Posts Tagged ‘QualiTEA’

The Lure of Tea

Chai cupsby Sreya Bagchi
1st Jan, 2016

Tea for most of us means plucking a pack of tea off the grocery shelves, carrying home, brewing and enjoying the ‘cup that cheers’. The other end of the story, where tea leaves are plucked by delicate hands in remote tea estates and then carefully processed, graded and packed in factories set out in idyllic surroundings, remains far from our minds while we savor our daily morning cuppa.

However, the situation seems to be changing fast. The last few years has seen a spurt in tea consumption, especially in low per-capita consumption countries like the US, driven by health concerns and the increased availability at the retail level. The urge amongst consumers to be better informed about all aspects of tea, has also been a noticeable trend.

While there is heightened demand-side curiosity and inquiry, the power of the ‘cloud’ and social media is ensuring that the remote tea producing areas increasingly get their place under the sun. Tea tourism, which opens up the possibility of tracing back the tea-story to its roots, could therefore be an ‘uplif-tea-ing’ experience for tea drinkers around the globe.Assam Pluckers

The ‘UplifTEAing’ Experience
Tea tourism has been defined by Lee Joliffe in the article “The Lure of Tea: History, Traditions and Attractions” as ‘tourism that is motivated by an interest in the history, traditions and consumption of the beverage, tea’. The concept is akin to the much more popular Wine Tourism offered mainly by European countries like France and Germany and some parts of the US. During wine holidays visitors stay in the vineyard, observe the wine making process, taste wine, shop for wine, local crafts and produce.

While the expansive, verdant rolling plains or the slopes (depending on the tea growing area) are by themselves an ‘out-of-the-world’ treat for the beleaguered city-bred eyes and minds, tea tourism can have significant other spin-offs, both for the visitor as well as the grower. While the visitor is exposed to the lesser-known aspects of tea, the grower is able to appreciate first-hand, the preferences and concerns of the actual tea-drinker. This synergy can be best analyzed in terms of four components of Tea Tourism, i.e. QualiTEA, ActiviTEA, CommuniTEA and HospitaliTEA.

QualiTEA: The garden-to-cup goodness of freshly made tea is often not the ‘strength’ of the tea that consumers pick up at the grocery. Tea quality deteriorates with passage of time and loses freshness by the time we consume it. The visitor gets to appreciate this at the tea garden, while sampling the freshness and aroma of tea that was perhaps plucked just the previous day!

Assam Storm CloudsThe grower meanwhile, being subjected to greater customer scrutiny, is nudged to focus on quality improvements, both in terms of growing practices (use of chemicals, pesticides etc) as well as processing-quality and housekeeping. Most importantly, the grower gets direct feedback from the customer in terms of preferences and expectations.

ActiviTEA: Tea Tourism is above all experiencing a ‘day in the life of a tea planter’. To do so, the visitor must take part in activities like ‘pluck your own tea’, ‘become a tea taster’, ‘pack your own tea’ and ‘adopt a tea bush’ etc. Imagine how great it might feel if all your tea for the next one year came from the bush(es) that you adopted!

Another important activity could involve awareness of the environmental impacts of tea growing. One needs to appreciate that the vast, chlorophyll-rich tea gardens emit tons of oxygen to rejuvenate our carbon dioxide-choked atmosphere. Awareness of the impacts of climate change and steps being taken by growers to mitigate such impacts are also interesting aspects of tea tourism. Possibilities for other activities also abound … like fishing, trekking, bird watching, and visits to nearby tourist attractions. All these are part of an exciting and activity filled tea tourism package.Community Crafts

CommuiTEA: The tea-growing community comprising of the tea garden workers and their families play a key role in this labor-intensive industry. Given the fact that over 60% of the costs of tea are social and manpower costs, a well looked-after and motivated work force is a critical success factor.

During the visit, the tea tourist is able to interact with the community, appreciate their traditions, customs and culture and get a close peek at their daily lives. On the other hand, the tea community gets to rub shoulders with the actual consumers from faraway lands whose lives they touch daily with the warmth of their tea! This exchange is indeed the beauty of tea tourism. Often the tourist is able to buy and carry back souvenirs crafted by the local artisans, which generates income and instills a sense of pride and satisfaction.

HospitaliTEA: The old-world, laid-back charm that pervades most tea estates never fails to mesmerize. Spacious bungalows, courteous attendants, acres of manicured lawns and the associated flora and fauna create a special welcoming combination that takes the breath out of the unsuspecting tourist. Then there is the food. Mostly grown locally, organically and farm fresh, the sumptuous breakfasts, lunches, snacks, dinners…and of course with endless cups of fresh tea, makes it all a foodie’s paradise!

The OpportuniTEA:Given the above, it needs no tea-leaf reading to predict that tea tourism is fast emerging as an important niche with much promise within the overall agro-tourism landscape. Tea-related associations and tour organizers, operators, tea growers and tea lovers in general must seize the opportunity. They must develop a tight cooperation amongst them, to take tea tourism to the next level. And in all of this, the tea drinker is the ultimate beneficiary. The tea tourism exposure adds another ‘uplifTEAing’ flavor to the daily cup! …

Assam girls dancingAs they say, ‘where there is tea, there is hope’.


01 2016