether illegal, non-approved and unsafe combinations of pesticides are present)
  • Implement routine testing programs universally with extensive baseline testing at the onset and less rigorous examination as these chemicals are proven safe)
  • View trends over time
  • Maintain a monitoring program

Next week I’ll go into greater depth using India’s new Plant Protection Formulations (PPF) rules and the Plant Protection Code (adopted but with enforcement postponed until January 2015).

Gebely Joins David Lee Hoffman 

Tony Gebely, a social media favorite in the tea community; promising author and successful online retailer has joined Pu-erh expert David Lee Hoffman, founder of the The Phoenix Collection.


Tony Gebely

Gebely, the founder of Chicago Tea Garden, has 10 years of digital marketing and web development experience as well as a cornucopia of tea knowledge. He will work alongside Hoffman and his assistant Jeannie Freudenberger to first learn all aspects of the business including sourcing, fulfillment, tea tastings, and marketing.

“I am excited to have Tony join our team as he brings to the table the skills necessary to bring tea to the next generation” said Hoffman, “and he aligns well with the philosophy that I began my tea venture with a quarter of a century ago.”

“I’m excited to work side-by-side with such an esteemed pioneer in the American tea industry. David simply has the best Chinese teas and I could not be more proud to work with him to bring them to the burgeoning tea market” said Gebely.

The Phoenix Collection is a wholesale tea company founded in 2009. Hoffman, who has been called the “The Indiana Jones of Tea,” owned and operated Silk Road Teas which he started in 1990. He sold the business in 2004 but retained his vast inventory of Pu-erh teas which are now offered through The Phoenix Collection. Hoffman was also the subject of a feature-length documentary All In This Tea by Les Blank and Gina Leibrecht. Hoffman has shared his discoveries and techniques online and in YouTube videos with some success. Look for Gebely to supercharge the company’s online presence.

Gebely and his new bride Katie just moved to the Bay Area. His new book is due next year.

To learn more visit: www.thephoenixcollection.com.

Tea Sales in K-Cups

14i3_MotherParkers_EcoCupEvery single single-cup manufacturer I spoke to at the North American Tea Conference confirmed that sales of tea in both licensed K-Cups and compatible non-licensed capsules are booming. As noted in last week’s post, Package Facts estimates capsules will account for 10% of sales in the bagged/loose category. Paul Higgins, Jr. at Higgins & Burke,  Ron Sadler at Twinings North America, Harney & Sons, RC Bigelow, Keith Hutjens, the tea sourcing director at Starbucks and Jeff Allard, director of product development at Snapple, all praised the format as an opportunity for innovation and a means of enticing new tea drinkers.

14i1_SingleServe2_Tea_Tazo_zenIRI Worldwide, a market research firm based in Chicago (www.iriworldwide.com), tallies sales in major retail channels such as drug stores, grocery and department stores like Target, Wal-Mart and Bed, Bath & Beyond. During the 52 weeks ending July 13, sales of loose leaf and bagged tea were up 6.2% in grocery SLIDES-INNOVATION_SingleServe_LiptonEnergy - Copystores to $818 million. Drug stores showed a 13.6% gain to $25 million and multi-outlet chain locations reported  an amazing $1.3 billion in tea sales, up 7%. A decade ago grocery stores and supermarkets were  the dominate sales channel. Very little tea was sold in drug stores. IRI does not break out sales by format so it is not possible to identify precisely how much of these category gains 14i1_SingleServe2_Tea_Twiningsare from K-Cup sales, but it seems likely that most of the bump in multi-channel and drug is from capsule sales, typically big brands. Another clue is that the big jump in sales occurred after Lipton, Twinings, Celestial Seasonings, Snapple and Bigelow began selling 14i1_SingleServe2_Tea_Tetley_BritishK-Cups. Several report earning more than $20 million annually in K-Cup sales. Another indication: sales of instant tea (typically in jars) is plummeting. In drug stores category sales fell 31%; in multi-outlet stores sales of instant tea are down 9.3% and in drug stores sales of instant are down 8.9%.

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. Tea Biz reports what matters along the entire supply chain, emphasizing trustworthy sources and sound market research while discarding fluff and ignoring puffery.

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Impact of Climate Change on Tea — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of Sept. 15, 2014 —

Honest Tea in Keurig K-Cups… the North American Tea Conference beings Tuesday… the fast-growing bottled water market in China… this month’s HerbalGram features the research of Dr. Selena Ahmed who is studying the impact of climate change on tea.

Honest Tea in K-Cups

Coca-Cola’s licensing agreement with Keurig Green Mountain to offer Honest Tea in K-Cups is a very important validation of the Keurig beverage delivery system.

Honest Tea in K-Cups

Honest Tea in K-Cups

In 2013 Keurig-licensed teas generated 6.5% of sales in the bagged/loose tea category, according to Packaged Facts. Keurig partnerships with Snapple, Lipton, Bigelow, Celestial Seasonings, Harney & Sons, Twinings, Teavana, Tazo and Tetleys “are only now gaining traction in the marketplace, which will translate to even stronger sales in 2014: 10% of 2014 sales seems quite reasonable,” according to Packaged Facts: Tea and Ready-to-Drink Tea in the U.S.: Retail and Foodservice, 5th Edition.

Celestial Seasonings was early to the format, packaging a significant selection of its herbal blends for the Keurig machines. Bigelow Tea was another to enjoy first-mover advantage, locking in a contract with Hilton Hotels to put its tea in K-Cups in 89,000 hotel rooms equipped with K130 K-Cup brewers. Coffee selections vary throughout the U.S., guestrooms at Hilton Gardens Inns; for example, include Diedrichs regular and decaffeinated Coffee, in Canada Van Houtte’s or Timothy’s Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee but rooms in both the U.S. and Canada feature Bigelow Black Tea K-Cup packs.

Higgins & Burke is another early adopter but chose RealCups capsules instead of licensing through Keurig. Snapple (DrPepper) and Lipton, Twinings and Tetley and a growing number of smaller brands are packing tea in Keurig-compatible capsules.

“Keurig Green Mountain and Honest Tea share a longstanding commitment to organics and fair trade,” said Seth Goldman, Honest Tea co-founder and TeaEO. “We’re excited to make our tea available in this new convenient format.”

