Despite what I see to be a growth in interest and an increasing trendiness in tea in many parts of the world the woes in tea producing countries are never far from the news. This week the Economic Times report on depressed sales and a drop in prices as tea quality is impacted by the recent heavy rains. The Daily Star in Bangladesh tells the plight of minorities from different areas of India who moved to work on tea estates during the British Raj some 175 years ago and are still reported to be living as virtual slaves with very few rights.
There is, however, some more positive news from Bangladesh and Nepal. Yields in the north-eastern region of the country are on target to beat last years production. Tea consumption has become so popular in Bangladesh that it must now import tea to meet demand. This despite the article's claims that production is up to 2000 kgs per hectare which appears very high compared to other areas which are closer to 500 kgs per hectare. Demand for Nepal tea is staging a comeback after being hit by chemical contamination fears earlier in the year with renewed interest from Europe, the USA and China.
Meanwhile in India, the agricultural department of Meghalaya state have big plans to rival Darjeeling by producing low volume high quality tea mainly on small estates. They describe their teas as superior quality, rich and fragrant aroma with powerful liquor.
Tea producers from Sri Lanka are looking to expand their penetration of the Chinese market. China imported 7.2 million kgs of Sri Lankan tea in 2015 and that figure is rising. The appeal is that the tea is better with milk and sugar than locally produced teas - something that has become very popular in China.
On the subject on tea and sugar there was an interesting article in Marketing Week about Starbucks struggle to establish its iced teas in the UK at a time when there is a consumer backlash against sugary drinks. The quote "It’s a real stretch to present it as a ‘healthy’ product." is very pertinent not just to Starbucks but to the industry as a whole.
Finally a report on the growing popularity of Kombucha in the hipster, health conscious communities of the UK. This probiotic, slightly sparkling, fermented green or black tea is the current big thing and purely coincidentally I am attending a short course on how to make this later in the week.