STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 4, Number 1

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36 STiR tea & coffee industry international The Perfect Paper Photos courtesy Glatfelter Composite Fibers Business Unit C lever in concept and commonplace, teabag manufacturing is actually a compli- cated mix of economics, art, and engineering. Inventor Thomas Sullivan's basic 1908 design retains its popularity. Mod- ern tea bags are today made of natural fibers, paper, or bioplastic.They can be round, rectangular or double-chambered, tagless, or tetrahedral — but above all else they are convenient and profitable. Loose leaf sold in bulk still accounts for the greatest quantity of tea sold in the $93 billion global market but in consuming nations like Russia teabags have been the key value driver since 2002. Gradually domestic consumers in the great tea producing countries of China, In- donesia, India, Turkey, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka are seeking the convenience of sachets and the hygienic benefits of packaged tea. Highly developed countries have long since made the switch. The British were one of the first nations to ascend what Unilever describes as the the tea conversion ladder [See chart, pg. 37]. In the 1960s tea bags made up fewer than 3% of the vast English market. By 1965 use had doubled to 7% and today 96% of Brit- ish tea drinkers use tea bags. Many argue that loose leaf makes a tastier cup of tea but steeping broken or full- leaf is messy. Tea bags take up less space, can be purchased virtually anywhere, are discretely carried in pocket or purse and are filled with an amazing variety of teas and tisanes. While pyramid bags is a format currently challenged by single-serve tea in cap- sules, according to market researchers NPD and Packaged Facts, common tea bags will remain the preferred format for most of the world for generations to come. The economics of teabags Farhad Pirouz, managing director and c.e.o. of dph tea bag machine company in Germany, explains that "the greatest value addition in tea is the packaging segment." During a presen- tation at the 5th Global Dubai Tea Forum last April Pirouz said that tea bags account for 12% of the volume of world production but "their sales value is much higher." Only 2% of India's tea is sold in tea bags while 96% of the tea sold in France is packaged in tea bags. Germans drink 92% of their tea in tea bags and American 65%. Vendors in these countries add value by cleaning, blending, flavoring, and packaging tea in numerous formats. In France tea exports averaged $17.33 per kilo in 2010. India's tea exports averaged $3.31 and China $3.92 per kilo. Pirouz points out that for producing countries tea bags are inherently efficient as they require only 1.5 grams of tea versus 3 grams of loose leaf and thus deliver higher value per kilo. (Above) Workers on the Philippines Island of Catanduanes process long strands of abacá. (Below) A worker in Ecuador strips abacá from stem. By Dan Bolton

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