Sunday, July 28, 2013

They Found a Flavor and They're Sticking to It

Consistency - that’s the key to success for many tea brands, especially those from large corporations like Lipton, Tetley, Twinnings, etc...   Their customers know that the flavor in yesterday’s box will be the flavor in today’s box.  But, just how is consistency possible?  How does tea from one batch taste like tea from another made months or years later?

The taste of all produce, even tea, changes depending on the season, the growing environment, and production techniques.   For example, grape vines are well known to be sensitive plants and the differences in a wet or dry season affect the flavor of the grape and ultimately the wine.  Wine enthusiasts revel in the flavor variations in a winery’s wine, which are recorded as vintages and noted by year on the bottle labels.  The Camellia Sinensis – the tea plant – is also sensitive to its climate and environment.  For tea connoisseurs the variations can be delightful.  Large tea corporations, however, seek to avoid changes in their brand flavor despite the unavoidable taste changes from harvest to harvest.  Their recipe for consistency is the use of both tea blending and tea tasting experts.

I talked with representatives from Igara Tea Factory of Uganda, Africa’s 3rd largest tea producing country [1], who discussed with me some of the practices of the tea corporations they sell to.  Corporations make their brand flavor consistent by mixing multiple teas sourced from hundreds of plantations from all corners of the world.  One tea bag might contain upwards of 40 different teas from many different countries.  The result is that seasonal differences in one area of the world, or irregularities in production in one plantation, won’t affect the overall taste of the final product because the tea from one locale is only a small percentage of the whole.

Tea tasters are the next step towards consistency.  Trained tea tasters test the tea (what a tongue twister!) to maintain the brand’s consistent flavor and quality.  Here is a short interview with a Lipton tea taster explaining his work.
(Click on the photo link.)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cute, Collectible and Kenyan
Click here to find on
The two time winner of the World Tea Expo’s Buyers Choice Award for Best Black Tea (years 2011 & 2012) was again at the World Tea Expo in 2013. That’s Ajiri Tea, also known as the “Tea on a mission company.”  Ajiri Tea sells black tea exclusively from Kenya.  The word Ajiri means “to employ” in Swahili.  Ajiri Tea's  mission is to create employment for Kenyan women and to educate Kenyan orphans.  100% of Ajiri Tea’s net profits after taxes goes to the Ajiri Foundation, which provides education to Kenyan orphans.

Not only does Ajiri Tea have award winning tea and a noble mission, but its tea boxes are the cutest I’ve ever seen!  The labels on the boxes depict idyllic Kenyan village life and animals.  Each label is one-of-a-kind as they are handmade by the Kenyan women using dried banana tree bark and recycled magazines.  The boxes look like collector's items.

Kenya is one of the top three worldwide exporters of black tea, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation, which found that Kenya in 2010 had roughly 32% of the global tea export market.[1]  Kenya’s Export Promotion Counsel says that today Kenya is the leading exporter of black tea, with Sri Lanka coming in second.[2]  Kenya's major markets for tea are Pakistan, Egypt, United Kingdom, Afghanistan, Yemen and Sudan.[3] Surprisingly, Ajiri Tea was the only Kenyan company at the 2013 World Tea Expo in Las Vegas.  Perhaps, having been founded by an American family, Ajiri Tea knows firsthand the wide potential in the growing American demand for tea. 

[2]  Kenya’s Export Promotion Counsel website at
[3] Kenya’s Export Promotion Counsel website at

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tea Song

The McGetigans band from Ireland really loves their tea.  Have a cup while you enjoy their music at this link!  "Tea Song"

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