A Call for Standards – Need to Know

What tea professionals need to start the week of Dec. 8, 2014 —

A Call for Standards

By Austin Hodge

The last decade has seen a boom in what the industry calls ‘Specialty Tea’, but if you ask for a definition you will come away confused.

What is so special about ‘Specialty Tea’?

Not much. A close examination reveals commodity tea that has been adulterated in some way, typically by blending ingredients such as pieces of fruit, exotic herbs or flower petals. Since the ingredients are dried, tea blenders spray (yes, spray) on lots of flavor. I’m using the word “commodity” to include any large-scale tea where the production goal is quantity over quality. There are great quantities of traditional tea growing in every tea producing country. These include green tea, puer tea, wulong tea, white tea well as black tea. There are also an endless variety of herbals incorrectly labeled teas.

Why set standards for ‘Specialty Tea’?

Without standards, the market faces chaos. Where would France be if it had not established standards for wine almost 500 years ago? Italy followed suit and prospered. Stop and think, would the debate over which is better — Italian or French wine — have turned out differently if the Italians had been the first to set standards?

Picking Standard for Breakfast Qimen Tea

Picking Standard for Breakfast Qimen tea is two leaves and bud

It’s important to understand that standards not only define products, they establish markets, and whoever defines a market, controls it. It is undebatable that the French have created admirable markets for their wine, as have, more recently, specialty coffee retailers.

The chaos in the ‘specialty’ tea market comes from the fact that no one, from buyer to seller, actually knows the value of the tea they are buying or selling, or how to clearly establish its value. Price is derived mostly from marketing — price is certainly not based on the quality of the tea. In a practical sense, words like “quality”, “value”, and, “excellence” have been watered-down into obscurity as much as “specialty.”

Nowadays, tea is whatever the merchant says it is, opening a lot of ground for dubious interpretation. In contrast, standards are consistent and independently verified. The specialty coffee industry has done an excellent job of establishing standards, which has lead to levels of excellence and increased profitability enjoyed by the entire coffee industry.

∞ ∞ ∞

Coffee and tea both began as rarities for the rich, evolved into commodities for the masses and are gradually becoming artisanal offerings – the choice of connoisseurs.

Everyone my age remembers that back in the day, coffee was either the Red Can (Folger’s) or the Blue Can (Maxwell House). There were neighborhood diners and corner cafes where a cup of coffee cost a quarter. This was coffee’s “First Wave.” Americans annually drank an average of 10 lbs. of coffee per person. Per capita consumption was measured by the gallon because the efficiencies of the commodity model made it cheap.

The turning point was 1974 when independent coffee shop owners established a standard for “Specialty Coffee.” The adoption of standards launched the “Second Wave.” Pioneers such as Alfred Peet at Peet’s Coffee & Tea, Starbucks, and Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf would not exist without these standards. Innovations in growing, sourcing, roasting, packaging, and coffee brewing followed.

The market for specialty coffee was more sophisticated, resembling its European counterparts. Coffee of this quality command a higher price; it no longer had to be cheap. Thus “quality” coffee became easily distinguishable from commodity coffee.

The term “Third Wave” was coined around 2002 when small coffee businessmen traveled to coffee farms to source direct and eventually became experts in every aspect from growing to roasting to brewing. This took the small retail coffee businesses to a new profitable level that could differentiate itself from the like of Starbucks and company. Once in control of the entire supply chain, not only did standards raise retail margins for retailers, the discovery of great coffee also opened the door for a respectable wholesale business selling to other quality businesses whose business models did not include working the complete supply chain.

The “Third Wave” aspires to an even higher level of coffee experience. It begins with direct sourcing. Only direct sourcing can insure quality and answer questions about fair trade and farming methodology with confidence. Third wave coffee also places high value on production and preparation: the goal is to get the best possible cup. Third wave coffee owes its existence to Starbucks for building the market for better coffee, and for establishing the benchmark. Retailers exceeding that level could not profit in the market that Starbucks created. Third Wave roasters realized they needed to get a whole lot better to beat Starbucks, and to do so they needed expertise and transparency along the entire supply chain.

Similarly, two years ago Starbucks changed the tea market dramatically for small independent tea businesses when they bought Teavana. From here on, every small tea business is going to be defined in relation to the nearest Teavana, like it or not.

Picking standard for LiLi Xiang tea

Picking standard for LiLi Xiang tea is three top leaves

The difference between coffee and tea is that there are no standards that give tea business the tools to beat Teavana. Starbucks redefined the market for coffee on almost every level. They will do the same for tea. Small tea businesses and major tea corporations alike are going to feel the heat. Without standards, Teavana, with its extraordinary marketing muscle, can define tea quality any way they want.