Keurig brewers are now in 18 million American homes.

Honest Tea sold 100 million bottles last year and more than 1 billion since its founding in 1998. It is the nation’s top-selling organic bottled tea. Count on boxes to crowd out other brands and carve some additional space from the coffee-centric selections at Bed, Bath & Beyond, Target and Walmart. Honest Tea will feature Just Green and Just Black organic, Fair Trade Certified tea to be brewed hot over ice and enjoyed unsweetened – the alternate and some say the antidote for carbonated sodas.

Honest Tea is the first Coca-Cola brand to appear in K-Cups since Coke purchased 16% of KMG. Look for FUZE Tea to follow when Keurig unveils its new cold brewer.

Source: Packaged Facts, Honest Tea

North American Tea Conference

The magnificent horseshoe of cascading water is spectacular, driving spray as high as my perch 37 floors above Niagara Falls. The 5th North American Tea Conference, an annual gathering jointly sponsored by the Tea Association of the USA and the Tea Association of Canada (TAC), opens this week on the Canadian side of the border.


Horseshoe Falls, Niagara Falls, Canada

Canada’s Tea Association President Louise Roberge and her able staff have organized a number of interesting and timely sessions that I’ll report on this week.

Roberge chose the theme “SolidariTEA” for this year’s event which draws producers and manufacturers from around the globe. North America is now a top export destination for several countries as noted by Norman Kelly, with the International Tea Committee based in London. Rick Winslow with Nielsen Canada will present a state of the industry report on retail tea sales and Shimona Mehta of the NPD Group, Inc. will lead a discussion of key trends in the foodservice industry.

One session I’m sure to attend is Kevin Gascoyne’s pairings of tea and scotch. Gascoyne is a co-founder of Camellia Sinensis in Montreal.

This is the 60th Anniversary of the Tea Association of Canada, a milestone celebrated Wednesday at an award banquet where winners of the 3rd Gold Medal Tea Competition will be announced. The Tea Association of the USA hosted the last session in Bermuda where Peter Goggi was handed the baton as executive director.

Bottled Water in China

In a country awash in tea bottled water is a refreshing alternative. Tea is safely consumed throughout the country when boiled but in many parts of rural China breaking the seal on a bottle of water is reassuring. China has developed a thirst for Western bottled waters. Boreal Catskill Mountain Spring reported a $24 million 36-month deal with SOHO Corp. for distribution of the Boreal Water Collection, premium water previously unavailable in China where it will be branded as Catsky.

A report from Transparency Market Research identifies China as the most active market worldwide for bottled water. The Asia Pacific region accounts for 33% of global demand with sales of $157.27 billion in 2013, according to TMR. The region, led by China, is expected to experience an estimated compound annual growth rate of 10.5% in revenue from 2014 to 2020 with sales of $279.65 billion by 2020.

Source: Transparency Market Research

Climate Change Impact on Tea

The chemistry, taste, and health effects of tea can vary with changes in climate, says a new article published by the non-profit American Botanical Council (ABC). Recent research by Selena Ahmed, PhD, on climate change and its effects on the phytochemical compounds in tea (Camellia sinensis) is part of an extensive study conducted by Dr. Ahmed in the Yunnan province of southwestern China and has implications for the future of medicinal botanicals. Dr. Ahmed’s report on her ground-breaking research is the cover article for the current issue (#103) of HerbalGram, ABC’s peer-reviewed, quarterly scientific journal.*

Dr. Ahmed has worked in the Yunnan province for eight years, studying how weather pattern variations impact the naturally occurring phytochemicals and beneficial health properties of tea. Her forthcoming research will investigate how the effects of climate change could alter the benefits of other medicinal plants.

TEABIZ_NTK_140915_BOTANNICALCOUNCILSELENAAHMEDChinese tea farmers have a finely attuned sense of how differing weather patterns affect the taste and quality of their crop: In the dry seasons, the tea leaves are more potent; in the wetter monsoon seasons, the leaves have a gentler taste and aroma. “The majority of tea farmers I have interviewed state that climate patterns have shifted noticeably over their lifetimes; such observed changes include warmer temperatures, greater unpredictability of weather such as increased variation of rains, and changing phenology of plants (i.e., the effect of weather patterns on plant growth cycles, including flowering and fruiting seasons, etc.), including earlier bud burst,” wrote Dr. Ahmed. The idea that weather patterns could noticeably change the taste, and thus the quality, of crops and influence the livelihoods of the farmers prompted her to analyze samples of tea from successive growing seasons to ascertain what differences are present on a chemical level.

“A vast body of scientific and medical research in the past several decades shows many strong correlations between tea, particularly green tea, and abundant health benefits” said HerbalGram Editor-in-Chief Mark Blumenthal. “Dr. Ahmed’s research has compelling implications not only for tea, but for other food and medicinal plant crops, for which changes in climate can cause alterations in taste, and, accordingly, the plants’ nutritional and medicinal values,” he said.

Dr. Ahmed writes about her tea research and connects the phenomenon in China with tea growers in other regions, including Sri Lanka, Hawaii, and Japan. In collaboration with researchers from Tufts University and the University of Florida, she studies the chemistry behind the shift in functional quality and secondary metabolites in the tea plant. Plants produce secondary metabolites as a defense mechanism in response to environmental stressors, and a high concentration of these metabolites often correlates to higher nutritional and therapeutic benefits for the consumer.

Through laboratory studies of extracts made from tea samples collected from the Chinese farms, Dr. Ahmed discovered that tea’s key health compounds (called catechins) can decrease by almost 50% when the leaves are harvested after the monsoon season as compared with leaves harvested after a drought. This is consistent with anecdotal observations concerning changes in tea flavor noted by the farmers she interviewed; the differences in flavor correspond with her analyses of the plants’ overall chemistry, including the catechins.

Dr. Ahmed is an assistant professor of Sustainable Food Systems at Montana State University.

*Ahmed, S. Tea and the taste of climate change: understanding impacts of environmental variation on botanical quality. HerbalGram. 2014;103:44-51.

Source: HerbalGram is available at some bookstores and natural food stores and is mailed to members of ABC. Dr. Ahmed’s feature article is posted on the ABC website, accessible here.

