In 2003 Joe Simrany, the long-serving former president of the Tea Association of the USA, led a delegation of tea wholesale tea buyers and retailers to Sri Lanka to experience Ceylon tea .
TeaSource founder Bill Waddington recalls “the trip was a huge success. I brought back huge duffel bags full of Lumbini Silver Needle and friendships and connections that have served me very well.”
The visit “showed that specialty tea retailers could network and source direct with growers. This kind of experience is commonplace now, but Joe (Simrany) was one of the first to make this possible,” said Waddington.
Beginning in February 2017 Sri Lanka is planning a big celebration for its 150th year of tea. A myriad of events hosted by the government, trade groups and the tourism department will make the island country a great destination for retailers seeking a better appreciation of how tea is grown and processed.
Events include a Ceylon Tea Expo, a tea convention, tea festivals, tea workshops and industry seminars. The Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) is inviting members of the international tea world, including Tea Associations, Tea Councils and Tea Boards, to take part in the celebrations. Events are scheduled through August 2017.
Colombo Tea Traders’ Association and other members of the Ceylon tea industry plan additional activities including tea garden and factory tours, educational workshops and visits to the country’s 12 growing regions.
A special tribute will be made to James Taylor who introduced commercial tea following the collapse of the country’s coffee industry due to blight.
Sri Lanka does it all. The tea market there is built for export and the country boasts a very strong value addition segment. Much of the tea that leaves Sri Lanka is bagged, packed into custom printed boxes, wrapped in cellophane, then packed in crates, stacked on pallets and loaded into containers. Hundreds of millions of teabags depart the port of Colombo annually bound for grocery outlets worldwide.
Despite its small size, Sri Lanka is the world’s fourth largest exporter of tea. The industry employs one million of its 20.6 million population. The country pays tea workers significantly higher wages than nearby India and enforces mandates on herbicides and pesticides that conform to export standards.
Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States is the largest by most of Sri Lanka’s tea followed by Iran, Iraq and Syria. An economic slowdown in Russia and China compounded by political turmoil in the Middle East has disrupted the traditional trading patterns. Sri Lanka hopes to increase its export volume with Europe and North America. The country exported $1.6 billion worth of tea in 2015.
Source: Mirror Business