If standards for specialty tea mirrored the standards for specialty coffee the only tea that could quality as “specialty” is tea judged to be within the top 20%. Most of the tea sold as specialty tea in the West would be disqualified. Just as there is with coffee, few multimillion dollar companies are going to support standards for quality in the tea industry.

Why would they?

Tea’s “Third Wave”

In the spring of 2014, Jesse Jacobs of Samovar Tea, wearing a cream-colored canvas apron over a fashionable t-shirt, announced the coming of the tea industry’s Third Wave.

But can the tea industry really be on the verge of entering into a movement equivalent to that of the coffee industry? Even though both tea and coffee have the Starbucks Corporation in common, it is going to take the tea industry a very long time to catch up to the sophistication of the coffee industry. The discussion about standards for ‘Specialty Tea’ has not even begun.

Picking Standard for Liu An Gua Pian. The second opened leaf is picked as soon as it matures to the size of a pickers thumb

Picking standard for Liu An Gua Pian. The second opened leaf is picked as soon as it matures to the size of a picker’s thumb

Looking forward, a profitable market for small tea businesses will require standards. These need to be objective, understandable, and replicable. Standards provide growers with a definable goal for crops and harvesting. Standards enable tea makers to formulate products clearly identified by buyers, which give the producers incentive to get better. Direct sourcing will become increasingly important for the tea businessman. Consumers will actually know what they are paying for and where it originated.

Establishing standards brought extraordinary advantages to coffee growers including unimaginable financial success. A small Brazilian coffee grower this month won the Alliance for Coffee Excellence’s 100th Cup of Excellence (COE) competition to earn $50.20 per pound at auction, the highest price ever paid per pound for COE coffee. He took home $106,000 in a country where the per capita income is less than $1000 per month. What is noteworthy is that Brazil is the largest commodity coffee producer in the world. Think what standards for quality would mean for small holders in India and Africa, areas still economically strangled by the colonial commodity system. Establishing an objectively evaluated standard establishes value that can be communicated thru the supply chain to the customer. Excellence is the reward.

China is realizing the benefits of standards in its domestic market for tea right now. Their tea industry was destroyed through a 150 years of war and internal strife. As China recovered following World War II and the Mao era, tea was mediocre at best across the country. More than a decade ago China set standards for quality and freed tea makers to create and profit from their own business. Since then, China has experienced a renaissance in tea making: tea being produced for the domestic market is the best it has ever been in history; China has become the largest tea producing country in the world, gets the highest prices for its tea, and has the highest average price for tea. China has the best teas in the broadest categories; it has defined standards, and grows the largest percentage of tea using traditional, chemical free growing practices.

The coming of standards is inevitable. Small businesses that are dedicated to quality in real terms, not just in the marketing of their products, will benefit.

It took years for standards to impact coffee, but things will move quicker with tea due to the benefits of the information age. The tea industry is ready for professionals to lay the groundwork for “Third Wave” tea. Let’s leave it to Teavana to push the second wave along in building the market, like their parent company did.

What is great about getting the ball rolling towards standards for quality and, eventually — excellence — is that small businesses that are struggling to establish new business models need not worry, for the best practices for quality in the tea industry go beyond the reach of corporations, economies of scale, and deep pockets of marketing departments. Standards are the essential tool for the tea entrepreneur.

So become a pro, take some Chinese classes, and get you passport up to date, and by all means study the Specialty Coffee Industry. They have become experts in coffee on every level. You might want to remember that this year Peet’s hired a woman that is fluent in Chinese and has a masters degree in tea from Zhejiang University.

Standards, direct sourcing, transparency, expert level knowledge about tea and its culture, logistical mastery, inventory management expertise, and tea preparation skills are all requirements for ushering in tea’s third wave. Herein lays opportunity, challenge, and the promise of excellence. Let’s hope tea entrepreneurs’ passion for tea is strong enough to take them where they’ll have to go.

Austin Hodge is the founder of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea in Tucson, Ariz. http://www.sevencups.com

Copyright Austin Hodge.

∞ ∞ ∞

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. License 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.

Production

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

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.”

TEABIZ_NTK_140922_RichardDarlington

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.

Pesticides

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.

TEABIZ_NTK_140922_TonyGebely

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%.

∞ ∞ ∞

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.

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.

TEABIZ_NiagaraFalls

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.

∞ ∞ ∞

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

Mango/Mirabelle

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.

Matcha

Premium Matcha

Aiya America, Torrance, Calif.

Pan-Fired Green Tea

Illohyang

AMORE PACIFIC OSULLOC, New York City

Sencha

Sencha Supreme

International Tea Importers, Pico Rivera, Calif.

Steamed Green Tea

Premium Gyokuro

Aiya America, Torrance, Calif.

Unflavored Herbal Blends

Refreshment

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.

∞ ∞ ∞

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.

∞ ∞ ∞

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.

∞ ∞ ∞

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

∞ ∞ ∞

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

∞ ∞ ∞

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.