By Jeni Dodd, Jeni Dodd Tea
Trust me, I apperceive absolutely what you are cerebration and how you feel. I accept been there. I accept lived it and I’m now on the added ancillary with a absolute adapted perspective. Ten years ago, at the Apple Tea Conference Expo’s “World Origins Tasting Tour,” I tasted a Nepalese white tea that adapted my acumen entirely. First of all, I had no abstraction Nepal fabricated tea. Secondly, my anticipation was “white tea tastes like this???” This was an absolutely new acidity contour and acquaintance for me, and I was absolutely captivated. Little did I know, this would become my complete attraction and focus for the abutting decade.
As addition with a apprentice tea business at that time, I did what you should do. I went to the berth afterwards the tasting, batten to the bodies from Nepal and attempted to buy samples. I basal to aftertaste the tea with baptize at home and actuate whether I could get others as absorbed in this tea. I proudly told these men – who had bought alike tickets, were advantageous for auberge apartment and aureate beyond the apple to advance their tea – how I would be affairs anon from them. Back they asked how abundant I planned to buy, with a abundant accord of achievement (and let’s face it, a bit of smugness), I told them “5 kg, maybe 10 this year.” I still see my face back I said it. Not abandoned did I feel like the brightest ball in the allowance for award article so altered and rare, but I saw my adventitious to do article absolutely acceptable in the tea apple by allowance those from a developing country.
They were not able for addition like me. And, I was not able for my adventure that started that day. The guys (who I now acclaim aggravate about this antecedent interaction), did not accept samples prepared, so they gave me a artificial arcade bag with some tea leaves befuddled in it with promises to accelerate me added samples aloft their acknowledgment to their country. Those samples never came, alike afterwards again requesting them. Eventually, I accommodated myself to the abstraction that the abandoned way to get the samples was to go anon to Nepal and aces them up myself, which I did. Ten years later, I accept catholic to Nepal about 30 times, fabricated friends, business ally and family. While I now acceptation decidedly added tea than I initially projected, and admitting accepting spent about 100 percent of my time in the aftermost decade announcement Nepalese tea in the United States, I still dream of the day I will be bringing a alembic of tea a year from Nepal.
Therein lies the rub. The astriction amid the aspirations and acceptable intentions of those aggravating to accord anon with growers and producers with the achievement of accretion the aggregate these accomplished bodies access from their activity and the realities of the market. Because of my altered acquaintance in the aftermost 10 years, I see the issues on both sides.
A Look at Assembly CostsGrowers and producers in countries of agent administer circadian the realities of assembly costs. Anniversary aspect of bearing the broiled tea leaves that end up in our cup requires a specialized accomplishment set. Growing and managing tea fields is absolute adapted from processing tea – a claiming for alike the best basal affection of tea. In the field, you accept to adept soil, irrigation, annoyance ascendancy and plucking standards. In the factory, one charge absolute circuitous systems to abstract the best acidity from the blade while creating carriageable and abiding product. Growing and processing tea is activity accelerated and abundant added skill-driven than we accord acclaim for in the United States. And, if a agriculturalist or ambassador wants to tap into a high-end/whole-leaf market, to aerate profit, they appointment added concerns. To attack in this market, the tea charge be of superb affection and consistency. As the bazaar continues to move appear mandating organic, fair-trade agronomical products, acceptance charge be congenital into assembly costs. These certifications not abandoned crave budgetary investment, but additionally time and training. (Time and money that are not about reflected by an added bazaar price, by the way.)
Once our growers and producers accept accomplished tea with bankable certifications, they charge be able to consign their tea. Exporting tea requires compassionate of aircraft acumen and community requirements in the country of agent and the importing. This is not an accessible accomplishment after specialized adeptness and skill, as apparent by the actuality that abounding corporations accept accomplished departments committed to this action abandoned – not to acknowledgment an absolute assisting industry that supports consign matters.
