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New India: Fast becoming every country’s cup of tea

 Dominick Rodrigues |  2014-09-28 21:13:06.0  |  New Delhi

New India: Fast becoming every country’s cup of tea

Some things are not ‘everyone’s cup of tea’, sometimes they are just a ‘storm in a teacup,’ or maybe simply time to ‘wake up and smell the coffee,’ go the familiar sayings.  But the second edition of the World Tea & Coffee Expo held in Mumbai highlighted all three sayings in showcasing the best in tea and coffee for international and national growers, brewers and sellers, who made a beeline for the economic hub of India to highlight their offerings to visitors and buyers. Considered to be India’s sole international trade show dedicated to the Tea & Coffee sector, the current edition of this Expo witnessed the participation of countries like Italy, Australia, Dubai, Rwanda, and Switzerland, besides India.


The World Tea & Coffee Expo did brisk business this year with turnover increasing by 75 per cent  to Rs 70 crore in 2014 from Rs 40 crore last year. The number of exhibitors increased to 40 this year from 35 last year, besides visitors footfalls rising to 4,100 from 3,000 last year.

Liu Youfa, consul-general of China in Mumbai, who was the chief guest at the event,  highlighted the great scope for bilateral trade in the Tea & Coffee sectors  between India and China where both countries are big producers and consumers of hot beverages, even as both the Asian giants are witnessing significant lifestyle changes.

Describing tea and coffee as the modern factors for association and diplomacy alongside being a media for get-togethers in strengthening friendship, he said China is working through the heads of both countries -- Narendra Modi and the Chinese President – to share visions, strategic partnerships and cooperation in sectors like manufacturing, agro-tourism, renovating railways and so on.

Narrating interesting tea and coffee history, he said ‘Tea and coffee were discovered in China 4,007 years ago and, in 1961, geologists discovered living tea that was 1,734 years old, while India too had discovered such living tea that was over 1,000 years old. Thus Both countries had contributed jointly to tea culture.’

‘I used to be a country doctor and tea has miraculous functions of giving youth, cancer prevention, antibiotic and stimulating effects. India, China and Sri Lanka should work together to promote tea culture through joint production, sharing technology and efforts in marketing, specially in ‘Green Tea’ which is the market of the future. China has produced 35 varieties of tea and has the capacity to share technology and knowhow in the present competitive age of globalization,’ he added.

Ms. Saroja Sirisena, consul-general of Sri Lanka, who was also present at the Expo, noted that both India and Sri Lanka can share their natural advantage to increase bilateral trade in the Tea & Coffee sectors. ‘Trade exports both ways between Sri Lanka and India- 80 per cent of which is from India and focuses mainly on tea. For many decades, Ceylon tea was our main export, though our export basket has diversified today. Tea culture, which came in from China in 1824, was the main item during the British period and which witnessed 90 per cent of it being exported. There is space for Ceylon tea in India as we are providing value-added tea while also catering to a niche segment in this country,’ she told Millennium Post, adding that CIS countries, Europe, Middle East, Russia, Iran are Sri Lanka’s biggest export market.

While we cannot compete pricewise in the tea market globally, we are committed to adhering to environment-protection in our reputation for the ‘Cleanest Tea in the World.’ Protection of Geographical Indicator (GI) for ‘Ceylon Tea’ is maintained in Sri Lanka, but in other countries, this tea is adulterated and sold cheaply. So only legal networks can strengthen and protect such brands in this regard, she said.

‘Besides tea, our apparel (including women’s undergarments) is also coming to India in a big way
where we resource from India and other parts of the world, besides spices where we are one of the largest producers of cinnamon and are looking at producing its essential oils.  Along with tea being Sri Lanka’s number one hard currency earner, tourism is another supporting attraction that ensures that Sri Lanka witnessing over a million tourists coming in from around the world,’ she added.

R C Agarwal, of FAITTA, said Tea originated in China which became the largest producer of this leaf by beating India with production of between 300 tonnes to 400 tonnes. India achieved tea production of 1,200 tonnes last year but China’s production increased by four times in the same period. The time had come now for tea-exporting countries to work together in allowing free flow of tea/coffee globally and thus ensuring the growth of its consumption widely.