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Los Angeles International Tea Festival — Need to Know

Attendees visit vendors during the 4th Annual Los Angeles International Tea Festival.

Attendees visit vendors during the 4th Annual Los Angeles International Tea Festival.

What tea professionals need to start the week of Aug. 18, 2014 —

Crowds at the annual Los Angeles International Tea Festival have doubled in the past few years… the spring harvest evaluation is complete and North American Tea Champions are named… QTrade Tea & Herbs takes home 100th award, the most of any competitor…

Los Angeles International Tea Festival

By Pete Surowski

LOS ANGELES – A crowd of 2,600 tea lovers came to sip and share last weekend at the fourth-annual Los Angeles International Tea Festival.

The two-day event , Aug. 16-17, was organized by Chado Tea Room at the Japanese-American Museum in downtown Los Angeles.

Venders set up booths in the museum’s main hall and in the pedestrian walkway outside the front door in Little Tokyo and spent the weekend pouring tea, demonstrating new products and talking tea with passers-by.

“There are not many places you can go to try new teas,” said attendee Brianna Winner. “This is our once-a-year event where we stock up on teas.”

Jordan Huxley, Store Manager, American Tea Room.

Jordan Huxley, Store Manager, American Tea Room.

The LA Tea Fest is geared more toward consumers than shows like the World Tea Expo which was held at the Long Beach Convention Center in May, said Tek Mehrteab, the COO of Chado Tea Room, the retail branch of International Tea Importers (ITI) that operates three retail shops selling wet and dry teas in Los Angeles with one shop in Mumbai, India

The event aims to stir interest in tea among consumers and increase the visibility of the venders, according to Mehrteab.

“The more they try, the more they drink, the more they develop (an appreciation for quality tea),” he said: “It’s a win-win (for retailers and consumers).”

Cille Washington and Marianne Steverson visit the Chado Tea Room during the Los Angeles International Tea Festival.

Cille Washington and Marianne Steverson visit the Chado Tea Room during the Los Angeles International Tea Festival.

The fest also gave retailers the chance to show new products and get consumer feedback.

American Tea Room, which runs a retail shop in Beverly Hills, unveiled their line of bottled iced teas at the fest and chatted with attendees. “It’s really more convenient for some people,” said Jordan Huxley, the company’s store manager. “Some people want to come in, grab and go.”

The fest is a big benefit for Waterfall Tea Company, another branch of ITI that creates tea products for restaurants, service industries and grocery store shelves, said Jaqueline Sandoval, the business’ operations manager.

“It’s beneficial to get the in-person atmosphere and tell them about your product, especially because we’re very high quality,” she said. “Otherwise we’re just another tea on the shelf.”

Andrew Ge, Account Executive, AOI Tea Company, explains products to the attendees.

Andrew Ge, Account Executive, AOI Tea Company, explains products to the attendees.

The fest has grown since its beginning in 2011 when it had only eight vendors and only about 1,300 visitors over the two days, Mehrteab said.

Over that time, people’s interest in tea seems to have grown, he said.

“You can definitely see in the past four or five years people want to know more about tea,” the organizer said.

Mehrteab hopes to continue to grow the convention with more vendors next year, he said.

Alexander Harney of the Marketing Department, Harney and Sons, pours a sample for an attendee.

Alexander Harney of the Marketing Department, Harney and Sons, pours a sample for an attendee.

Zen Tea House staff assists attendees at their booth.

Zen Tea House staff assists attendees at their booth.

AOI Tea Company hands a sample to an attendee

AOI Tea Company hands a sample to an attendee

Jaqueline Sandoval, Operations Manager, Waterfall Tea Company.

Jaqueline Sandoval, Operations Manager, Waterfall Tea Company.

Spring Harvest Champions

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – Fourteen high-quality teas took first-place awards in the spring harvest edition of the North American Tea Championship (NATC).

Judging was July 24 – 25 in Las Vegas, Nev. at the headquarters of The Beverage Group, a division of F+W, organizer of NATC. Winners in several categories will be featured at World Tea Expo May 6 – 8, 2015 at the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center in Long Beach, Calif.

Judging underway in 2014 Spring Harvest Hot Tea Categories

Judging underway in 2014 Spring Harvest Hot Tea Categories

The North American Championship is the only independent competition — evaluated by professional cuppers — to distinguish the highest quality and best tasting teas that are commercially available in the North American marketplace.

“If we can all agree that elevating the quality of teas we — as retailers, packers, importers, etc. — present to consumers is a shared goal, then an event like the North American Tea Championship does an excellent job of turning the spotlight squarely on quality, on features that constitute high quality in many tea and botanical categories, rather than on just what may be trendy and marketable at the moment,” said Lydia Kung, an NATC evaluator, tea buyer and expert with Eastrise Trading Corp./VeriLeaf LLC in Monrovia, Calif.

The competition offers tea companies an opportunity to evaluate their own teas against comparable ones that have earned high marks, said Kung. “We may not all use the same terms to describe teas, but nothing beats actually sipping a good tasting, high-quality tea and storing that in our palate memory,” she said.

NATC judges reviewed every submission via blind and organoleptic analysis evaluating dry leaf, brewed flavor, brewed color, brewed aroma, brewed mouth feel and brewed harmony. An overall numerical value on a 100-point scale was then calculated based on the ratings of each characteristic, and winning teas were determined by rank.

One important discussion amongst judges over the two days of NATC evaluations was how to provide more feedback to entrants about their teas, regardless of whether the teas scored high or low.

“As each round was cupped, we continually returned to category definitions, refining our understanding of features that define excellent tasting teas and how to characterize them,” said Kung. “If scores were low, or in instances where a tea was disqualified, we again considered the criteria for that group and considered factors — such as improper storage — that diminished the teas.”

Organizers are also weighing procedures that will lead to greater transparency on scoring to help NATC entrants — along with those who read the results. The goal is reinforce what entrants have been doing right or revise practices to improve standards, all steps that will eventually benefit the consumer, said Kung.

First Place winners include:

(Category| Winning Tea| Company | Location):

Blended Green Tea

Matcha Infused Genmaicha

Aiya America, Torrance, Calif.

Ceylon Tea

Ceylon Sapphire

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, Calif.

