Tea in The News Week Ending 28 August 2016

Tuesday, 30/08/2016 04:36

Tea news iconA bumper double dose of news this time as I missed last week's deadline.  I start with three stories that have at least some personal association.

It is not often that you come across a tea story concerning Vietnam and it is no surprise that it is a fairly negative one telling how indiscriminate chemical spraying is  having an adverse affect on tea exports.  I know this to be a problem and in many ways harms the reputation of all teas from the country.  Imagine what may be in that supermarket tea you buy!

I was saddened to hear that there are doubts over the future the future of the Tocklai Tea Reserach Centre in Assam.  I had a thoroughly enjoyable and informative morning there a few years ago and found those working there to be exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable.  I hope a solution can be found.

The final connection is rather spurious and concerns an article about Yak butter tea which I tried a few times during a visit to the Diqing Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in Yunnan.  While I understand the practical background to this beverage I think it must be an acquired taste.

Elsewhere in the tea world there were reports of agitating workers and farmers in Nepal and Kenya.  In Nepal tea workers are protesting that their employer had failed to implement the government-set minimum wage of Rs 253 per day (USD2.36) while farmers in Kenya have been 'rioting' over withheld bonus payments; they are paid just 40 cents per kilogram of fresh leaf. .  

Uganda has a different problem where a number of factories are operating well below capacity due to a shortage of fresh leaf.

A curious tale from Chhattisgarh state in India of a women who has apparently survived for 18 years without food and drinking only black tea.  Most definitely a believe-it-or-not kind of story.

Several publications carry a story about a full-time working tea plantation in the USA.  The plantation in Charleston, South Carolina cover 127 acres (51 hectares)  with a climate ideal for tea growing.  Recently there have also been reports of tea cultivation in Germany and the UK.  

Back to India and there was a review in the Indian Express of a documentary that looked at tea, caste, class and gender which looked like it would be very interesting if there was an English language version.  The Business Standard meanwhile included a review of a book entitled 'Empire of Tea: The Asian Leaf that Conquered the World'  

In the book the authors state  "As tea has become modern, it has become quotidian and immiserated. Tea has been reduced to a dependable but superficial experience in which the beverage is of average quality at best."  I have to admit to not understanding the first sentence but the second makes perfect sense. 

No week of news would be complete without the regular how to make the perfect cup and the latest health revelation stories.  The Daily Telegraph in the UK pushes back against what it terms innovation in the world of tea by the addition of vitamins and all-sorts of other matter.  Personally I welcome true innovation but not the marketing mumbo-jumbo of wellness brews that is reported here.  In a similar theme the Daily Mail warns against the health risks of so-called detox teas - who knows whats in them and what affects they have? 

Kyoto University have been giving green tea polyphenol to rats who became very healthy as a result.  From this you may or may not conclude that drinking cups of tea will do the same for you.  The Australian Special Broadcasting Service (which is not the shadowy rapid deployment force that it may sound) has a few tips on keeping your tea in tip-top health condition.

In case you still need both The Week and Belfast Live 'reveal' how to make a proper cup of tea.  My tip: buy good loose leaf tea; use good water and experiment.