New and continuing developments we will see in the speciality tea market 2012:
1. Organic vs. Certified Organic By: The USDA and other organizations will work to increase awareness of the difference between the two descriptions. The difference you ask? Simply using the word “organic” has little or no meaning. Only when a tea has met measurable criteria, and that criteria been verified by an external organization. The increased pressure to use an organic certification body will mean increased costs to small scale artisan tea growers/processors in places like Taiwan and Japan.
2. Harvest date on package: Freshness can be a critical factor in teas, both for its flavor and for other important, valuable compounds. Several companies, like Adagio and Seven Cups have been providing this information either online or directly on the product package. Some companies will even go so far as to tell you the tea master who crafted the particular tea.
3. TRFK306/1, a.k.a. Kenyan purple tea: This new varietal is heartier and high-yieldier than what many Kenyan black tea farmers are growing. This tea will likely get more hype, but will it taste as good? Established tea farmers and tea processors will have to shoulder the time and cost burden for establishing the plants and modifying their processing methods to bring out the best of these new plants. From what little purple tea is on the market so far, I wasn’t impressed. I’m still waiting for the Kenya tea industry to develop a better finished product.
4. Loose leaf teas as slow-food, and the Occupy Wall Street of teas: Although ready-to-drink (RTD) and tea bags will be a popular quick-fix, more people will turn to loose leaf teas because loose leaf teas allow more re-steeps and thereby reduce cost-per-cup. Additionally, loose leaf teas jibe with the current slow-food intiatives. Loose leaf teas display the craft of the tea masters, and as such, promote the little man. That is, when the story of the little man is told. The result being more people taking the time to prepare and appreciate the art and quality of tea.
5. Retailers cage or tame their tea health claims: The USFDA has increased the scrutiny with which they examine health claims on tea packaging and tea retailer websites. Messages of tea promotion will shift more to emphasize the natural, pure elements of tea, along with feel-good taste and refreshment.
6. Taiwan oolong price jump, or fewer offerings: Tariffs on Taiwan tea exports to mainland China will drop to 0 in 2012, and there was a 56% jump in tea exports to the mainland during the first 8 months of 2011. In order to maintain their business relations with Taiwanese growers, don’t be surprised if U.S. tea retailers bring in more Taiwanese red teas. Red (or black) teas may be less popular in China, and would allow U.S. tea businesses to compensate for a loss in oolong volume.
I invite you to prognosticate as well.
Walker Tea Review- a tea blog with tea reviews and tea tastings.
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