One thing I love most about tea is the tea industry “family”. I haven’t been able to meet many of the people I have gotten to know through blogs, Twitter, and other online/social media venues in person, but the ones I have met have never been a disappointment. And that theme continued on a recent Saturday afternoon when I got to have lunch with someone I’ve wanted to meet for awhile now, a fellow contributor to our beloved T Ching blog, Dharlene Fahl. It was nice to find she had recently moved to an area just a short drive away, so we met at an eatery in rustic Old Town in the city where I live. We just wanted to talk tea and that is what we did. Of course, isn’t that what tea people do?
Dharlene has written books and poetry about tea and has traveled to tea-growing regions. I especially enjoyed hearing about her trip to India, where she was hosted by another contributor to this blog, noted Indian tea authority Rajiv Lochan of Lochan Tea, who I was also privileged to meet at the 2014 World Tea Expo. She is planning another trip soon to another tea-growing region, and I look forward to hearing about her stays on the tea estates, where visitors are treated like royalty and experience the estate’s culture, interface with workers and growers, and come away with a better understanding of how the industry actually functions on a day to day basis.
In talking with Dharlene, it made me aware of how many opportunities there are in the tea industry. Dharlene is not only an author but a consultant to retailers who aren’t familiar with the specialty tea niche. I thought about how we all fit together as a culture. I’ve been a retail store owner, and now am working on brewing technology opportunities, with the possibility of getting back into retail again while growing the business central to the technology. On the other side of the world, growers (hopefully all or most) continue to look for ways to improve not only the condition of the workers in the fields but the quality of the tea. Between there and here, the importers and blenders do the ‘finish work’ to provide the market with its growing demand for quality tea and tea blends.
To date, tea has never had the almost manic culture that coffee has, at least not in the U.S., with coffee’s continual industry events and competitions, trade shows, and new technologies, but George and Kim Jage certainly helped get it started with their World Tea Expos debuting in the early 2000’s. They helped take awareness of tea as an industry from a smattering of “tea houses” to a contemporary mass market awareness of how far tea could go and how many opportunities there are.
As the years go by, I hope tea will develop its own distinctive space in the global retail/cafe marketplace, and not just an add-on to coffee-house culture. Our retail store put it “Tea & Coffee Brewery”. Coffee & Tea has had its time. Now it’s time for tea to step up and claim its rightful place, as the most consumed beverage on the planet after water. The general global tea industry want ad might read: “Tea – A limitless opportunity in all areas. Creative minds welcome.”