An interesting participant at the Expo was ‘Sussegado Coffee’ from Goa which highlighted- besides its Portuguese name (Sussegado is Portuguese for ‘Relaxing’)- its ‘Limited Edition, Single Estate Reserve Coffee’ that is sourced from the gently sloping mountains of Karnataka in southern India, the birthplace of coffee in this region. ‘The carefully selected, highest quality Arabica AA whole beans are roasted in small batches to reveal their perfectly-balanced intensity. With hints of sandalwood, orange and chocolate in aroma, this coffee has low acidity and round full body, is highly-sought and loved by coffee connoisseurs the world over for its exotic flavor and taste. This coffee represents responsible, sustainable and fair farming as it is certified by Rainforest Alliance and UTZ,’ said Devika Dutt of Sussegado Coffee.

Yet other unique products included: ‘Monsooned’ coffee beans that ‘have been exposed to moisture-laden winds during the monsoon months in order to recreate a taste and flavor loved  by Europeans in the 1950s, when green coffee was shipped from the port of Malabar to Europe. During this long sea voyage, exposure to the heavy monsoon winds used to make the green beans swell in size, turn a pale golden yellow and acquire its distinctive earthy nutty flavor.

Tea has an ancient heritage that dates back to a thousand years with a rich cultural history. International Tea Committee figures show that the global consumption of tea jumped 60 per cent between 1993 and 2010 with significant growth being forecast as more people became consumers of tea. Today, its’ economic and social impact has become very significant where, being currently grown in 35 countries, the tea industry provides a vital source of employment and export earnings, often in some of the world’s poorest countries.

A vast chain of people have a relationship with tea – not just consumers, but also growers, pickers, suppliers, traders and sellers – impacting on the lives and well-being of millions of people across the world. However, the future of this much-loved beverage is uncertain. The tea industry faces unprecedented challenges; a shift in consumer demand and habit, a changing climate, resource constraints and mechanisation of farming are converging to put pressure on an industry which recognises it needs to act if it is to create a sustainable future.

The production and consumption of tea will face many challenges in the future and the sector needs to deliver a resilient value chain able to collectively manage its risk, particularly from climate change. Tea needs to play its part in reducing emissions – from the processing of tea leaves and transportation, to the boiling of water.

How the market functions for tea is central to not only the price paid but also returns and cash flows to producers, how risk is managed and the liquidity and investment in the sector. A sector that produces a hero crop will help develop and deliver sustainable market mechanisms that provide wider sustainability outcomes than just financial ones.

Today, more than three billion cups of tea are consumed every day, in all types of varieties- from Earl Grey, Iced Tea and Assam, to Lapsang, and now ready-to-drink tea. In China, hosts drink tea to honour guests or celebrate significant life events. In Japan, the tea ceremony- or Chado- is revered for its connection with Zen Buddhism. The preparation and serving of matcha tea, for example, is elevated to performance art with an emphasis on aesthetics and harmony. In Russia, it’s about drinking strong, black tea from a Samovar. In Morocco, drinking mint tea is a national pastime. In England, taking ‘afternoon’ or ‘high’ tea is still a celebrated occasion.

Today, it is the economic and social importance of tea production that is so significant. Currently grown in 35 countries, the tea industry provides a vital source of employment and export earnings, often in the world’s poorest countries. And a vast chain or network of people have a relationship with tea- not just consumers, but growers, pickers, traders and sellers- impacting on the lives and well-being of millions of people across the world.

However, the future of this much-loved beverage is uncertain as the global tea sector faces some unprecedented challenges. Tea is grown in some of the countries most vulnerable to future climate change making it more susceptible to volatile weather conditions. Tea producers have already had to turn to irrigation for a previously rain-fed crop, making them more vulnerable to any water shortages in the future. The land on which tea is grown is likely to have to compete with other food crops to feed a growing population.

Dominick Rodrigues

Dominick Rodrigues

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