Green tea & mint: Twinings tunes into new territory

Twinings India, a part of UK-based food major, Associated British Foods, known for its premium-flavoured teabags, is looking at expanding its reach in tier-II cities. The brand is now available in 30 cities. It is targeting to enter 300 cities in the next five years. Twinning is looking at roping in a brand ambassador by January 2010. The company has earmarked Rs 50 crore for the coming five years.

“Our claim to fame is tea for every mood and moment. So far we have 15 varieties in India out of the 200 global blends of tea. In India, Twinings is available in only 30 cities and our next level of marketing is to get into tier-II cities. We are in the process of shortlisting celebrities to rope in a brand ambassador by next year. There is also the option of signing multiple celebrities,” said Suresh Iyer, managing director, Twinings India.

In India, the tea market is estimated at Rs 10,000 crore out of which Rs 4,200 crore is the packaged tea market. Almost 20 per cent of this is the premium tea segment in which super-premium tea contributes as much as 25 per cent. “Globally, India will be the top two market in terms of growth rate in three years. All our efforts will definitely double our growth in three years and triple it in five years,” said Iyer.
According to Iyer, the company enjoys around 35 per cent market share in the premium teabag category, thus making it one of the leading players in the teabag industry in India today. “Although we operate in the super-premium teabag segment, our close competitors would be Tetley from Tata, Taj Mahal from Brooke Bond, Lipton, and Dilmah, a Sri Lankan brand of tea bags,” said Iyer.

The Twinings venture in the domestic market began with brands like Earl Grey, Lemon, English Breakfast and Darjeeling Tea in 1997. In 2002, trial packs of Lemon & Earl Grey were launched in the market with the objective of increasing its consumer base by generating trials. In 2003, Classic Assam was launched in India followed by the launch of Cardamom in 2005. In 2007 the health and wellness range was introduced with green tea, camomile and peppermint. Recently, it has launched interesting flavours: green tea & lemon and green tea and mint.

Financial Chronicle

The nature of black tea

Most people have heard about black tea – but as with many of the tea terms its precise nature may be unclear to many.

So here is a handy guide to the product.

Black tea is one of the four major tea types. The other three are white, green and oolong.

It comes from the dried leaves of Camellia Sinensis, as does green tea, white tea, and oolong tea.

It is basically green tea but the leaves are further dried changing the colour and taste.

Black teas include Lapsang Souchong, Keemun, Dian Hong, Tibeti, Assam, Darjeeling, Ceylon, Kenyan, Vietnamese, Nepalese, Turkish and Thai tea.

Black teas are often blended and mixed with various other plants. Such teas include Earl Grey, English breakfast and Irish breakfast.

In terms of its health benefits it has caffeine which stimulates the central nervous system, relaxes the airways, stimulates the heart, and acts as a diuretic.

It is also rich in antioxidants, though not as rich as green teas, vitamins E and C and help to fight free radicals that cause pre-mature aging.

Studies have shown that regular cups of black tea lowers stroke risks, that it may lower “bad” cholesterol and slow the spread of prostate cancer – as per green tea. Black tea also contains abundant tannins, astringent chemicals and soothing anti-inflammatory effects on the digestive tract and also contains fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay.

When making a cup of black tea it’s best to use freshly boiled soft water, unlike green teas, which turn bitter when brewed at higher temperatures.

The more delicate black teas, such as Darjeeling, should be steeped for three to four minutes. The same holds for broken leaf teas, which have more surface area and need less brewing time than whole leaves.

Whole leaf black teas, and black teas that will be served with milk or lemon, should be steeped four to five minutes.

Electrocuted jumbo dies in Assam tea garden

GUWAHATI: An elephant was electrocuted near a tea garden in the Kathiatoli area of Nagaon district, about 140 km from here, on Saturday.

The carcass of the pachyderm was found near Kandoli tea estate. Forest officials said it was an accident and not a case of retaliatory killing. "The elephant died after its trunk touched a livewire near the tea estate. It was not killed by human beings," Nagaon divisional forest officer A Ahmed said. "There has been an increase in the movement of elephants between Karbi Anglong and Nagaon since the past few days. But there has been no untoward incident," he added.

The Burapahar forest range of Kaziranga National Park is in Nagaon district. On the south, it is bordered by the hilly and forested Karbi Anglong district. The man-elephant conflict has been on the rise in Nagaon. But the situation has not yet become as alarming as it is in Sonitpur, Golaghat and Udalguri. In Nagaon, most of the cases of man-animal conflict are reported from the Chapanala and Salna areas.