Darjeeling Tea

Organic Darjeeling Jungpana Wonder Muscatel, 2nd flush

Florapharm Tea USA LP, Hinesville, Ga.

Dragonwell Tea

Dragonwell’s Gold

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, Calif.

Flavored Fruit Blend

Garcina Corvina

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, Calif.

Flavored Green Tea


Dethlefsen & Balk Inc., Aurora, Ill.

Flavored Herbal Blends

O.M.G (Orange Mango Ginger)

QTrade Teas & Herbs, Cerritos, Calif.

Flavored White Tea

Organic Orange Ginger White Tea

Waterfall Tea Company, Pico Rivera, Calif.


Premium Matcha

Aiya America, Torrance, Calif.

Pan-Fired Green Tea




Sencha Supreme

International Tea Importers, Pico Rivera, Calif.

Steamed Green Tea

Premium Gyokuro

Aiya America, Torrance, Calif.

Unflavored Herbal Blends


Florapharm Tea USA LP, Hinesville, Ga.

 White Tea

White Peony by Fang Shoulong

Dewdrop Tea, Naperville, Ill.

A complete list of first-, second- and third-place winners is available at TeaChampionship.com. To learn more visit TeaChampionship.com and WorldTeaExpo.com.

Undisputed Champions

QTrade Teas & Herbs has entered its innovative line of teas and herbs since the first North American Tea Championship, winning more prizes than any other company and proving that persistence and excellence pays.

“We have most professional tea team in North America with more than 150 years tea experience amongst our staff,” said founder Manik Jayakumar. “Our staff is are able to taste and evaluate all teas we directly import,” he said.

Counting its wins in the NATC’s Spring Harvest Evaluation QTrade has earned 100 prizes with an impressive breadth of first-place wins and has placed in the top tier in every tea category.

“Ceylon, Darjeeling, Assam… Japanese teas, Chinese pan-fired white tea, Jasmine teas we have won in every category,” said Jayakumar whose firm is the largest supplier of organic and Fair Trade certified teas in North America. The firm imports tea and a vast assortment of herbs for blending direct from the countries where it trades, explains Jayakumar.

“We visit all origins regularly and have great relationships with producers,” he said.

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Fishing the Metolius River, Oregon

Fishing the Metolius River, Oregon

Back now after a relaxing vacation with lots of catching up to do. Here I am fishing the Metolius River near Redmond, Ore. It was was great fun.

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Tea Innovation at the Fancy Food Show — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of July 21, 2014 —

Five innovative tea products of note from the Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show….Green Rooibos from Khosian Tea… a bundle of leaves 3D bottle for Tejava.

Tea Innovation at the Summer Fancy Food Show

Tea is one of the most important product categories in specialty retail. As a result specialty grocery and gift outlets carry a broad assortment and encourage innovation to keep customer interest high.

Specialty Food Association Fancy Food LogoThe most important showcase for these new items is the Summer Fancy Food Show in New York City. The event is hosted by the Specialty Food Association which also puts on a great winter show in San Francisco.

This year’s event was the largest since the trade-only event made its debut in 1955. The exhibit halls were filled with the latest chocolates, cheeses, charcuterie and snack foods from 2,730 specialty food companies representing 49 countries.
TEABIZ-FFS-TopTrends_ModernMatcha_Ito_En_Matcha_WebThe Specialty Food Association’s team of trendspotters* listed matcha as a trend to watch: “This age-old finely milled green tea is experiencing a resurgence, with leading tea companies introducing new versions.”

Professional chefs, culinary journalists and food researchers cited as examples: “Matchia” from The Republic of Tea, Organic Matcha from Teapigs and Matcha Love, a ready-to-drink tea from Ito En.

In the highly-regarded sofi™ Awards (sofi stands for specialty outstanding food innovation) competition Judges named Teapigs winner in the Hot Beverage category for a tisane combining “the natural root of the licorice plant (not the black, sticky stuff) with pure peppermint leaves creates a drink that is naturally sweet and refreshing. In addition to its great taste, Chinese medicine has used licorice for its detoxifying properties. Try it iced in the summer and warm in the winter.” A box of 15 tea bags retails for $9.99. Learn more at: teapigs.com

TEABIZ-FFS_SOFI_Finalist_Hot Drink_WahFongTea_SweetMemoriesPyramidTeabagsFinalists in the hot beverage category include the Wah Fong Tea Company for its “Camellia Treasures” Sweet Memories Floral Tea Blend, described as having a “sweet fragrance and complex flavors that soothe and comfort from within. This blend comes in various packing sizes and has become a popular choice for international hotels, fine restaurants, lounges, and spas.” Ten pyramid teabags retail for $4.99. Learn more at: wahfong.com

TEABIZ-FFS_SOFI_Finalist_ColdBeverage_CanadaEnterprises_DragonFruitJinJaA green tea based health beverage was among the finalists in the Cold Beverage Category. Drink Jin+Ja from Canada Enterprises “combines fresh ginger, cayenne, and green tea for an elixir with distinctive taste and powerful health benefits. It can be enjoyed over ice for an invigorating drink or mixed with vodka for a “better for you” cocktail.” A 6.3 ounce bottle retails for $2.99. Learn more at: drinkjinja.com

TEABIZ-FFS_SOFI_Winner_ColdDrinks_JoiaAllNatural_OrangeJasmineandNutmegJoia All Natural Soda took the top prize in the Cold Beverage Category with “an all-natural lightly carbonated beverage that combines the fresh flavors of orange, jasmine, and nutmeg in an intensely refreshing beverage. It is less sweet than traditional sodas with 60 calories per bottle. Also works as a mixer for great-tasting cocktails. Five other varieties are available.” The soda retails for $1.69 for a 12-oz. bottle. Learn more at: joialife.com

TEABIZ-FFS_SOFI_Finalist_Diet_SenchaNaturals_GreenTeaCitrisGingerSencha Naturals was a finalist for a sofi™ in the Outstanding Diet or Lifestyle Product category, presenting “a naturally effervescent drink mix is made with organic Sencha and Macha green tea powders and an herbal blend of organic orange peel, ginger, and turmeric. Whole-leaf antioxidants and coconut water electrolytes lend immune-system support. It is vegan and sugar-, gluten-, and GMO-free.” A 5-gram packet retails for $0.99. Learn more at: senchanaturals.com

“The Specialty Food Association seeks to be ahead of the trends,” says Ann Daw, president of the Association, the Summer Fancy Food Show’s owner and producer. “Our show celebrates what’s next in specialty food.”

