Tea Companies From Non-traditional Countries Make Their Mark

World Tea Expo 2017, which took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center June 12-15, attracted tea purveyors from around the world. Tea companies from countries not well known for producing tea are stepping forward and making their mark on the industry. Representatives from a few of these companies shared the directions in which their companies are growing and what the public can expect to see from them in the future.
Zealong tea estate's booth at the World Tea Expo 2017, photo by Beth Dobos
The top four tea producing countries of China, India, Kenya and Sri Lanka dominate the field, but entrepreneurs from New Zealand, Egypt, France and even the United States are stepping up contributions to the tea industry’s supply chain in distinctive ways. The Zealong Tea Estate, which is located in Hamilton, New Zealand, about 74 miles southeast of Auckland in the picturesque Waikato Region, is one such company. Its tea is certified organic “and fully traceable from soil to first sip,” according to a company press release. Marketing manager Sen Kong noted how customers are becoming more knowledgeable and aware of the health benefits of tea and want to know where it is sourced. “New Zealand is known for its purity,” said Kong. “This is what customers care about, it’s all about being natural.” Zealong is currently experimenting with new products and aims to provide more orthodox teas in the future. The company currently offers three oolongs, one green, one black and a selection of botanical teas. Brian Keating, founder of Seattle, Washington "tea think tank" Sage Group, notes the rise of new tea and herbal tea producing origins is significant. “Tea and herbs are grown worldwide and the rise of traditional and new styles of these beverages landing on the global stage is fascinating. While the traditional producers will remain the dominant supply sources, creative entrepreneurs are marketing a delicious galaxy of new products.”
Ahmed Mamoud shares Karkade Tea at the World Tea Expo 2017, photo by Beth Dobos
Karkade Tea is the only company bringing a popular Egyptian hibiscus blend to the western world in a ready-to-drink format, according to founder Ahmed Mamoud. “We’re trying to stay in the sweet tea market,” said Mahmoud. “It’s well known in Egypt, but there is no RTD. In 2015, 87 percent of millennials drank sweet tea, and that number is growing by 8.6 percent each year in the U.S.” Mahmoud sources hibiscus from his family’s farm near the city of Aswan in southern Egypt. “It’s where the best hibiscus in the world is grown,” Mahmoud said. He immigrated as a child to the United States with his single mother and is proud to offer a product that is sourced in Egypt and bottled and packaged in the U.S. Regarding the question of whether additional companies will bring Egyptian hibiscus tea to the U.S., Mahmoud said he is just focused on the success of his own company.
Le Benefique's booth at the World Tea Expo 2017, photo by Beth Dobos
Le Benefique is based in Paris and brings its own unique sourcing philosophy to the tea industry. “The plants are not cultivated, they’re wild,” said company founder Sermet Baysal. He said his tea is mostly sourced from plants from the forest and mountains in France and Turkey. The company does do a limited amount of cultivation in those countries. “Tea is not only tea, it’s a plant. We must protect the plant.” As for his intentions for the future, “We would like to make our products known to the world,” said Baysal.