Friday March 9, 2012 | 9 comments
I have been drinking tea since my childhood in the State of Bihar – in India, the land of Buddha. My mother has a good recipe for chai, which is the most favored drink on the Indian sub-continent and gradually being commercialized around the world. I often had the chance to visit Kolkata and Darjeeling and it was fascinating to see the love of chai in every household and on the streets. On my first visit to Paris, I had the opportunity to taste Silver Tips Imperial from Darjeeling. At that point, I knew nothing of the existence of as many as 87 tea estates, flushes, and specialty loose-leaf, award-winning teas. Very soon, I developed a strong urge for original, handcrafted blends and classic and vintage Darjeeling from the Makaibari and Goomtee tea estates.
When I started importing tea into Mexico, I did thorough market research of the beverage culture in general and the tea and coffee culture in particular. Generations of Mexicans have been drinking coffee and Mexico produces some world-class coffee. However, ready-to-drink tea from industry giant Unilever is the most popular tea. Twinings, which entered the market in 2007, investing 200,000 USD, can be easily seen in luxury hotels, spas, boutique hotels, and gourmet retail, but only in the form of tea bags. There are few small importers as well, who import teas from India – two kilos on average per flush. In Mexico City, a few tea houses, such as the Celeste Tea Room and Bar and the French-styled tea room Maison de Thé Caravanserai, sell some prized teas imported from Germany and France.
On my recent visit to Mexico City, I attended seminars and met a few hoteliers and restaurant owners, who appreciate the growth of the tea industry in Mexico. However, their primary concern was prices; for that reason, they have fewer teas, often only a black tea and a green tea. They pointed out that they sell 100 cups of coffee and 3 cups of tea each day. The precise brewing and steeping process involved in tea was another concern. As a result, they preferred tea bags, which are easier to steep and to serve to their esteemed high-class clients.
Furthermore, there is no tea association in Mexico, such as a Darjeeling Tea Association or a German Tea Association. Being an importer, I believe there is an urgent need to form an association to work hand in hand with all present competitors in the market, offer a fair price, import tea in volume, and give consumers options, such as tisanes. Offering tea accessories, such as infusers and tea pots, as well as training in tea preparation and etiquette will create a wholesome environment for tea drinking.