A national panel of specialty food professionals convened over eight days to taste and evaluate all entries and select 125 sofi™ finalists. To determine the winners, 275 buyers at the Summer Fancy Food Show sampled the finalist products and cast votes for their favorite in each category. The results were tabulated by an outside accounting firm.

This year’s contest was the largest in its 42-year history, with specialty food makers submitting 2,737 products across all 32 awards categories.

*Footnote: The Specialty Food Association trendspotters are Faith Durand, Executive Editor,TheKitchn; Nancy Hopkins, Senior Deputy Editor, Food and Entertainment, Better Homes & Gardens, Ariel Knutson, Assistant Editor, TheKitchn; Greg Morago, Food Editor, Houston Chronicle; Kara Nielsen, Culinary Director, Sterling-Rice Group; Charles Passy, reporter,MarketWatch/Wall Street Journal; Denise Purcell, Editor, Specialty Food Media, David Sax, food journalist, author of The Tastemakers, and Tina Ujlaki, Executive Editor, Food & Wine.

Khoisan Tea Green Rooibos

South African Rooibos specialists Khoisan Tea is stepping up production of its green Rooibos to meet growing demand for the antioxidant-rich botanical.

LOGO khoisan tea“We’ve built a state-of-the art factory on our farm in late 2013 to produce solely Green Rooibos to perfection,” said Khoisan owner and CEO Peter Schülke. “Our new specialized machines produce excellent teabag cut & long cut grades and we will exceed last year’s production by more than 100%.”

Khoisan Tea has its own Rooibos farm and factory in the mountainous region 250 km north of Cape Town. Annual production capacity is 4,000 tons Rooibos. The company has produced Rooibos since 1997.

Khoisan has perfected a new drying method allowing very low moisture levels, approximately 4%. “This means the Green Rooibos will stay green and maintain its distinct taste as fermentation cannot occur at all, even after longer storage periods. Mechanical quality control ensures consistency in grades and taste over time,” said Schülke.

He explained that keeping Rooibos Tea ‘green’ or unfermented dates to 1999 after European media highlighted the many health benefits of green tea from the Camelia sinesis plant.

Unfermented black tea, obviously now well-known globally as ‘Green Tea,’ began to fascinate the world due to its health benefits and history, he said. “Why not make this work for Rooibos Tea,” asked Schülke.

Today, after many trials by various producers, Green Rooibos is growing in popularity and demand, he said. The difference between Red (fermented) Rooibos Tea and Green (unfermented) Rooibos Tea is the production method after harvest. While both variants are planted and grown the same way, they are produced differently from the moment they are harvested, he said.

Green Rooibos is dried immediately after harvesting to prevent any fermentation. This is labor intensive as the plants need to be carefully cut and handled in loose, airy bundles and dried without any water being added to prevent bruising which could set off fermentation. Khoisan’s equipment uses extremely gentle cutting procedures, he said. Proper and immediate drying methods, help keep it green, said Schülke.

Learn more at: http://www.khoisantea.com

Bundle of Leaves Bottle

NAPA, Calif. – Professional tea buyers will often grab a handful of leaves and raise it to their nose during the withering process to better evaluate leaf texture and smell.

Thanks to a clever bottle design you can experience the same.

TEABIZ-Tejava_Amcor_3DBottle2Last year Crystal Geyser Water commissioned an Australian plastics firm to develop a bottle to simulate a hand full of tea leaves.

The resulting 3D shape quite accurately replicates the life-size bundle and the award-winning Tejava within saves you the time and trouble of processing.

There is an interesting story behind the one-of-a-kind bottle which challenged Australian-based plastics manufacturer Amcor to go beyond its traditional CAD capabilities, combining elements of seven software systems adapted from the gaming, animation, movie, and automotive industries.

While the focus was on maximizing the Tejava design, it also had to ensure the bottle met important performance requirements. Amcor’s advanced engineering team performed Finite Element Analysis (FEA) modelling to predict the container’s performance behavior. Its “PowerFlex” technology features a patented panel-less design, said to provide the freedom to create various designs along the walls. The result is a life-like leaf motif giving tea drinkers the illusion of holding a bundle of tea leaves.

Extensive detail went into the tea leaf design which provides an organic flow and a unique textural experience for the consumer, according to an Amcor release.

“The Tejava bottle highlights Amcor’s drive to push the boundaries of PET and typical package constraints by utilizing cutting edge technology with top talent to deliver commercially innovative packages to the market,” said Christopher Howe, Amcor’s project engineer.

Retailers are finding that packaging innovations are more critical as the RTD segment continues its fast-paced growth amid heightened competition.

Source: Amcor

IMG_1653This week’s edition was unexpectedly but delightfully delayed by my good fortune in landing two large pickerel at the family’s 80-year-old cottage near Kenora, Ontario. The 3.5 lb. and 4.5 lb fish were taken off Wright’s Point along McCallum Point Road at Clearwater Bay, Lake of the Woods. I’m vacationing until Aug. 10. Katrina Munichiello will post Tea Biz in my absence.

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Panda Express Tea Bar — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of  July 14, 2014 —

A wok through the new Panda Express tea bar… Amazing Race Canada contenders serve afternoon tea at the Fairmont Empress… Ito En brings first flush shincha to market in bottles and a British restaurant offers Da Hong Pao for $300 a pot.

Panda Express Tea Bar

Fast-serve Asian restaurants often scrimp on their tea selection but Panda Express is experimenting with a concept likely to turn some heads.

TEABIZ_ART_PandaExpressTeaBarThe 30-year-old family restaurant’s 1,657 company-owned locations in the US and in Canada are may roll out a hot tea and boba drinks menu nationwide that could prove popular with young tea drinkers. The modernization of the firm’s menu is under the direction of Andrea Cherng, daughter of founders Andrew and Peggy Cherng.

Andrea told the Los Angeles Times the restaurant chain hopes to attract millennials with a customized menu.

