The Tea Auction System In India

27Feb07

Tea Auction in Kolkata

If you’ve ever wondered how tea is bought and sold in India, this report from the BBC is a good introduction to how it all works. The article also highlights the ongoing modernisation debate within Indian tea circles.

Note the resistance to the introduction of technology.

“An auction is a bit like a football game so much is going on. It will become like a funeral parlour, everyone will have a laptop, they’ll put in their bids and that’s it, there will be no verbal communication.”

And this:

The senior taster Krisha Katyal with tongue firmly in cheek looks forward to the day when the human taste bud can be mimicked electronically.

There’s something to be said for the old system. After all, traditional floor-based systems are not all bad. Just look at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange managing to combine the open outcry of traders standing in a pit gesturing wildly with more modern electronic systems as a way to effectively set prices. Some even argue that an open-outcry system is more efficient. However, like any other disruptive innovation, tea traders in Kolkata are just going to have to get used to new technology. The challenge is to strike a balance between technology and the long-standing traditions of the auction system. It will be an interesting transition to follow.

Image from: Calcutta Tea Traders Association

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5 Responses to “The Tea Auction System In India”

  1. 1 Bill

    This was very interesting. I usually keep tabs on the Chinese tea economy. Thanks for posting!

  2. Well, thanks for stopping by Bill! I need to start educating myself on pu-erh, so I’ll definitely be visiting your blog more often. I was just gifted a Tibetan pu-erh by a friend in Darjeeling (it didn’t have a label on it, so I have no idea where it was made or how it might taste – I was told it was 30 years old though). So far, I have been too intimidated to make it yet, but now that you’ve posted a handy guide on how to break it up, I am going to try it this weekend!

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