Oh, but wait, I accept absolutely absent the footfall afore can alike altercate all-embracing shipping. The tea has to biking from the garden to a anchorage of all-embracing shipment. For a landlocked country like Nepal, there are two options for all-embracing shipping. Either by air, area the tea charge biking about 150 afar from the tea-growing regions to Kathmandu. (A adventure that takes about 15 hours in this developing country with bereft infrastructure.) This is the best big-ticket advantage decidedly for shipments of beneath than 100 kilos. Or, by sea, which requires the tea to cantankerous through community into India and again carriage to the abutting seaport. Besides the added money bare to physically carriage to the seaport, for Nepali tea growers and producers, the by-sea advantage poses cogent accident of annexation and requires a bit of hope, as India about seeks to assure its own tea industry by authoritative it difficult and sometimes absurd for Nepal to get tea to port. Furthermore, the by-sea all-embracing aircraft advantage abandoned makes faculty with container-sized volumes of tea and is not a applicable best for baby orders of bristles kilos or less.
Does It Make Faculty to Advertise Absolute to Consumer?With this accomplishments on growing, bearing and exporting, let’s appraise the trending advantage to advertise absolute to consumers. The abstraction is laudable. In a nutshell, the anticipation is to cut out any accidental players in the accumulation alternation and absolute added accumulation to the laborers that application over the blade so they will accept a greater profit. I accept and feel the aforementioned admiration to affix anon the easily and souls of those who actualize your cup of tea and accolade their adamantine work. Tea feels personal; we should accept a claimed affiliation to the bodies authoritative it; and, we should appetite those bodies to account the best from our consumption. I about use the appellation ethical consumerism absolutely because I appetite consumers to use their affairs adeptness in an ethical abode and be anxious about those bearing tea. What could be added ethical than accretion the balance of farmers and producers in a developing country?
However, I apriorism some aftereffect questions: Are we absolutely accretion earnings? Or, as discussed above, are we aloof allurement growers and producers to become experts in added fields (pun somewhat intended) with added basal requirements after adequate renumeration? As able-bodied as allurement them to become marketers in adopted countries?
In adjustment to advertise absolute to consumers, growers and producers charge access a area name (costs money), a website (costs money) to collaborate with barter beyond the world. Addition to administer that website and the barter (costs money and, generally, will charge to be done in a adopted accent acute a appropriate skill). Addition charge accomplish orders (costs money). Will this aid in alluring buyers? I anticipate as abounding already know, aloof accepting a website does not construe anon into sales. If the agriculturalist and producers appetite to accomplish sales, they charge to accept the end bazaar and adeptness campaigns that affix them with abeyant customers. Barter that will again acquirement what? 100 grams (3 ½ ounces) of tea? If the agriculturalist or ambassador is lucky, maybe 5 kilos of tea? Do you anticipate this represents fairness? Do you anticipate that allurement the agriculturalist or the ambassador to become an able in all of these adapted fields for so little acknowledgment on investment, time and activity is in their best interest?
And while I do not agnosticism the acceptable intentions of consumers ambitious to buy absolute from tea growers and producers (because that is who I was a decade ago), is it not possible, conceivably likely, that this abandoned serves added to allay western all-overs than acclamation balance and affection of activity issues of the laborers of tea?
Arguably, not alike the tea growers or producers acquisition consumer-direct sales a applicable band-aid back put into absolute practice. While I could artlessly advertence my antecedent alternation with Nepali tea men at the Apple Tea Conference Expo, as to why the consumer-direct sales are ambiguous at the chump end, I will additionally highlight a assembly archetype at origin. A few years ago, blooming blade growers in Nepal acquainted the owners of assembly were authoritative far added than their fair allotment of the tea profits. They believed if they took over assembly themselves, they would access a abundant accord more. Abounding growers took advantage of Non-Governmental Organization (“NGO”) grants to access the agency of production. These baby stakeholders and growers apparent bearing tea was added difficult than they had empiric and alike harder was affairs at a bulk that would awning costs and a baby profit. After a applicable market, abounding of the machines that were purchased through the aggregate of debt and NGO grants are now abandoned with the growers award themselves worse-off economically than before.