The company’s innovation store that opened last week in Pasadena, Calif. boasted an attractive and well-stocked tea bar. Tea is an important addition to the restaurants, according to Cherng. “Panda is in a position to bring things like boba to people that may have never heard of it,” said Cherng.

“We had a grand tea master from Taiwan come and design the teas,” said Cherng. “He spent two weeks with us perfecting them.”

TEABIZ_ART_PandaExpressTeaBarMenuThe tea bar in the innovation store serves cake and pastries from a local baker but will soon start producing its own items. In the remodeled dining area customers can order orange chicken burritos and bacon and Shiitake Kale Chicken Breast which are also available at their stores nationally.

Executive Chef Andy Kao promises “menu choices that will fuel your body and feed your soul.”

In May he introduced thick cuts of applewood smoked bacon to the Orange Chicken staple. In Pasadena diners can “choose from a selection of sauces that include green onion with ginger, reminiscent of a Hainan chicken sauce, and a fiery red chile Sambal paste. You can also add pickled cucumbers, green papaya slaw, crispy wontons, crispy shallots and crushed peanuts,” reports Daily Dish reporter Jenn Harris.

In Pasadena lines formed for the scallion pancake orange chicken wraps, salads and boba. Bases include salad, scallion pancake wrap, rice and chow mein. Mains include orange chicken, Beijing beef, honey walnut shrimp, kung pao chicken breast, broccoli, string beans, grilled veggies, stir-fry chicken breast or Angus steak with vegetables, or grilled chicken or steak.  All of the stir-fries are made to order in giant woks.

TEABIZ_ART_PandaExpressLogoItems come in a large size, which includes two mains and a base for $7, or small, with one main and a base for $5.80. Panda Express is the fastest growing Chinese restaurant concept in America.

Source: Los Angeles Times, Panda Express

Amazing Race Canada Stops for Tea

Television producers know that afternoon tea is “in” and so this week’s Amazing Race Canada made a stop at the Fairmont Empress in British Columbia into a formidable challenge.

Winnipeg’s Cormac Foster was stymied at the task of reciting the Afternoon Tea menu verbatim. Selections included roasted bone-in ham with tarragon dijonnaise and a cucumber and ginger mascarpone on butter brioche. His mother and partner Nichole watched the 19-year-old stumble through 10 attempts before advancing to the next challenge.

The event pits 11 pairs on a cross-country tour with a $250,000 prize to the winners, round-trip tickets on Air Canada and a pair of Chevy Silverado pickup trucks with gas for life from Petro-Canada.

Source: The Canadian Press

First Flush Bottled Shincha

Ito En has introduced for a limited time a ready-to-drink first flush shincha green tea.

TEABIZ-ItoEn_Oi Ocha Shincha BottleIn Japanese, “shin” means new and “cha” means tea.  Shincha’s singular character derives from its harvest starting in early April, when young green tea leaves contain naturally higher concentrations of nutrients and vibrant flavors, the result of wintertime dormancy.  Fresh Shincha leaves are distinct from latter-harvested green teas, with a subtle sweetness attributed to a higher content of the amino acid L-theanine and a lower caffeine content. The rich and vividly green tea leaves are not only fragrant and fresh in taste, but higher in Vitamin C and catechin antioxidants than regular green tea.

“Americans’ evolved palates are appreciating the flavor nuances among green teas, making this the optimal time to introduce Shincha in a modern and convenient way,” says Rona Tison, senior vice president of Corporate Relations of ITO EN (North America). “Authentically brewed and bottled to preserve the young green tea’s essence, Oi Ocha’s Shincha is an experience like no other.”

“Shincha offers the ultimate tea experience for us Japanese,” says celebrity Chef Matsuhisa of Nobu Restaurants.  “I am pleased that it has made its way to America as the fresh aroma and flavor is truly unmatched. Its smooth and clean finish truly complements the purity of our cuisine.”

Oi Ocha’s Shincha is available in 16.9 fl oz. BPA-free, recyclable bottles at select retailers.

Learn more at www.itoen.com

A $300 Pot of Tea

London’s Royal China Club is offering a pot of Da Hong Pao for £180 ($300), according to the Daily Mail.

The tea was aged 80 years according to the restaurant spokesman who explained that Da Hong Pao dates to the Qing Dynasty where it was reserved for honored guests.

The tea is handmade from tender leaves, withered, tumbled, curled and baked in small batches over charcoal to create an aromatic infusion with distinctive dark cocoa notes, a toasted fruity flavor and a long smooth aftertaste that lingers for several minutes after consumed, said sommelier Peter Chan.

The Royal China Group restaurants are known for their dim sum and 18 types of artisan teas priced from $8 for service for two.

Source: Daily Mail

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Tea Beverages are Bubbling — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of  July 7, 2014 —

Market researcher Technomic reports Beverages are Bubbling Korea signs a trade agreement recognizing organic “equivalency” with USDA… Political outcry accompanies word of starvation deaths on India’s abandoned tea estates but no solutions are advanced…Suja Juice launches the first biodynamic, cold brewed, organic, non-GMO, cold-pressure teas…India’s May tea production tallies are down 12% following a 25% decline in April.

Bubbling Beverages

Chicago-based food service market research firm Technomic’s  mid-year survey of menus identified six trends including this assessment of specialty teas.

TECHNOMIC, INC. LOGOBeverages Bubbling Up: Specialty teas; lemonade-and-iced-tea blends; restaurant originals such as housemade sodas; smoothies beyond fruit, featuring surprising ingredients ranging from kale or peanut butter – all are seeing increases in menu incidence. Fast casuals lead the way: Pret A Manger added Beet Beautiful Juice with apple, carrot, beet and ginger; Grand Traverse Pie Company unveiled a Pie Smoothie; and Panda Express is testing an in-store tea bar. When it comes to adult beverage trends, hops rule; IPAs and other hoppy craft beers are proliferating in many incarnations.

Also making the list:

Shrinking menus (selections trimmed at casual dining chains)
The next sriracha  (hotter peppers, spicy mayo, aoili)
Asian-style small plates
(dim sum style)
Brand name novelty snacks (Girl Scout Cookie cupcakes, Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt)
Barbecue Love (authentic regional interpretations)

Learn more: Technomic Digital Resource Library

Organic Equivalency

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) last week welcomed a new organic equivalency arrangement between the United States and Korea, saying it reopens a critically important Asian market for U.S. organic processed food products, and will create jobs and opportunity for the American organic food and farming sector.

