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Coffee and Tea Reports from the Front Lines

Organic Coffee Market Grows Dramatically

United States - According to the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) 2007 Organic Manufacturer Survey, the business association for the North American organic industry U.S. retail sales of organic coffee in 2006 increased 24% to $110.36 million, with some estimated indicating that actual sales could be even higher.

  “The dramatic increase in organic coffee sales mirrors the continuing growth in the overall organic sector and reflects consumers’ increasing awareness of these products, their high quality, and the availability of these beverages in venues ranging from small coffee shops to ‘Big Box’ stores,” said Caren Wilcox, OTA’s executive director.

Participants in the Organic Coffee Collaboration - a project of the Organic Trade Association are driving much of the increase in retail sales. Consisting of the leading brokers, roasters and decaffeinators in the U.S., the companies provide much of the organic decaffeinated, caffeinated, flavored and instant coffees widely available at retail outlets nationwide and direct from roasters via the Internet. The companies are: Café Bom Dia (Coral Gables, Florida), Dallis Coffee (New York City, New York) DaSilva Fine Brazilian Coffee (Winston-Salem, North Carolina), Elan Organic Coffee (San Diego, California), Equal Exchange (West Bridgewater, Massachusetts), F. Gaviña & Sons (Vernon, California), Fresh Harvest Products (New York City, New York), Green Mountain Coffee Roasters (Waterbury, Vermont) and Swiss Water Decaffeinated Coffee Company (Vancouver, BC, Canada).

Organic coffee is grown using methods and materials that have a low impact on the environment. Organic production systems replenish and maintain soil fertility, avoid the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers, and build biologically diverse agriculture. Third-party certification organizations verify that organic farmers use only methods and materials allowed in organic production that is grown in more than 30 countries, including the U.S.

For additional information on the collaboration, including both cold and hot organic coffee recipes, purchase locations and fact sheets, visit: www.ota.com/organic_and­_you/coffee_collaboration.html

Sri Lanka: New Committee to Increase Profit of Factories

Sri Lanka - A tri-partee committee has been appointed by the Minister of Plantation Industries D.M. Jayaratne in order to increase the profit of 13 tea factories that belong to Tea Shakthi Fund by increasing their productivity.

Jerry Galahitiyawa was appointed as the chairman of this committee and K.B.Etipola, chief factory manager of Tea Shakthi Fund and S.M.Usman, former estate superintendent were appointed as the members of the committee.

The committee will have to submit their observations on quality of produced tea, whether the tea production is in keeping with capacity of machinery and the quantity of refused tea in each factory. This committee will also study current issues prevailing in the factories. Out of 13 tea factories under Tea Shakti Fund, 10 factories earned a profit during the last nine months.

Minister Jayarathne addressing the event stated that it is a pleasure that most of the factories have exceeded income of their maximum capacity of production of tea. The management of these factories has made the necessary arrangements to ensure the adequate supply of green leaf to the factories.

Coca-Cola in No-Cal Sweetener Venture

United States - The Coca-Cola Company recently teamed up with Cargill Inc., an agribusiness and commodity-trading group, to market a new calorie-free natural sweetener aimed at health-conscious consumers.

The Atlanta-based beverage company has filed 24 patent applications for the product and would have exclusive rights to develop and sell rebiana in beverages, spokeswoman Kari Bjorhus told Reuters. Privately held Cargill would use the sweetener – made from a South American herb called stevia – in food products, and handle the growing of the shrub, which is native to Paraguay, Bjorhus said.

The companies wish to establish a global development partnership to transform stevia into a natural way to sweeten foods and beverages with zero calories. The result of this partnership is rebiana.

According to the company, rebiana is a great-tasting, natural, zero-calorie sweetener that comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. Stevia products that exist in the marketplace today typically have a strong, lingering aftertaste, and are inconsistent in terms of taste and quality.

The partnership between Cargill and The Coca-Cola Company will combine the power to offer rebiana to sweeten a variety of foods and beverages for consumers around the world to enjoy including tea and coffee products.

Tea Struggles for Place in 21st Century Asia

Asia - A recent study found that younger drinkers in Asia prefer canned tea, powdered tea, soft drinks and coffee to traditional methods of drinking tea.

From Beijing to Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong and Taipei, fast-paced modern life means tea has little appeal for Asian youth who do not have the patience to wait 10 minutes to brew tea in the traditional way. Drinking tea has been a pillar of cultural and culinary life in Asia that was spread to Europe in the 17th century.

The elaborate tea-making ceremonies of past centuries are largely defunct across north Asia, although traditional drinkers avoid Western teabags and devoutly adhere to tea-making customs by pouring hot water from clay pots over tea leaves.

Teahouses across the region, from airport waiting halls in China to parks and temples in Taiwan, continue the tradition but mostly to the older generation who are willing to pay per gram for prime tea leaves.

Tea is so embedded in Taiwan's culture - at least for the older generation - that tea-lovers can argue for hours about the merits of tea grades and water temperatures for preparation of the brew.

"Our children don't want to carry on the traditions, so in the future it will be forgotten," complained Wang Cheng-long, a life-long bulk leaf seller in Taiwan's historic tea-growing region of Pinglin. A 25-year-old college graduate in Taipei, Becca Liu, says she "doesn't have any time for tea culture.” "I'm more curious to know how to make coffee," she said.

Determined to restore tea to its exalted status in Asia, tea lovers are trying to repackage tea as a funky new-age brew to a young generation more inclined to slurp down a can of artificially-flavored tea than to sip the real thing.

Taiwan tea expert Yang Hai-chuan teaches tea brewing classes to a handful of students such as Ms Liu, who sign up mostly because of the coffee-making section in the course. He sells sachets of mixed oolong and green tea leaves at teahouses across Taipei, marketing them as hip flavored beverages rather than the traditional teas that have been drunk for centuries.

“Consumption of traditional tea is declining because it's not being passed down," he said.

Yang's concoction is just one around north Asia that is sustaining tea, despite pressure from coffee and other beverages, by catering to younger people's fixations on their health and a thirst for novelty.

In Japan, a new tea line is winning fans among young Japanese with its claims to reduce body fat, while a South Korean brand is popular for its claims to blend teas that cure a host of ills. Minoru Takano, director of the Japanese Association of Tea Production, admits canned flavored teas have helped keep consumption levels up in Japan. “But we are concerned that tea culture will not be nurtured by these drinks," he said. "We are trying to promote making tea by the pot. There are some households that do not (even) have a pot. We are concerned that the tradition and culture may disappear."



Tea & Coffee - December, 2007
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