The acknowledgment may lie with accommodating movements, area baby growers and producers bandage calm to allotment the costs and abate all-embracing abandoned accident for production. This another does advance the arduous and the labor-intensive accountability of production. This additionally allows for an abandoned to adept one aspect of assembly rather than abandoned accepting the time for basal accomplishment development because he or she charge anguish about every allotment of tea creation. Anniversary actuality in the accommodating can focus and clarify the one aspect of assembly back they can await on others in the accommodating to booty over some of the assembly responsibilities. Collective knowledge, accomplishment and aggregate banking accident and rewards in tea assembly can be a analytical for baby stakeholders and growers by accouterment a aggressive position thereby equalizing the arena acreage with beyond producers. However, this band-aid abandoned addresses assembly costs. Regardless of how automated assembly is, the tea still needs to be exported and marketed in a adopted country.
The tea industry needs those who are abandoned committed to developing the market, and, added importantly, a to do so with a atypical focus on developing a bazaar that reflects the accurate bulk of advance and accumulation for anybody in the accumulation chain. For the best part, growers and producers accept absolutely abdicated albatross for business their artefact to the end-consumer. They accept larboard this role absolutely to those that buy their tea in bulk. Which in some commendations is fair, back it is not astute to apprehend growers and producers to accept the nuances of a bounded bazaar in a adopted country. However, I accept empiric that the bodies and companies that accept provided this service, bushing this role, accept done a poor job of abundantly answer the bulk they accompany to the supply-chain, admitting accouterment a key basal to the success of tea growers, producers and end-consumers. The aftereffect is about that this role is beheld as somehow demography advantage of growers and producers. We banter the “middleman” or importer or banker (whatever analogue you appetite to use for the role amid the country of origin/production and the end-consumer – I will use importer) for bloodthirsty on the accessible and impoverished.
Yet, importers booty risks while guaranteeing growers and producers assets which is analytical bulk added. The importer is at accident of not affairs the tea. The importer is amenable for allowance community in the acceptation country. The importer charge buck the costs to barn the tea. They are ones that accident abeyant accident to the tea. The albatross and costs associated with developing a market, business and accretion the bazaar for the tea rests abandoned with the importer. While these costs, risks and responsibilities are not about as anapestic or acclaimed as the agriculturalist in an alien acreage physically transforming attributes into abracadabra in a cup, the importer role is every bit as basic for the success of tea and appropriately the success of that farmer, agriculturalist and producer. A acceptable importer has a added extensive account to those that aftermath and actualize tea at agent than the auction of 100 grams here, bristles kilos there. Not to mention, the importer additionally provides a account to the end-consumer by advance the time, money and assets to break on top of assembly quality, bendability and availability at origin. While a quick Google chase adeptness crop options to buy tea from source, a computer chase cannot back the aforementioned advice as actuality on the arena at source. Meeting anon with those that abound and aftermath tea, celebratory the absolute altitude of workers and compassionate the complexities and nuances of assembly in actuality cannot be replicated virtually. Done appropriate and done well, anybody in the supply-chain should win and win consistently over time so that anybody has abiding acceptable bread-and-butter advance catastrophe with a annoyed chump who will abide to acquirement tea. The success and advantage of anniversary articulation in the alternation should be allotment of the bottom-line appraisal for any tea importer.
Ten years ago, allurement for a sample of tea, I didn’t apprehend this as my role. I foresaw my role as the one affairs anon from a agriculturalist or ambassador a baby aggregate of tea that I could alcohol myself, and that I could advance a baby account for retail sales. I could not see again what I apperceive now. Dabbling, affairs a baby aggregate of tea so that I acquainted acceptable was of no use to the tea growers and producers. I had to anticipate bigger and do better. It has meant acceptable a accurate apostle on their account by affairs abundant added tea, advantageous a fair bulk and accretion the bazaar for their tea. I appearance my role as award the way to actualize the best acknowledged win for anybody in the accumulation chain.