“We extend our thanks and congratulations to the officials at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative for their success after a year of rigorous negotiations,” said Laura Batcha, CEO and Executive Director of OTA. “OTA and the U.S. organic industry have worked diligently to help make this happen. This new pact streamlines the trade of organic processed food products between the two countries while still upholding the highest standards of organic oversight. It’s a win for the organic sectors and for the consumers of both nations.”

Estimates are that under the new streamlined trading system made possible by this arrangement, American exports of organic processed foods and beverages to Korea, which were valued at around $35 million in 2013, will more than double over the next five years.

The U.S.-Korea equivalency arrangement was formalized on June 30.

Korea is the fifth-largest foreign market for U.S. agricultural products. The organic equivalency pact is in addition to the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement signed in March 2012.

Source: Organic Trade Association, USDA’s NOP website.

 Suja Biodynamic Teas

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – Suja Juice Co. has launch of its first line of cold-brewed, organic, non-GMO Project Verified and cold-pressured teas. The four new tea flavors, Chunmee Tropical, Honeybush Peach, Jasmine Pomegranate and Unsweetened Biodynamic Black are available exclusively at Whole Foods Markets nationwide as a part of the Suja Elements™ organic, non-GMO, cold-pressured line.

SUJA JUICE CO.The Unsweetened Biodynamic Black flavor is Whole Foods Market’s first Demeter Certified Biodynamic® ready-to-drink tea.  As with all other Suja Elements flavors, 20 cents from each bottle of Suja Elements tea sold will be donated to select charities as part of the Suja Elements Cause Collective™.

The line was co-developed with Whole Foods Markets. Retail price is $3.99 per 12 ounce bottle. In April 2014, out of its thousands of national suppliers, Whole Foods Market named Suja its “Non-Perishable Supplier of the Year” for outstanding performance, expertise in the industry, commitment ethical sourcing and partnership in product development.

Source: Suja Juice Co.

Assembly Outcry Follows Starvation Revelations

Reports of starvation deaths on abandoned tea gardens enraged members of the Assembly and led India’s press to shine a light on conditions in gardens in Darjeeling the Dooars and Terai.

The Times of India conducted an investigation detailing the plight of workers on several gardens, reporting widespread malnutrition, disease and 14 starvation deaths at Bundapani Tea Estate with 10 at Dheklapara Tea Estate. Both gardens are in Alipurduar.

Many tea workers on these estates have attained the age of retirement and have nowhere to go as their pensions are held up after companies closed the gardens, reports the Times. “The younger people receive INRs1,500 per month under the FAWLOI (Financial Assistance for Workers of Locked Out Industrial Units) scheme. When I went to register, I was told that I am not eligible as I have crossed the age of 58. What about my years of service that were left when the garden shut down? How am I supposed to take care of my family?” tea worker Ram Tanti at Dheklapara told the newspaper. The garden has been closed 14 years.

The revelations caused political outcry. In the Assembly Opposition Leader Surjya Kanta Mishr, with the Left Front, said that 120 starvation deaths on tea gardens have been reported to the state in the past three years. Twenty gardens have closed during the Trinamool Congress, he said.

Food Minister Jyotipriya Mullick said the deaths had nothing to do with starvation, according to reports in The Hindu. Workers continue to receive allotments of kerosene, rice and 125 grams of sugar per person, he said.

Dr. Mishra countered that the rice is unfit to eat. He led a walkout of Left Front MLA’s who protested, holding up posters asking “why will the workers of tea gardens die of starvation”

“The deaths in tea gardens used to occur in the past. The situation has changed now but more change is required,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Partha Chaterjee. He said the situation in the tea gardens had worsened during the 34 years of the Left Front government and they had no right to talk on the issue.

Mullick has assigned three food inspectors to visit the gardens in North Bengal and make weekly reports.

Under the Tea Act, the Tea Board of India can assign new owners to any estate that has failed for a period of three months. However, new owners face difficult challenges repairing gardens abandoned since the 1990s. Litigation complicates financing, factories require extensive repair, the most skilled workers have departed and untended bushes are costly to replace and will not produce acceptable tea for three or more years.

Tea Association of India Secretary General PK Bhattacharya told the Times that most gardens cannot reopen without a concerted effort from state and federal governments.

As many as 30,000 workers remain in housing on 23 gardens abandoned in the past several years.

Sources: The Hindu, The Times of India

Tea Production Down

200px-Flag_of_IndiaKOLKATA, India – India’s unusually dry weather led to a 12% drop in tea production in May, according to the Tea Board.

Production in May fell to 91.4 million kilos, down from 103.7 million kilos in 2013. April production was down 25% compared to the previous year.

The total shortfall for the country is -8.5% for the period January through May, which includes the entire first flush harvest and much of the second flush.

The India Tea Association reports Assam gardens received 55% less rainfall than normal; Darjeeling received 60% less rain than normal and rainfall totals in the Dooars and Terai were down 40-60%. These conditions make it unlikely that India will match last year’s record output. Because domestic demand for tea continues to grow, the shortfall may hamper suppliers’ ability to maintain quality and meet export commitments.

Source: Tea Board of India

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Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.

Green Tea May Protect Prostate — Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of June 30, 2014 —

Tea garden workers in India abandoned by estate management are starving… Green tea appears to protect the prostate… crafty artists are making ornate flowers out of intricately folded tea packets.

Empowering Smallholders

DARJEELING, West Bengal – Word this week of the starvation deaths of several tea workers at an abandoned tea garden was refuted by government officials who visited Raipur Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district.

Conflicting accounts and no formal autopsies leave the exact cause of death in question, but the incident has focused attention on the plight of up to 30,000 workers on 23 gardens abandoned in the past several years.

Press reports, including the Times of India, last week described six deaths, including infants, but West Bengal Food and Supplies Minister Jyoti Priya Mallick, on Sunday toured the Raipur Tea Estate with North Bengal Development Minister Gautam Deb and said the deaths were due to disease and illness.

