Disrupting and Reshaping the World of Tea, One Harvest at a Time

Jun Chiyabari, a small independent tea garden in Nepal. Photo: Courtesy of Rare Tea Company.

As part of its #TeaChange campaign to champion and actively support tea communities around the world, Rare Tea Company in London is asking consumers and the tea industry to pre-buy a harvest together from Jun Chiyabari, a small independent tea garden in Nepal. Through this direct collaboration between farm, tea company and tea-drinker, Rare Tea Company hopes to forge a new model and disrupt and reshape the tea-buying status quo – which they say is dominated by the big industry players – while helping to secure the future of a tea community.

For the initiative, Rare Tea Company is inviting tea-drinkers and the industry to support a guaranteed harvest of a high-value tea by pre-ordering a kilo for £365 or US$474. The amount makes around 400 pots and at least 800 cups. There’s also an option for 300g for £110 and 500g for £185, around US$141 and US$238, respectively. The tea will be available to purchase until Oct. 31 at the Rare Tea Company website, and worldwide deliveries will be made in December. A percentage of all Rare Tea Company sales is donated to Rare Charity, to support educational scholarships in tea communities.

Tea pickers at the Jun Chiyabari tea garden in Nepal. Photo: Courtesy of Rare Tea Company.

Henrietta Lovell, CEO and “tea lady” at Rare Tea Company and author of Infused: Adventures in Tea, said, “Jun Chiyabari will make a special handcrafted black tea from the finest autumn tips to create a tea that is beautifully rich yet light – highly aromatic, fruity with deep chocolate notes. It sounds rather good doesn’t it? The autumn harvest at Jun Chiyabari is truly exceptional, and these hand-crafted tips exemplify why this special terroir is so precious and why their tea is considered some of the very best in the world.”

Lovell noted that the industry and consumers are all feeling the effects of the pandemic, and the massive closures within the hospitality sector has had a huge impact on tea sales. “There is no point in moaning, it achieves nothing,” she said. “Necessity is the mother of invention; it is time to engage more directly with the end customer – the tea drinker. This project has two functions – to ensure a harvest and connect consumers with the producer.”

Henrietta Lovell, CEO at Rare Tea Company. Photo: Courtesy of Rare Tea Company.

The Jun Chiyabari autumn harvest will be picked and crafted over the next few weeks for the customers who pre-order. Rare Tea Company said it has been working with the people at Jun Chiyabari for many years and has a deep love and respect for all that they do. Thus, they want to support them as much as possible during these trying times.

“Lockdowns [and the pandemic] have been every bit as devastating around the world,” said Lovell. “If we think it is bad in our communities, you have only to imagine how it might be in one of the poorest nations like Nepal. It is our intention to connect consumers and tea communities directly. This new project goes a step closer, by showing consumers how they can have a direct impact. We, as consumers, are not powerless. It’s a call-to-action that helps everyone. The consumer gets some of the best tea in the world and helps ensure the future of the tea garden that makes it.”

Jun Chiyabari tea garden in Nepal. Photo: Courtesy of Rare Tea Company.

Lovell said she hopes to offer more pre-buys in the future – similar to wine en primeur or “wine futures,” where customers support a vineyard by purchasing wine early, while it’s still in the barrel and before it’s bottled. “We have started with this small garden in Nepal,” she explained. “As tea drinkers across the world get behind this farm, it is a wonderful precedent. By getting behind incredible tea and the communities that make it, together we might make the world a little bit better.”

A "Genius" Idea
Tea expert Jeni Dodd, owner of Jeni Dodd Tea, believes that this pre-buy idea from Rare Tea Company is clever. “Without a doubt, COVID-19 has devastated lives and economies, and the consequences cannot be overstated," said Dodd. “However, it has also opened the door to evaluate the effectiveness of the ways we conduct tea business and allows us to question whether employing the models for the volume tea sector makes sense for high-end, artisanal and rare teas is most effective. My answer would be that there has to be a better way. I often look to the wine world for ways to market tea. We share so much common ground. So, this idea of taking their futures concept and applying it to tea seems genius to me.”

Dodd added, “While it sounds sexier to make tea align with the wine industry, in actuality this [pre-buy] idea is really just the idea of communal sponsored agriculture. And just like CSAs, it gives the farmers the security to know they have income and can budget appropriately, and it gives the end-consumer the satisfaction of quality tea and being connected to source. Again, I say GENIUS! I don't think this would work for all tea production, but certainly, this model makes sense for high-end, hand-crafted artisanal teas.”

Founded in 2004, Rare Tea Company sources and supplies tea direct from the farm. As an independent, direct trade business, the company champions hand-crafted and high-value teas that support tea communities. It also supplies teas to some of the best hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes. To learn more about the Jun Chiyabari pre-buy through Rare Tea Company, visit RareTeaCompany.com.