Editor’s Note: This article is from the new World Tea Expo 2019 white paper, “The Next Wave in Tea: Trends, Issues & Opportunities.” The complimentary report offers valuable insights and advice from some of the top experts and leaders in specialty tea.
To download the free white paper, visit https://www.worldteaexpo.com/en/attendee-resources/whitepaper.html.
Connoisseurs in any industry drive innovation and growth. This is especially true in the world of tea. Simply by their discerning taste, they play an important role in marketing, educating others, sharing their favorite teas with friends, and acting as influencers in real life and on social media.
Connoisseurs are captivated into action by exciting teas. Perhaps a traditional tea that exudes supreme quality, a tea that has a very interesting story, or one that is new and experimental.
Thus, cultivating a connoisseur culture will lead to growth in the specialty sector of our industry, which will in turn lead to a rise in all sectors of the tea industry. Unfortunately, I believe that true transparency is the key here and as an industry, we’re off the mark.
It is no secret that the connoisseur culture that exists in the wine industry dwarfs the connoisseur culture that exists in tea. The main difference between the two products (other than one contains alcohol and gets you drunk), is access to provenance. Aside from a counterfeit here and there, in the consumers hand, wine is packaged in a bottle and labeled. Provenance is known.
Provenance is typically concealed for tea. And one doesn’t have to look far to discover that there are many companies selling teas made by the same producer under different names, or different prices. And no doubt some even falsifying place of origin.
This is troublesome for connoisseurs – how can we do comparative tastings of similar teas? How can we discover the soul of a tea? How can we determine the value of a producer’s vintage from year to year? How can we expand our palate? All we have to rely on is our trust in our supplier.
We achieve true transparency when the name and the specific location of the producer is shared with the consumer. Additional information may supplement this information – such as elevation, cultivar or processing methods used, adding value.
If this information reaches consumers, we’ll see marked growth in the connoisseur culture surrounding tea, as tea epicures will be able to better educate their palate and further their interest in and knowledge of specific teas. As a result, our industry will prosper. This benefit will outweigh the perceived detriment of revealing a source. And a great side effect of true transparency, is that the producer receives the accolades they deserve.
Download the World Tea Expo white paper here: https://www.worldteaexpo.com/en/attendee-resources/whitepaper.html.
Tony Gebely is the executive director of the American Specialty Tea Alliance, which is a non-profit business association aimed at growing the specialty tea industry in America. Gebely is also the founder of Tea Epicure, a global producer-focused tea assessment platform. Throughout his 13 years in tea, Gebely has worked for many leading tea companies, helping them navigate the specialty tea sector. During this time he started the two-time World Tea Award winning website, World of Tea, which has produced well-researched content on tea since 2009. Having traveled extensively through tea-producing regions during his life in tea, and having a degree in computer science, he developed a pragmatic approach to tea which led him to write his 2016 treatise, Tea: A User’s Guide.
Dive Deeper in this World Tea Expo Session
Marketplace Perspectives: Real Stories From the Field – Panel will feature Tony Gebely and Suzette Hammond who will discuss opportunities opening up in specialty tea retail for small businesses, as well as new trends and consumer behavior on Thursday, June 13, 2019, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. in Room N258.