Deb told the The Hindu “there have not been any starvation deaths in the tea garden. I have talked to the family members of six workers who recently died and they told me that they were suffering from illnesses such as tuberculosis and high blood sugar,” said Mallick.

A physician on Saturday confirmed evidence of malnutrition at the garden where workers continue to pluck leaves without a wage.

Like the  460 workers at Raipur there are thousands struggling toj survive on abandoned estates in West Bengal, Kerala and Assam. Tea plantations are mandated to provide shelter, medical care, food subsidies and a minimum wage but once abandoned the resources disappear.

When a garden closes workers with skills operating a tea factory and those young enough to prune and pluck leaves simply move on leaving the weak and less skilled workers to fend for themselves. At Raipur workers continue to pluck leaves without drawing a wage to sell to bought leaf factories.

On Sunday Mallick announced steps to improve the supply of subsidized rations to workers and awarded INRs 5000 ($83) to the families of the dead. A vigilance inspection was ordered at 20 other gardens, according to The Hindu.

The distressed gardens failed during difficult financial times beginning in 2004, reopen periodically and fail.

The government will also try to convince owners of the tea gardens to reopen them, according to Mallick but banks are unwilling to write off the millions in debts and new owners can bear to make good on bad loans and non-performing assets.

The state of Kerala took a different approach, reopening many gardens that had failed mainly by permitting workers ownership. West Bengal had no such success.

Kerala’s experience is powerful testimony to the important work of training smallholders to strike out on their own.

LOGO_ETP Ethical Tea PartnershipLast week the Ethical Tea Partnership and IDH – the Sustainable Trade Initiative announced a very successful pilot program of outdoor classrooms that has trained 48,000 Kenyan smallholders to improve their agricultural skills and to process tea.

ETP announced a coalition of major tea companies would expand the program to 200,000 smallholders in Africa and Asia’s tea growing countries within the next three years.

ETP’s hands-on training in irrigation, composting, plant nutrition and protection from insects has increased yields by as much as a third. The Kenya Tea Development Agency (KTDA) supports the program through 1,600 Farmer Field Schools.

LOGO_IDH The Sustainable Trade Initiative“Tea provides a livelihood for millions of people around the globe. These projects show that the industry is committed to helping smallholder farmers and workers earn a decent wage and farm better, and that it understands that this is fundamental to building secure supply chains and future success,” said ETP Executive Director Sarah Roberts.

Targeted nations include Malawi, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, India and Vietnam. The effort is funded by multi-nationals that include Unilever and Tata Global Beverage and Taylors of Harrogate producers of Yorkshire Tea.

The Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association (CISTA) is seeking assistance similar to Kenya and Sri Lanka to ensure better execution and monitoring of various tea production and promotional schemes. It will also help initiate a pilot program to develop an alternative market for small tea growers, according to The Hindu Business Line.

This, in turn, will help small tea growers produce better quality green tea leaves and ultimately upgrade themselves from mere green leaf producers to made-tea producers, according to the CISTA release.

In London delegates to the annual TEAm Up conference acknowledged it will take more than government programs to resolve key social and environmental issues affecting the sector. ETP and IDH, joint hosts of the event, updated producers, packers and retailers on the progress of their pioneering projects and explored how action to tackle them can secure supply chains and build brands’ reputation.

“It is amazing to see how the tea industry is making serious efforts and investments to address difficult issues such as wages and smallholder inclusion,” said IDH Chief Executive Joost Oorthuizen. “These and other deeply rooted problems, that only a few years ago were ‘owned’ by civil society groups, are now high on the agenda of the international tea industry. We can use this positive energy by working together, and collaborating with retailers, government agencies and NGOs, who all have a part to play.”

Learn more at: Ethical Tea Partnership

Green Tea Protects Prostate

The American Cancer Society projects that 233,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014. It is the most prevalent type of cancer in men after skin cancer, affecting one in seven men in the course of their lives. Given tea’s reputation as a healthful beverage with powerful antioxidants, it is not surprising that researchers would be considering the potential impact of green tea on prostate cancer.

A new report published by “Metabolomics”in May 2014 found that epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a catechin in green tea, may affect the work of one of the enzymes that powers cancer metabolism.

In many cancer types, the enzyme Lactate dehydrogenase A (LDHA) is present in elevated amounts. LDHA affects the way that the chemical compound pyruvate is processed. Pyruvate is produced in glycolysis and would typically continue to metabolize, giving the body’s cells energy. When cells lack the oxygen they need, pyruvate is instead converted to lactate because of the presence of the enzyme LDHA. Elevated LDHA keeps a process going that feeds the growth and survival of the tumor and also promotes the migration of the cancer cells throughout the body. It is suspected that if LDHA can be targeted, the growth of the cancer cells may be slowed. Researchers believe that treatments that impact LDHA may be important in future therapies.

In this study, led by Qing-Yi Lu of the Department of Medicine at UCLA, EGCG reduced the production of lactate in human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cells (MIA PaCa-2), as well as other metabolic processes such as anaerobic glycolysis, consumption of glucose and the glycolytic rate. It was assessed that the treatment “significantly modifies the cancer metabolic phenotype.”

The National Institute of Health reports being involved with five current trials related to prostate cancer and green tea extracts including studies on early stage prostate cancer, men having radical prostatectomies, and patients with low-risk cancers.

Source: Metabolic consequences of LDHA inhibition by epigallocatechin gallate and oxamate in MIA PaCa-2 pancreatic cancer cells, Metabolomics, Lu, Qing-Yu; Lifeng Zhang, Jennifer K. Yee, Vay-Liang W. Go, and Wai-Nang Lee. Accepted for publication May 2014.

Folded Flowers from Tea Bags

Here is a clever challenge for crafty tea drinkers who like origami. This video shows how to fold square tea wrappers into pinwheel like flowers.

TeaBagWrapperFolding Paper Printables shows you how to make a cute little paper star from just 8 tea bag sized bits of paper. Super easy and novel greeting card or gift wrap embellishment. Just download a beautiful tea bag design from http://paperprintables.com/ and get folding!

Source: Scrap Books, Crafty Attic


Tea Biz serves a core audience of beverage professionals in the belief that insightful journalism informs business decision-making. 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.