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The world tea trade

You will find every aspect of the tea trade carefully explained.

trading tea | the journey from estate to shelf | tea blending | packaging | distribution

Trading Tea

Tea is sold in a variety of ways. Tea may be sold at auction in countries of origin. There are international auction centres in Mombasa in Kenya, Colombo in Sri Lanka and Limbe in Malawi. India has auction centres in the north and south. Indonesia sells tea in Jakarta. China sells her tea by numbered standards at commodity fairs at Guangzhou. Tea prices are governed by quality, supply and demand. Tea brokers act as intermediaries and taste, value and bid on their client’s behalf. Tea may also be sold from the tea garden by private sale or at off-shore auction whilst on route to its destination.

The Journey from Estate to Shelf

After its arrival in Britain, the tea is taken to the various packaging companies for blending and packing.

Tea Blending

Approximately 90% of the tea drunk in Britain is known as the popular brand leading blends. These are a blend of teas which contain up to 35 different teas and remain constant in quality, character and flavour, despite some teas being seasonal or in short supply due to adverse weather conditions in one or other of the growing regions. Each popular blend has its own recipe and that recipe is the company’s trade secret. All the national popular brand leading blends are blended to cope with the varying types of water in Britain be they soft, hard or middle of the road.

It is the job of the tea blender - a tea taster of many years standing - to ensure that his company blend meets all the criteria. To do this, the blenders and buyers - all tea tasters - will taste the teas brought at auction on arrival at the tea packaging factory, to reassess that they have not been contaminated or damaged whilst in the warehouses awaiting the auction.

During the course of a day, a blender can taste between 200-1000 teas, adjusting his recipe to ensure that the company’s brand remains constant. His findings are fed into a computer and the requisite numbers of sacks and chests of the different teas are taken from the company storeroom, opened and conveyed into a large blending drum. This rotates, mixing all the teas together. When the blending is complete, the blend is ready for packaging into packets or tea bags.

Packaging

For loose leaf packets, the blended tea is put into a hopper which feeds a machine that carefully measures and dispenses the right amount of tea into the packet, filling it and sealing it, and weighing it as a final check. This is all done automatically in seconds.

Tea bag tea is fed into specially designed machines which will fill thousands of teabags, be they round, square or pyramid shaped, each minute. Each bag usually contains at least 2.27gms of tea and is hermetically sealed, then packed into cartons.

Speciality teas, that is a blend of teas which take their name from a growing area, time of day or person’s name, are blended in just the same way, but there are not so many teas in any one blend of speciality tea as there are in a popular blend.

Distribution

The tea packaging companies sell their tea to the supermarkets, and other retailers using a national accounts system, through wholesalers and even by a team of salesmen calling on corner shops.

Your tea reaches the supermarket or shop shelf between 20 to 30 weeks after it has been plucked on the estate or small holding.

source: The Tea Council

  
  
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