Brewing Change: The Vital Role of Small Tea Growers in the Specialty Tea Industry

The global tea market is a large and diverse sector strongly embedded in the culture of many countries around the world. Small tea growers are a very important part of the tea industry.

One of the most popular beverages worldwide and only second to water, tea is shared among many cultures and preferences.

Robust black teas dominate the general trends in Europe and North America, while delicate green teas and oolongs are preferred in East Asia.

The market interest has been growing in recent years due to increased awareness of the healthy properties of tea and the rising interest in diverse and better-quality tea products.

Among them, there is a significant trend towards specialty teas. The benefits are the quality and unique flavors and, more often, the story of the small grower and the origin.

Unlike mass-produced teas from large producers, specialty teas aim to focus on the authenticity and trackability of the leaf used, which include single-origin plants or those cared for with sustainable and organic farming.

Impediments to Small Tea Growers

Small tea growers are confronted with several severe impediments that may jeopardize their global tea market sustainability and further development. These impediments include, but are not limited to:

1. Economic Uncertainty

Having less capital and being small-scale, small growers are more affected by constantly changing market costs and economic slumps, rendering it more difficult for them to compete with large estates.

2. Inadequate Market Exposure

Focusing on the regional or local level, small growers are confined in their capacity to produce income and access affluent markets or direct customers.

tea leaves small tea growers

3. Certification Expenses

While some certificates may be considered beneficial, certifications such as fair trade or some organic ones are too expensive for small growers. This does not mean the tea they produce is not fair trade or organic, it is just that it is too expensive for them to certify their product.

4. Inadequate Technical Help

The novel high-tech farming techniques and even fundamental good production processes are inaccessible to modest growers; hence, they often cannot improve their produce’s quality and quantity.

Opportunities for Small Tea Growers

Policies that nurture small growers while enabling them to link to international marketplaces; offer access to knowledge; and provide support from their peers may assist modest growers to compete on a level turf.

Small tea growers can maintain the high quality and authenticity of specialty tea in several ways.

First, many of them use time-honored artisanal methods of growing and processing tea. Artisanal teas have very distinct and unique taste profiles as compared to those produced by large-scale, industrial methods.

Secondly, more small growers work on single estates, and their tea remains single origin. Single-origin tea is highly sought after by connoisseurs, who prize the ability to trace the teas they enjoy and value a unique taste associated with a specific place.

Third, many small tea growers use organic and sustainably grown plants. They are more likely to use biodynamic methods due to their smaller scale and a more profound connection to local ecosystems. It makes the product better for the environment and more appealing to the environmentally conscious customer.

Fourth, they have more time to devote to each batch of leaves, ensuring that they are harvested at the right time and processed correctly.

Finally, many small tea growers work in new regions and develop new cultivars, producing tea that is very distinct in flavor and aroma. Overall small tea growers ensure that the authenticity of their product is preserved and contribute significantly more to the industry than people commonly assume.

The potential of small tea growers is indeed considerable. It manifests itself both in the opportunities and changes that they may bring to the tea industry and the radical, far-reaching changes across a variety of socioeconomic sectors.

Some of the essential indicators are:

small tea growers
  1. They can significantly improve local economies by creating jobs and fostering entrepreneurship.
  2. Their ability to use direct trade as the primary approach to market tea for creating more opportunities along the value chain will allow them to increase the income and overall economic security of many rural communities.
  3. Due to their specificity, such small tea growers are much more likely to have a unique perspective and knowledge of local environments.
  4. They are much better equipped to innovate. They may start working with different varietals, ways of cultivation, and processing and developing unique products that can access premium markets.

Due to the growth of e-commerce and widened scope of the global distribution system, small growers can more easily access international markets.

They will be able to achieve better prices and become more recognized, which can make them play in another league. Small tea growers’ potential is enormous and unlocking it could lead to a boom in the specialty market, thus, a more vibrant tea sector.

New World Tea Academy Course

In recognition of some of the difficulties faced by small holders to structured education, World Tea Academy and Tea Vision Trust India have jointly developed the world’s first online, self-paced course.

The course is called “Excellence in Tea Manufacturing from Bush to Cup” (specifically for small tea growers globally)

small tea growers fresh tea leaf

The course has been developed by :

  •  Ashok Kumar Bhargava (Bobby), CEO of Tea Vision Trust, Former MD of one of the largest Tea producing groups, and Chairman of the Indian Tea Association. He has more than 40 years of experience as a hands in the soil tea planter and immense expertise in tea manufacturing and process marketing.
  • Mr. A.N Singh, founding member Tea Vision Trust, past chairman ITA, and executive vice chairman of the Goodricke group.
  • Sharyn Johnston, CEO and founder of Australian Tea Masters and head of education of the World Tea Academy.

This is such an exciting moment in tea education which will bring value to the true heart of the tea industry!

The new course “Excellence in Tea Manufacturing from Bush to Cup” is available online. 


Plan to Attend or Participate in World Tea Expo, March 18-20, 2024

To learn about other key developments, trends, issues, hot topics and products within the global tea community, plan to attend World Tea Expo, March 18-20, 2024 in Las Vegas, co-located with Bar & Restaurant Expo. Visit

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