Shimanta Goswami, president of local NGO Green Guard said, "Elephants from Karbi Anglong come down to Chapanala, Salna and its adjoining areas almost everyday. Though there has been no man-elephant conflict in the recent past, herds of wild jumbos have damaged many houses and crops." He added, "Elephants are increasingly straying into human settlements as they don't find enough food in the forests after scanty rainfall. Though jumbos from Karbi Anglong often come down to Nagaon, the cases of man-elephant conflict has been lesser this time."

Statistics reveal Sonitpur recorded the highest human casualties with eight deaths till May 24 this year, while Dhubri comes second with five, followed by Udalguri (3). Two persons had been killed by wild elephants in the Chirang wildlife division in the same period. On the other hand, the Sivasagar Wildlife Division, Jorhat Wildlife Division, North Lakhimpur Wildlife Division, Dhemaji Wildlife Division and Goalpara Wildlife Division had recorded one human death each till May 24 this year.

India Times

Tea estate destroyed, workers shaken

RAIGANJ, 9 OCT: Alleged criminals raided the Bhadrakali Tea Estate in Islampur police station, North Dinajpur district and wreaked havoc over a large area of the plantation uprooting tea bushes and damaging other property of the estate Thursday night.

They threatened the workers’ union leaders active in the plantation with dire consequence as well over telephone. The incident has left the plantation management a shaken lot. The uncertainty in the plantation has turned the workers’ future tentative.

According to the plantation management, the raiders destroyed tea bushes standing on 15-acre land and also damaged several trees that are crucial in plantations.
The plantation authority has registered a police complaint but the police are yet to take action against the raiders.

The plantation manager Mr Santanu Bose said: “Property worth around Rs 8 lakh was destroyed and the workers’ leaders threatened. The police are yet to act against the raiders. We are suffering from insecurity and cannot take the risk of going for replantation.”

A local Intuc leader Mr Mohan Das said that the raiders had threatened him over telephone as he had stood by the plantation authority after the destruction. “I have registered a complaint at the Ramganj police outpost but the police are yet to arrest the criminals.” The incident has caused panic locally and the workers are unsure of their future.

The SDPO Islampur Mr David Lepcha claimed that the police have started an inquiry into the incident.

“We expect to arrest the criminals soon,” he said.

Green Tea is the new Black

Drinking green tea is a fashion statement for the health conscious, but supply in India is still limited.

Rajive Kaul, Nicco group chairman ,attributes his habit of drinking green tea to the Korean influence, being the Honorary Consul General of South Korea. Till a few years ago, he and a growing band of converts to green tea would have had to import their tipple or buy it at the odd tea boutique or Tea Board outlet. Today, they can buy more of it — albeit in limited quantities — from India (it was, in fact, first produced in Darjeeling 20 years ago).

India currently produces 10 million kg of green tea, less than one per cent of the country’s total tea production. Still, the perception is less gloomy than the statistics. Sanjay Bansal of Ambootia said, “It’s become fashionable to drink green tea.” Bansal would know, since the Ambootia grows around 37 varieties of tea besides black tea.

Fashion comes at a cost. A packet of green tea is 25 to 30 per cent higher than black tea. For the producer, margins are higher by the same level since it doesn’t cost more to produce green tea.

The story of black tea establishes that there is no extra money involved in the cost of production. Green tea originated in China, which is the largest producer, and it turned black on fermentation while travelling through the Silk Route. When the British came to India they started exporting black tea back home to maintain quality standards because it has a much higher shelf life.

So the hotbed for green tea is still the south-east Asian countries while the developed world is a black tea-consuming population. Morocco is the only other country besides south-east Asian that happens to be a green tea drinker.

But the developed world is also taking fancy to the more healthy green tea primarily because of the wellness factor. Green tea contains polyphenols, which are said to improve health, especially cardiovascular disease and cancer. Some studies apparently have also indicated that it has a slimming effect.

Rajive Kaul likes it because it has the best variety of catechins (contained in the polyphenols). “It also cuts out the milk and sugar, which are calorie-oriented.” His favourite is the Darjeeling green tea, which has a distinctive aroma.

