NIAGARA FALLS, Canada – The North American Tea Conference last week drew a record crowd of delegates who were rewarded with thoughtful presentations that will reverberate in serious discussions ranging from food safety and global supply to attracting Millennials to tea.
The event was also an occasion to celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the Tea Association of Canada. The decades since 1954 flew by in a video presentation showing highlights from each decade.
The 5th Annual gathering was attended by 176 delegates from more than a dozen tea producing and consuming countries. The event is hosted alternately by the Tea Association of the USA and its Canadian counterpart. Louise Roberge, president of the Tea Association of Canada, organized this year’s three-day program which featured experts in a number of tea sectors including health, production, food safety and marketing.
Dr. Norman Kelly, newly named head of the International Tea Committee, a body that tracks global production, reported that while both consumption and production are rising, production remains above demand. There is a pronounced trend for rising consumption in the producing countries that could crimp exports, he said. During the recent past 90% of the increase in kilos produced has been consumed domestically, leaving the possibility tea may one day soon fall short of demand.
High production often leads to low prices but Richard Darlington, managing director of AV Thomas solubles in London alerted the group to the growing prevalence of inferior and mediocre tea flooding the market.
“There is a paucity of tea — hence prices are high,” he told the group. Prices will hold due in large part to scarcity caused in part by bad weather last spring. Costs are rising and there are not nearly enough of the best teas to meet demand, he said.
There were dancers sponsored by the Tea Board of India to liven the opening reception and two pairings, one with white, dark, orange and milk chocolate led by Shabnam Weber of Tea Emporium and a scotch and oolong pairing led by Kevin Gascoyne of Camellia Sinensis in Montreal.
Extensive modifications to the food safety regulations in both the United States and Canada and a special 1-1/2 day seminar on MRL (maximum residue levels) of pesticides and fungicides highlight the importance of these topics to the industry.
The special program was organized by Peter Goggi, who heads the US tea association. Speaker Christine McIntosh with Eurofins, a global laboratory and testing service, described the chaotic state of affairs. Europe, for example, has identified 450 chemicals and established maximum residue levels for each. The US has established regulations for a third that number. Many chemicals, described by the group as Plant Protection Formulations (PPFs), are assigned a “default” minimum of 10 parts per billion which is way out of alignment with EU lists. The default is clearly arbitrary. Tea exporting countries face such tremendous variations that only a worldwide standard will remedy the situation.
Gold Medal Competition
Tealet’s Elyse Petersen was jubilant and let it show last Thursday when her forest green Yame Gyokuro took first prize in the Gold Medal Competition. The entry, from Kurihara Tea in Yabe Village, Yame Japan was one of a 100 teas in the annual competition.
Teas within specific origins compete against each other regardless of style. Judges, who normally work within narrow confines of a production type or grade, have wide latitude to signal their appreciation.
Judges taste and score entries early in the week.
First-place recipients held their trophies high at the gala. Perennial powerhouses like Sorwathe in Rwanda and Fujian Chunlun Tea Group Co. in China took top honors. Goodricke Group Ltd. Castleton Estate was named best in India. Universal Commodities (Tea) Trading Inc. made a clean sweep earning first and second place for their Taiwan oolongs. Tealet won first place honors in both in the Japan origin and for its Hawaii Rainforest White Tea grown in the US.
1st Place: Fujian Chunlun Tea Group Co. Ltd.
Estate: Kuling Tea Estate. Grade: Jasmine Tea, Special Grade
2nd Place: Fujian Chunlun Tea Group Co. Ltd.
Estate: Caodun Tea Estate. Grade: Green Tea, Special Grade
1st Place: Tealet
Estate: Yame Kyushu. Grade: Green Tea, Gyokuro
2nd Place: ITO EN
Estate: Fukuoka Prefecture. Grade: Green Tea, Artisinal
1st Place: Universal Commodities (Tea) Trading Inc.
Grade: Special Black Tea (#18 Ruby)
2nd Place: Universal Commodities (Tea) Trading Inc.
Grade: Highest Mountain Oolong Tea (Li Shan Tea)
1st Place: Phu Ben Tea Company Limited
Estate: Tai Trung. Grade: Green Orthodox PN2
2nd Place: Phu Ben Tea Company Limited
Estate: Phu Tho. Grade: Green CTC Fanning
1st Place: Sorwathe Ltd.
Estate: Rukeri. Grade: Green OP
2nd Place: Gisovu Tea Company Ltd.
Estate: Gisovu Tea Estate. Grade: Black Tea (PF1)
1st Place: Goodricke Group Limited
Estate: Castleton Tea Garden. Grade: Black Tea (Whole Leaf FTGFOP1)
2nd Place: Rossell Tea
Estate: Dikom Tea Estate. Grade: Black Tea (Golden Pearl)
1st Place: AFFA Tea Directorate
Estate: Kagwe. Grade: Black Tea (BP1)
2nd Place: AFFA Tea Directorate
Estate: Njunu. Grade: Black Tea (PF1)
1st Place: Tealet
Estate: Hawaii Rainforest Tea. Grade: White Tea