Welcome to our new look Tea Newsletter.
We’ve been away for a while but it feels good to be back!
Let’s kick things off by looking to the future and the upcoming trends in tea. Research shows that tea continues to march forward, setting the pace for future consumer trends for the next few years.
Sparkling teas have been launched. This came about in the wake of interest in kombucha and is set to appeal to consumers with an interest in “craft”/artisanal production methods as well as looking for non-alcoholic but refreshing beverages. Brands so far in the niche have positioned themselves to complement craft beer as well as sparkling wine offerings by offering customers to those categories an intriguing alternative.
Edible fruit infusion snacks are being developed. This may sound strange but as the base ingredients of fruit infusions and snacks can serve both purposes this may be a smart way to reduce food waste. These products either combine a conventional teabag along with accompanying dried fruit snack or in other cases could be a single product which can function as either an edible snack or can be dropped into hot water and infused.
Functional infusions aren’t likely to go away either. As consumer interest has very much grown for health-conscious products and tea is strongly associated with healthy living it is looking possible that teas and infusions will find themselves on the intersection between beverages and supplements increasingly often.
It may be no surprise to us, but Brits have been drinking increasing quantities of tea over the course of the lockdowns. Of those polled in December; 27% stated they drank more tea during the lockdowns than before with a further 49% saying the taste had become more important to them than it had been before the lockdowns. What surprised researchers however was that 25-34 year-olds were the highest consuming age group in the survey – which bucks the trend of previous such surveys somewhat.
It tuns out that Brits are also impatient when it comes to their tea making habits! Almost none were found to brew their tea for long enough. The average brewing time of those surveyed was only 1 minute 10 seconds; far short of the 3-5 minutes recommended to fully get the myriad flavours from the leaves. It was found that Mancunians did best at 1 minute 26 seconds, while Bristolians only brewed their tea on average for 47 seconds.
An International Journal of Molecular Sciences study found results that suggested that Green tea could relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis due to its anti-inflammatory polyphenols. We can’t cheer just yet however as further trials and peer review of the results are required before any full health claims can be made.
The British Nutritional Foundation have warned that many healthy foods are being demonised. Those that can be part of a healthy and balanced diet such as baked beans, low fat yoghurt, ready-made pasta sauces and pre-packaged sliced bread are being tarred with a brush because they count as “ultra-processed foods”. While certain types of products like confectionaries would be the sort of familiar fair you would expect to see on such a list, there is concern that giving all these vastly different foods a similar label is unhelpful to consumers. The report continues to highlight the increase of sedentary lifestyles as a cause of poor health.
Many food companies continue face struggles dealing with imports and exports of their goods under the new trading relationship between the UK and the EU. The deal struck between the EU and the UK is unique among those which exist between the EU and other nations and unfortunately it is will likely ensure that the UK and EU will be locked into trade talks for the foreseeable future.
While some commonly traded goods are covered in the 1,246 pages of the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, a great many traded items and services have fallen through the cracks which created delay or even barriers.
In the last 12 months cases of food poisoning have more than halved. The results are not expected to last long term once eating in restaurants/cafes resumes as move to almost exclusively eating at home along with societal focus on cleaning is the cause of this according to Public Health England’s report.
Looking outwards towards the rest of our world, the FAO’s Vegetation Health Index looks at the planet’s vegetation and its health. It is measured from satellite images of the planet and during February has shown much cloud cover over East Africa along with healthy plant life in southern China. There was moderate stress on plant life measured in the tea growing regions of India.
The Kenya Small-Scale Farmer Forum are attempting to sue the Kenyan government at the High Court in Nairobi. The farmers want to oppose a trade deal that has been struck between Kenya and the UK which they claim undermines parts of the Kenyan constitution. Meanwhile the US and Kenya are still in talks to negotiate their new trade agreement.
Kenya’s High Court have ruled that labour unions cannot prevent tea planters like Unilever from mechanising their harvesting. Firms that use mechanical harvesting often face fierce resistance by workers unions due to jobs being lost. Use of plucking machines in Kenya is low despite year-round harvesting and favourable terrain, but concern that this may be changing will lead to massive unemployment in many areas.
The Ethical Tea Partnership and UNICEF have been lobbying the government in Assam to invest more in schools in order to improve the quality of education in the tea estates and surrounding areas. This will include building 113 new schools on the tea estates themselves.
Indian auction prices in 2020 were around 25% higher than in 2019, mostly due to the lower output of the country’s tea growers. As the spring harvest gets underway there is concern from the Himalayas to the Nilgiris about whether the production declines will continue. Currently it is smallholders who have benefitted most during coronavirus as those who were able to harvest received better purchase prices. As many smaller growers are first generation this is a great encouragement to the rural entrepreneurs and some hope this will encourage them to invest more into tea. The shrink in Indian tea output was reflected in the industries in both Sri Lanka as well as Bangladesh; both of which produced less tea than previous years.
India’s e-Auctioneer’s system has now been dealing with digital tea auctions for 5 years, though across the nation it still has its critics. 2020 was the first time the system has had to operate during any kind of large-scale crisis and a few shortcomings have become apparent. The Federation of All India Tea Traders asked for an evaluation of the system. Until the installation of the digital system, tea was still traded in Kolkata at traditional cry-out auctions, much as they had been done since the early 19th century.
As India starts to come out of its lockdown the state railway has come under fire from consumer groups for increasing the fares on many of its popular shorter distance journeys, which the railways claim has been done to discourage unnecessary travel.
Farmers in much of western India continued their protests against the New Delhi government. Laws being disputed could mean an end to the current system where the state procures the crops from the farmers at an agreed minimum sale price. The government has claimed it is open for talks and offered to put 3 controversial laws on hold for a year and a half while the issues are debated.
Despite the rising anti-China sentiment across India following a bloody border conflict last year, China has emerged as India’s biggest trade partner in 2020.
At a gathering in Beijing president Xi Jinping announced that China has declared a victory over “extreme poverty” within the country. There is some debate on where the poverty line is drawn, but in spite of this there has been much praise of the announcement from other world leaders and calls for the EU, US and China to “join hands to help those who need it”.
Hong Kong saw its 4th wave of coronavirus infections after health officials traced it to a small underground collection of linked clubs where older women could dance with young male escorts. The city saw an explosion of over 700 cases because of these “super-spreading” events. The scene and its patrons have not welcomed the public attention as it was one that many inhabitants within the city had previously had little to no awareness of before the outbreak.
China celebrated its Lantern Festival on the 26th of February, which marks the end of the New Year celebrations. The festival is marked (perhaps unsurprisingly) by the lighting of many ornate paper lanterns, answering riddles, dragon lantern dances and families gathering to eat sweetened dumplings. Traditionally this was also one of the only days in which young people could venture out socially and try to find love.
The Nepalese government has continued its efforts to promote Nepal’s tea on the International market by implementing a system that is able to track all farmers, transporters, sellers and retailers of their produce. The trial will run initially for 36 months and it is hoped that the system will help people get engaged with the tea and consider its origins.
Nepal purchased an additional 5 million AstraZeneca vaccines from the manufacturing plant in India at the end of February. Nepal’s vaccination rollout began at the end of January and, but early March 1.4% of the population have received their first dose of the vaccine.
Elsewhere in Nepal there have been concerns after sales of masks and sanitiser have sharply dropped in the country, with many outside of the capital no longer wearing masks when in crowded places.