It’s a niche product, but tea companies across the spectrum have jumped on to the bandwagon. Apart from the Ambootia group, Chamong, Goodricke, Jayshree Tea, Assam Company are some of the growers, while packet tea majors include Tata Tea and Duncans.

In contrast to India green tea is big market internationally. The tea companies believe that in a globalised world, it would catch on in India, as well. Kiran Desai, who heads blending and buying at Tata Tea, said, the green tea market was not big at the moment, but the signals are positive. “With the youth becoming more and more health conscious it is sure to catch on.”

Small volumes make prices higher, which in turn positions the green tea as a lifestyle product. Bansal added, “A pot of black tea at a five-star hotel will cost around Rs 150 while green tea will be Rs 350.” At the bulk level, if organic bulk tea costs Rs 400 a kg, green tea would be Rs 550-600 a kg.

It’s a chicken-and-egg situation, as Desai pointed out, “Availability is not an issue, it’s the size of the market.”

The youth account for about half of India’s population, making it a big market for the green tea testing ground.

Whiter shade of pale

Green tea is niche but not half as exotic as white tea. The size of the market may be minuscule, but margins and prices are 100 per cent higher than black tea. White tea could cost Rs 500-600 for a pot at select hotels while at the bulk level it would be Rs 800-1,000 a kg. But the solace is, unlike green tea, the price disparity for white tea is an international phenomenon.

White tea contains the bud and young tea leaves that are completely unoxidised. The catechin content in white tea is also higher than green tea.

Business Standard

Tea industry

I must congratulate Mr. Sarwar Ahmed for his write ups, especially on tea in Tetulia where he has really highlighted a hero-- Mr Mosharraf Hossain.

Tea will dry up for domestic consumption soon and according to him by 2016 we will have to import it!! That would usher the beginning of the end of 155 years or more of the tea planting industry, a very organized sector in our part of the world, with all its evils creeping in then. And like our jute industry failure, tea growing will then be destined to fail. What is the catch 22 then? How do we avoid having to import tea?

Expanding land is getting difficult and it would not be the answer, contract farming even in the present plantations and vertical and higher unit productivity and quality production may be an opening and some light at the end of the tunnel.

Quoting the Frontier Sun, Guwahati, Saturday 06 February:

“The Indian tea industry has strongly opposed the government of India move to unilaterally allow import of tea into the country. The Indian Tea Association is of the view that by its very nature the policy regime works against the Indian tea industry. This opening up to unbridled competition will sound the death knell of the Indian tea industry.”

The tea supply and demand situation of India in many ways is similar to ours in Bangladesh. The pressure of the Indian tea industry became so overwhelming that the government of India had to stop importing in the manner they started off. We have to learn from history even if it is of a neighbouring country.

The trouble is as you might definitely know that in Bangladesh while the rate of investment in the economy is 17.00% of GDP per annum, the tea industry has only attained 3.90% investment of total turnover per annum over the last 23 years (1979 2002). The low rate of investment has led to a slow growth of 2.82% in tea production per year. This scenario cannot sustain the massive internal consumption of 10.89% per annum due to increased tea drinking habit, population growth and rapid urbanisation during 1973 to 2006. However, we still can do something to halt the decay and turn the flow of events. Mr Mosharraf Hossain has shown some of the ways.

Now that the demand of tea is high and a far higher turnover is being achieved in tea, investment is going to be better. This will all evaporate overnight if we start to arbitrarily import tea. Greater care and widespread discussion with all concerned are a must, please don't let our tea estates perish without sympathy like jute. It will be a social catastrophe.

The Daily Star

Supply the main price determinant for tea

The Indian Tea Association chairman Aditya Khaitan wonders if there is another commodity where producers do not have any control over output, costs and prices. Even assuming that the majority of owners are keeping their gardens in good shape, rain and their spacing will finally tell on production and tea quality.

In times of demand recession, producers of steel, aluminium and the rest of the commodities are found to be responding to the crisis by effecting major cost cuts. Sadly though, the “very high fixed cost Indian tea industry” could not do that in the eight years to 2008 when very low tea prices left the industry badly injured with many gardens downing shutters.

Tea will always remain a pure commodity play where supply in a season will be the principal price determinant. With over two dozen countries making over 3.75 billion kg of tea and the trade mostly done on auction platform, producers however big they may be will remain bystanders in the price discovery process. As for India, structural distortions in the industry happened with the sprouting of a large number of small tea growers and bought leaf factories on the back of “very good” tea prices for a long spell till 1998. This informal producer group, enjoying much lower production costs compared to the organised sector, was responsible for over supply of the beverage and keeping the prices too low to the detriment of the industry’s health.

