STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International

Volume 4, Number 6

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36 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 6, 2015 (December/January) A v-blender at QTrade Tea & Herbs Seeing Green: Blenders Adapt to Changing Tastes in Tea By Dan Bolton S Sustained demand for specialty teas, especially green teas, is reshaping the US tea blending, fill and packing industry which has grown to $1.6 billion annually and now employs 1,681 workers at 42 facilities mainly in California and the Southeast. everal years ago executives at Zhejiang Tea Group., a firm with 135,000 acres of tea and the largest processing capacity in China, noticed an unexpected trend in North American orders. Accustomed to thinking of the US and Canada as low volume buyers of low quality tea at the lowest possible price—the continent was low on their list of export targets. Bulk green tea sold for less than $2 a kilo at a time when China's domestic market was paying $325 a kilo for good quality greens. There were clearly greener pastures in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. What caught Zhejiang's eye were orders for their more expensive green teas planted specifically for export. These blendable "clean teas" contained negligible residue from pesticides; some were certified organic. Zhejiang Tea Group became China's largest supplier of organic teas. Today organics account for more than 10% of US tea sales. Demand initially was concentrated on the West Coast and in British Colombia where hundreds of thousands of former residents of Hong Kong were making a new home. Sixty-one percent of US tea arrives via Canada. Most of the US bound green docks in Vancouver. Very little is sent direct from China and volumes are small from Japan (5%) and Korea (4%) the two rival green tea suppliers. West Coast buyers noticed a jump in orders around 1995. Sales of lightly scented Jasmine continue to build until 20 years later greens are a standard offering in tea shops, restaurants and even fast-food outlets like Wendy's which this summer became the first major chain to offer an organic iced tea exclusively supplied by Honest Tea. QTrade Tea & Herbs processes 40,000 lbs. daily in a 70,000 sq. ft. blending facility in Cerritos, Calif. It is North America's largest supplier of organic and Fair Trade teas. QTrade president Manjiv Jayakamur first noticed the trend "when the story of tea and Firsd Tea assembles tea bags, leaf tea, tea drinks, and instant tea from China and distributes from its US facility in Delaware. Firsd Tea's Fuso FM100 bag maker

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