An American coffee roaster made an unusual trek to Bangladesh last April in search of tea.
His destination was the Kazi & Kazi tea estate in the northern reaches of the country, north of Assam in the foothills of the Himalayas. The 3,000-acre (1,214 hectare) tea garden was a desolate stretch of land, largely barren and unknown until 2000. Today the Tetulia tea region of Bangladesh’s Panchagarh district thrives. Kazi Shahid Ahmed and his son Kazi Anis Ahmed gradually transformed this land with a goal of establishing what is now one of the largest organic tea gardens in the world.
Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea Founder and President Greg Ubert has been a specialty coffee roaster since 1991 when he founded his company in Columbus, Ohio. Crimson Cup operates a chain of retail stores and supplies hundreds of coffee shops across the U.S. and even Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh.
“Our cuppers travel the world. Visit indigenous farmers in remote regions. And get to know coffee from the ground up,” said Ubert. “What is usually called a buy team, we call a “relationship” team, because it means so much more than a transaction,” he said.
“This lush organic estate grows teas and herbs of incredible quality,” said Ubert. “We were impressed by their commitment to sustainable operations—protecting the environment and caring for workers and their families,” he said in a press release issued at the time. Panchagarh is drained by 16 rivers, the soil is alluvial and old, and washed down from the Himalayas eons ago. Vegetation on the farm is largely indigenous with plantings of neem to ward off insects. Spices used in blends are cultivated among the sections of tea with ginger, peppermint, and lemongrass all organically grown.
Teatulia is an international brand name of Kazi & Kazi Tea (K&K) and one of the few export-grade orthodox tea producers in a country gradually gaining a reputation for quality teas. K&K qualified for Rainforest Alliance Certification, is Fair Trade certified and Teatulia is now a B Corporation. Last month the company, headquartered in Denver, Colo., opened its first London tea bar with a promise of more to follow. The literary themed shop in Covent Garden serves hot and cold tea during the day and tea cocktails after hours, says Teatulia co-founder and CEO Linda Appel Lipsius.
Bangladesh, previously known as East Pakistan, has a long tea history producing cut, tear, and curl (CTC) black tea. New weekly auctions in Chittagong have stimulated interest in the region. Auction prices increased 31 percent since April (through Oct. 9) with teas now averaging Tk 293 ($3.43) per kilogram. The best teas bring Tk 410 ($4.80) per kilogram. The increase in price is driven by domestic demand, improvements in quality, and lower production totals.
Production is about level with last year, according to the Bangladesh Tea Board, which estimated growers produced 79 million kilos of mainly CTC last year. Domestic consumption was estimated at 86 million kilograms in 2017, up from 82 million kilograms in 2016. Imports totaled 1.1 million kilograms in 2017-18, according to the Chattogram Customs House. Little of the country’s tea is exported. In 2016-17 exports totaled 1.44 million kilograms, valued at Tk 223 million ($2.6 million) but well down from the $4.2 million exported in 2015-16, a record year, according to the tea board.
Source: Crimson Cup Coffee & Tea,