Lucky You!

24Jan07

If you’re reading this blog from the United States, and you like tea – then you should consider yourself rather lucky. Richard Guzauskas, the chairman of the Specialty Tea Institute correctly points out a major disparity in the availability of specialty teas between nations that do not produce tea and those that do. He says:

It was interesting to note however, that my Chinese and Sri Lankan friends, both accomplished professionals and tea tasters, both experts on the teas from their own regions, were not familiar with the teas of each others nations.

We really do live in a melting (tea) pot. In Calcutta, one of the major export hubs for Indian tea (and the city where I grew up), it’s quite difficult to find a good Indian tea in a local shop, let alone Chinese or Japanese or Korean) because most of the good stuff is exported.

No real point here – just that we’re pretty lucky to be in a place where good tea is relatively easy to find (if you know where to look). On the flip side, mediocre tea is also rather ubiquitous in America – just browse the shelf of your local supermarket.

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5 Responses to “Lucky You!”

  1. 1 JD Mason

    lol so true – “No real point here – just that we’re pretty lucky to be in a place where good tea is relatively easy to find (if you know where to look). On the flip side, mediocre tea is also rather ubiquitous in America – just browse the shelf of your local supermarket.”

    It’s also rather ubiquitous everywhere else on earth except in the world’s two largest tea exporting countries – Sri Lanka and Kenya – that are literally forced to export the vast majority of their tea crop.

    I’m a tea expert after 35 years in the trade and have lived in Ceylon and Kenya for job posts over the decades and assure that these are the only two countries I know of on earth where great teas are by default forced on the consuming public. And the funniest thing about that is visitors not in the tea trade who’ve spent some time in either of those two countries return home raving about their discovery that there’s great tea in the world – it’s just the nature of the tea trade that makes those teas virtually impossible to find by garden / factory mark / grade if you’re located in a non-producing tea import country and not fluent in the vagaries of the international tea trade.

    Great blog! Even tho I disagree with the inference of its title lol – tea is very complicated in fact; and finding the world’s greatest teas without being a tea professional who’s been responsible for managing his own tea estates and factories or been responsible for trading weights in excess of 1,000 MT/pa annually for decades is a virtual impossibility.

    It’s gotten even more complicated by the lightening-fast rise of the so-called “specialty tea” global market segment – there are far too few specialty tea people in organizations like the STI who remain essentially clueless about great teas.

    A good rule of thumb to sort the “nouveau educated” from the trusted suppliers is to ask them two very telling questions: (1) “do you or your company now or have you ever had ownership equity in any tea producing companies – which ones and where?” (2) “how many years have you spent working in the tea industry in any of the world’s top ten producing countries?” If the answer to the first is “no” and the answer to the second is anything less than three to five years in all, you need not go further – the person isn’t a tea expert and will most probably give you self-serving or inexact info regarding tea.

  2. JD – Thanks for the comment, and for visiting our blog.

    Great information about Sri Lanka and Kenya. As far as the inference of the title, I couldn’t agree more that tea is very complicated – and that’s precisely why our company tagline is “tea. uncomplicated”. I think that all too often tea is marketed as this highly complex drink (which it undoubtedly is), but it’s that very complexity that I think turns off many potential drinkers. So I want people to appreciate it for what it is, and not be so concerned about “garden / factory mark / grade”.

    As tea professionals, it is our job to seek out what you call “the world’s greatest teas” and present them to drinkers in a way that can be understood. I don’t think marketing tea with a title of “SFTGFOP1” resonates with most people or even makes them think it’s better in any way than another tea, but that’s just our opinion. At the end of the day, I think folks in the tea marketing business need to take themselves a little less seriously and have some fun marketing tea. That is happening now in the US and I think it’s the reason for tea’s remarkable comeback here.

    Re: “sorting out the ‘nouveau educated’ from the trusted suppliers”, I’m not sure I agree with your first question about ownership equity in a tea producing company. Could you explain how equity in a tea producing business makes you any more qualified to be a trusted supplier? Your second point is well taken – experience definitely counts. Incidentally, we can answer in the affirmative to both the questions – our tea buyer has 38 years of experience in the tea industry – as a tea taster for Brooke Bond, the Chief Tea Buyer for Duncan Brothers and the CEO of a private specialty tea blending / export business.

    JD – I am intrigued by your extensive tea industry experience (not to mention that I’m really honored that you stopped by our blog!) Would you mind sharing a little more about your role and perhaps where you worked? It is a small world after all.

  3. Hello
    I’m enjoying your site. Thank you for your interest in T Ching, as I see we’ve been getting some activity from your site. I’d love to speak with you personally as I’m always interested in finding knowledgable guest contributors for T Ching. I can be reached at 541.386.0095
    Keep spreading the word about tea!

    Best
    Michelle Rabin – CEO T Ching

  4. Thanks for stopping by Michelle! After being introduced to T Ching by Phyll, I’ve been checking it out regularly (and I hope some of this blog’s readers have too!). You guys have done a great job keeping the site updated and full of useful, timely information. I’m looking forward to the results of the Darjeeling oolong taste-off!

    Warm regards,

    Nikhil


  1. 1 Finally - Good Tea In India? « Tea. Uncomplicated

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