Mixed news this week from India where it is reported that Tea Exports were up in both quantity and value during the first four months of 2016. However, as the Economic Times reports heavy rains continue to plague this year's harvest. India remains a huge tea exporter but home demand continues to be buoyant and in good hands as new ventures seek to shorten the Supply Chain between growers and consumer - something that is very close to my own heart.
Meanwhile in Kenya the Industrial Action continues over the (apparent) refusal of tea companies to pay in full the wage increases awarded to tea-pickers by the Courts. Although there are a number of companies caught up in the dispute the strike action has centred at the James Finlay plantation which is part of UK based multinational Swire Group. Now I understand that there is more than one side to every story but it is an ongoing concern as to the effect cheap tea from these larger plantations impacts those at the sharp end.
As a lover of tea it continues to puzzle me that so many people opt for the tea bag. Not that I feel all superior about but it is shame that the subtleties and range of flavours that tea can offer is lost to the majority of drinkers. An article from Stuff considers whether there is a correct way to drink tea. Personally, I say drink what you like but also experiment and be aware what it is you are drinking. To this end I am always suspicious of exotic flavour blends ( like Peppermint and Licorice) which sound great in theory, or the new cold brew iced teas being offered by Ahmad Teas, as they invariably need contain added flavours to give them the flavour they advertise.
Although there is a large focus on exotic blends I do also detect a growing interest in single origin loose leaf teas which, cards on the table, is what our own business is all about. Hopefully, this interest will inspire curiousity and build awareness of teas from Vietnam. An interesting guide here for restaurants or similar wanting to put together a more thoughtful Tea Menu.
Surprisingly I didn't come across any tea and health stories this week and so as an alternative have been looking at some other uses you can put your tea to. Something that I have dabbled with myself with some pleasing results is mixing up some Tea Cocktails and the article suggests further reserach is warranted. On the other hand Cooking with Tea is something new as far as I am concerned apart from the odd cookie or muffin.
Finally, the Daily Mail encourages UK gardeners to grow and harvest their own tea bushes. The article suggests that the British climate is similar to India and Kenya so it must be changing faster than I feared. A study we did with one of our own farmers showed that the average tea bush yielded something like 30 grams of dried tea each year and the advice might be filed under interesting rather than practical.