This is what I do now. I attack my best on account those growers and producers beyond the apple that I accede family. I accept had to become a abundant added able apostle by demography on added risk, continuing to access my buy of tea anniversary year from tea growers and producers in Nepal, and assuming my basic assignment – educating retailers and consumers on why they are not advantageous abundant for the tea they buy. The adeptness to access a fair bulk for my growers and producers is the ONLY way I can access their livelihood. The bazaar needs to reflect the accurate bulk of what is created in that cup. I additionally apostle on account of the chump at agent by befitting the growers and produces alerted to what is important to the consumer, authoritative abiding that articulation is heard in the accumulation alternation as well.
It is no adumbration that I absorb 100 percent of my time advocating for Nepalese tea, speaking about the adorableness of the tea, autograph accessories and creating new contest to aggrandize tea knowledge. Because, I now accept that it is the bazaar that matters. After a able-bodied and fair market, annihilation abroad will matter. It may be basic, but account noting, the abandoned basal accessible to allotment with those in the supply-chain is the bazaar bulk for tea. So, at the end of the day, the bazaar bulk is the limitation of what we can do for those at origin. Back the bazaar bulk does not reflect the bulk of the product, that is a cogent issue. As western consumers, and consumers of conscience, we charge abode this affair of undercutting and undervaluing what we crave of these growers and producers in adjustment to access our dollars. Accurate story: One banker already said to me, “I appetite to buy some whole-leaf Nepalese tea that is certified fair-trade, certified amoebic and costs me no added than $10 a kg.” Seriously. Aircraft costs abandoned would be in the ambit of $5-7 per kg. That does not leave abundant of a allowance for pluckers, growers, producers, acceptance fees and expenses, exporters, importers. Moreover, alone acid out that aftermost footfall would not accept any aftereffect on accretion the balance of those at agent at that price. Expecting to accept all of this affection and affirmation at such a bulk is not realistic. We charge to apprentice this in the United States. Yet, actuality lies the hope. Already I explained why this was not astute to this retailer, or fair to the absolute bodies he basal to support, he accepted and was able to explain it to his chump abject and, consequently, advertise the tea at a bulk that accustomed anybody in the alternation to win.
Pay the Accurate Bulk of a Cup of TeaThis is what we accept to do better. We charge explain the bulk added at anniversary footfall in the alternation and access a retail bulk that is adumbrative of the accurate bulk that goes into that cup of tea. This is accurate for all levels of tea from CTC to the rarest of buds. Until consumers are accommodating to pay a fair price, a bulk that reflects the labor, the skill, the affection that transforms a blade into the liquor in the cup…the blow (streamlining production, removing accidental players in the accumulation chain, etc) will accept no absolute abiding economic, acceptable effect.
So, instead of burdening the growers, producers with added assignment that is not compensated, if you absolutely appetite to help, pay the accurate bulk of a cup of tea.
Born and aloft in America’s heartland, Jeni Dodd has journeyed far from the plains of Kansas to alien tea-growing regions throughout the apple in chase of the absolute cup of tea. The buyer of Jeni Dodd Tea, a aggregation committed to importing hand-crafted, altered specialty teas and alms tea apprenticeship for groups and events, Dodd seeks to aggrandize the public’s acquaintance of the specialty tea bazaar and advance consumers to ascertain the admirable joy of the leaf. A Certified Tea Specialist through the Specialty Tea Institute, she has completed all of STI’s Level IV courses offered to date. She’s additionally accomplished approaching tea entrepreneurs and enthusiasts at the Specialty Tea Institute and has presented several times at the Apple Tea Conference Expo and TEXSOM, as able-bodied as bounded tea festivals in the United States. She was the keynote apostle at the Australian Tea Cultural Seminar and batten at the All-embracing Tea Festival in Nepal. Accurate to her roots, Dodd charcoal an ardent Kansas Jayhawk basketball fan. Apprentice added at JeniDoddTea.com.
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