A Call for Specialty Tea Standards

Every retailer strives to offer quality teas. But selecting the best teas from a hundred origins, a thousand styles and thousands upon thousands of individual teas is daunting. No one can ever know all there is to know. That is why sharing conventional wisdom on acceptable color, moisture content, fragrance, appearance and defects is a common practice for those trading coffee and cacao. This is a call for similar specialty tea standards. WTN150504_Standards_480x274px“Standards for excellence give tea makers a goal and buyers and consumers the tools to determine whether tea makers had reached that goal,” said Austin Hodge, organizer of The World Tea Expo panel discussion on “The Need for Standards for Specialty Tea.” Hodge, the founder of Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea in Tucson, Ariz., has assembled a panel of growers, retailers and academics to explore the topic from 8-9:30 a.m. Wednesday. “Standards are a requisite for a specialty product,” said Hodge, adding that a lack of standards “creates a chaotic market.” This is especially damaging for small independent businesses that must focus on quality to compete with big businesses, offsetting the benefit that large firms enjoy from economies as scale, he explained. “Without standards the complete supply chain is affected, and ultimately consumers pay the price in both dollars and product satisfaction,” he said. “The tea industry is making a major shift from commodity towards quality tea. This is a global trend. Standards for specialty tea will be established and within five to ten years, tea industry will look entirely different,” said Hodge.