While the group did wrought a kind of havoc prior to 2008 – price improvements last year and sustained at still higher levels since is because of crop setback here and also in Sri Lanka and Kenya – Khaitan strikes a note of caution that the areas under tea with the “significantly large small grower segment” are yet to attain full maturity. So even in the event of the sector’s further growth is controlled, expect it to bring more and more tea in the market in the next five years, according to Khaitan.

The point Khaitan is making is that the industry will never gain control at what prices tea is to be sold at a given point. Nothing could be better than the market is allowed to reign supreme. But is not Khaitan thinking now that the market is favouring producers, thanks to the weather playing foul with crops in India, Kenya and Sri Lanka simultaneously, the time is opportune to carry out some long postponed reforms?

The objective is to implant sinews in this 160-year old industry which is obliged to carry a historical baggage in the form of welfare costs. It’s quite a heavy baggage as such costs will translate into over Rs 7 a kg of made tea. Nobody is saying that the 1.2 million tea plantation workers, nearly half of whom are women, should be denied any of the social benefits.

But with the burden resting wholly on tea companies, the competitiveness of Indian beverage in the world market is compromised. Except for Sri Lanka, no other tea producing country has to put up with India’s kind of production cost. The well being of the industry is important not only for its high labour intensity but also to sustain India’s tea exports at around 200 million kg. Hopefully commerce minister Anand Sharma will see to it that the government comes to bear a reasonable portion of social costs.

Assam accounts for nearly half the country’s tea production. But as the militants retain the capacity to strike terror in the vast tea growing areas covering nearly 315,000 hectares, the companies are pooling money to provide security cover to the men in hot spot. Time has come for the government to consider if Assam growers should not be reimbursed the cost of organising security which works out to Rs1.50 a kg of tea.

The government’s commitment to the welfare of the plantation sector, including tea is evident in its constituting an empowered group of ministers to suggest “structural changes.” Sharma reminds the industry here that since the competition is with younger producers of the beverage in Kenya, Malawi and Vietnam, its primary focus should be on bringing about significant improvements in the quality and health of garden assets.

Refer to J. Thomas Tea Statistics and you will know what a large percentage of our tea acreage is having bushes in the age group of 40 years and more. Naturally with bushes of that vintage, productivity will take a hit and production cost will be up. The need of the hour is give a big push to rejuvenation and replantation. Bad working in the past may not have allowed the industry to do much on productivity front. Now there can’t be any excuse for not making full use of Special Purpose Tea Fund.

Business Standard

Chamurchi tea garden to reopen today

Chamurchi Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district will reopen tomorrow after a gap of seven years.

The decision was taken at a meeting held on September 8 at the chamber of the district magistrate of Jalpaiguri.

“We have jute mills and this is the first time that we are entering into the tea industry. For the first five years we will invest in nourishing the tea bushes to improve the quality of the produce. The lean season will start from December but from April next year we expect to start manufacturing,” said R.P. Tiwari, the executive director of Chamurchi Agro India Private Limited, which will take charge of the garden.

The management headed by R.S. Kajriwal, who owned the garden, had left the estate, 90km from here, in August 2002 but the garden was officially declared closed in 2004.

During the period of closure, the operation and management committee of the garden was in charge of selling the green leaves and paid Rs 50 per day to each of the workers.

The workers had not been getting wages and ration on time since 2000.

Tiwari said: “After several meetings with the trade unions, we decided that the dues of the workers that are pending till March 2001 will be cleared. But we will not be able to clear the dues that have accumulated after that.”

There were 1,074 workers in the estate in Banarhat when it was declared closed.

“About 200 of them have either died or retired. Their dependents will be given jobs after six months,” Tiwari added.

Md Nazmu, a CPM panchayat member and a member of the Cha Bagan Mazdoor Union of the Chamurchi garden unit, said: “The workers are happy. But they are not too excited as they have seen crisis brew in Bharnobari and Dheklapara gardens after they reopened. Once the estate reopens we will negotiate the dues of the workers with the management.”

Of the 13 gardens in Jalpaiguri district, nine are closed.

While Raipur, Samsi and Chinchula have started functioning, talks are on to reopen Ramjhora and Kanthalguri tea estates.