Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Thursday, Sep 22, 2005
Agri-Biz & Commodities
Marketing - Standards & Benchmarks
Tea tasting competition showcases S. India's capability
Coimbatore , Sept. 21
THE Golden Leaf India Awards could possibly have been a litmus test when the idea of conducting such a competition was conceived, but it proved to be a revelation to the South Indian tea trade at large.
That South India beat North in tea export volumes is known, but it appears that the domestic trade could boast of these facts and figures only locally, as the `South Indian Tea' tag is `non-existent' outside of India.
"We know the Assam and Darjeeling tea, but only now we recognise that some of the teas from the South are on par with the Darjeeling teas," a member of the jury, Mr James Norwood Pratt of Tea Society in the US, observed.
"We see that South India has never marketed tea on its own. It has always been linked to Assam/Darjeeling. The industry should establish a niche, an identity of its own," he said.
With the Tea Board planning to showcase the teas that bagged the "Golden Leaf India Award" at China, the industry should capitalise on this and compete, he said. This marketing effort should be consistent, he added.
Mr Norwood said about 600 companies were sourcing tea in the US, and the volumes were growing at 20-30 per cent year-on-year.
"America is a tea consuming society. Give them a soft-drinking tea," he said.
"The teas are outstanding, different. South India is capable of producing teas that we prefer," he told Business Line.
On his return, he hoped to convince the US tea trade community to establish working relationship with the members of the trade here.
The iced-tea market in the US, he said, was totally controlled by China.
"But the US market is ready for better teas, in terms of character and flavour. The quality of BOP and Fannings is fantastic. The industry would have to gear up by assuring consistent quality and sustained supply," he said.
The CEO of International Tea Importers in the US, Mr Devan Shah, said the teas from the South would be more suited for the iced and cup teas, as these are sweeter, compared to the astringent teas from Assam.
Mr N. Muira, a member of the jury, said tea consumption was a little over 150 million kg in Japan and a huge chunk of it was being imported from Sri Lanka.
He expressed interest in the orthodox and clonal teas, but expressed disappointment in tasting quality.
"Unfortunately, it is not the season. I am planning to come back towards the end of 2005, at the start of the season for such teas to pick the best."
Some members did express their disappointment about contamination, but by and large the trade has started to gloss over finer issues such as understanding the market need/demand, achieving cup quality and standardisation of grade for a start.
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