STiR Tea & Coffee

is now the world's leading INDUSTRY trade magazine in the tea and coffee industries. STiR Tea & Coffee Industry Bi-Monthly is born out of the tea & coffee industry’s demand for a quality international magazine that takes its concerns to heart with a professional outlook and reporting edge. Built upon the success of the well-known and accepted Tea & Coffee Asia, which was launched in June 1999, STiR keeps the world’s coffee and tea businesses on top of the latest trends, abreast of the most recent technology, and one step ahead of growing competition. The major focus of STiR Tea & Coffee Industry Bi-Monthly is the concerns of coffee roasters and tea packers, tea leaf and coffee bean importers and exporters, and tea and coffee growers and plantations. Readers will learn what manufacturing processes are being used, the latest packaging techniques, types of coffee and tea which countries/companies are leading the way, and all the latest on the equipment, machinery, supplies and services required to bring tea & coffee products to the marketplace. Another major focus of the magazine is on coffee shops, tea shops, hotels, espresso bars, and cafes and what they need to set up their tea and coffee service business and how to improve that business. In every issue you can expect to learn who is serving the latest coffee and tea brands, what flavors are popular, and what equipment they are using, as well as merchandising and trade innovations.

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Issue 1, 2015 

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Canada’s Passion for Specialty Tea

Canada’s tea drinkers were influenced almost exclusively by the country’s British heritage for three centuries but the influx of immigrants in the past 25 years and a growing preference for specialty tea and herbals make this one of the most diverse and innovative tea markets in the world. Black English breakfast blends were drunk hot with milk, and possibly sugar, from traditional tea cups and mugs and this remains the favorite of Ontario and Quebec which have the largest numbers of tea drinkers and the greatest concentration of heavy drinkers (defined as taking 16 or more cups a week). Today, the Canadian demographic includes not just families who migrated there from England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland but a growing number of people from China, Hong Kong, the Indian sub-continent and Eastern Europe. British Columbia is now home to 14% of the country’s heavy tea drinkers.

For example, Vancouver’s residents today include Chinese and Korean families; Toronto is home to groups from India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka; Montreal’s demographic includes people from south and south east Asia, Arab states, China, Korea and Japan. As in other countries, the tea preferences, traditions, and rituals of those many and varied ethnic groups have gradually influenced Canada’s tea drinking habits.

As Louise Roberge, president of the Tea Association of Canada, says, “Canada’s changing face has had an impact on the awareness and availability of tea; neighbors are sharing experiences and we now celebrate events, such as Chinese New Year, Diwali, etc. in way that never happened in the past. We have always drunk hot tea in Canada so it’s not hard for us to relate to the hot tea drinking traditions of other cultures.”


A changing balance in the consumption patterns of different age groups is also having an effect on the tea market. As Shabnam Weber, president and ceo of The Tea Emporium, Toronto, explained, “The younger generation is looking for an alternative to the carbonated drinks and coffee that their parents traditionally drink and so are attracted to tea, particularly flavored tea. At the same time, retiring baby boomers are looking for a healthy way to stay fit and live longer. They still want to drink caffeine and so are moving away from coffee and towards tea.”


Roberge agrees and adds that, “Studies show that tea is seen as a relaxing drink, so for retired people it’s a 7 day a week drink. And as people realize that you can only drink so much wine, tea is the obvious alternative, with tea being the choice of men as well as women.”


A changing balance in the consumption patterns of different age groups is also having an effect on the tea market. As Shabnam Weber, president and ceo of The Tea Emporium, Toronto, explained, “The younger generation is looking for an alternative to the carbonated drinks and coffee that their parents traditionally drink and so are attracted to tea, particularly flavored tea. At the same time, retiring baby boomers are looking for a healthy way to stay fit and live longer. They still want to drink caffeine and so are moving away from coffee and towards tea.”

Roberge agrees and adds that, “Studies show that tea is seen as a relaxing drink, so for retired people it’s a 7 day a week drink. And as people realize that you can only drink so much wine, tea is the obvious alternative, with tea being the choice of men as well as women.”


Kevin Gascoyne, one of four owner-managers of Montreal-based specialty tea company Camellia Sinensis, highlights other factors; “The Canadian Specialty Tea industry has taken off at such a rate in recent years due to a combination of factors. Firstly comes the advantage of Canada’s existing tea habit, a legacy of the colonial Brits. Secondly, and more universal, is the exciting rebirth of ‘real food’ which has us all upgrading our shopping lists with finer olive oils, cheeses, spices, etc. and our basic attitudes toward food and drink has changed dramatically in the space of a decade or two. As a product that carries such great stories of artisanal manufacture in exotic lands, tea’s vast diversity of natural flavor profiles fits nicely into this scenario.”


 Grant Kuebler, managing director of Murchies, the well-established tea company with more than 100 years of history in Canada, says “We don’t really see the current market trend as a boom, but rather as an inevitable reassertion of tea. People are returning to a beverage that has strong traditions and nostalgia, but they’re also learning about the amazing variety of tea options and flavors beyond the typical orange pekoe.”


Market Growth


More than half of Canadians (54%) drink tea weekly. Women (60%) are more likely to have at least one cup per week compared to men 40%. The average among tea drinkers is 8.3 cups per week with 32% taking 10 or more cups week. Together they drink 9.7 billion cups of tea a year.


Ten years ago Canada’s Agriculture and Agri-Food department predicted that tea consumption would rise by 40% by 2020. In 2012, market research firm Euromonitor International, recorded that volume sales of tea were up 0.2% to 13,800 metric tons, and that retail sales had increased by 3% to reach a total value of $517 million. By 2017, sales are expected to have grown at a steady 2% to reach a value of $564 million. New stores are opening across the country, online tea businesses are growing fast, annual tea festivals attract thousands of eager consumers, tea sommelier courses in adult education colleges are recruiting a steady stream of tea amateurs and professionals, and it seems that tea is Canada’s new passion.


The Tea and Health Message


Since the program of research into the health benefits of tea began in the 1990s, and with the encouraging results that have been made public since then, tea consumption has shown an encouragingly steady growth.


Roberge commented that, “As recently as 2002-2003, we didn’t even measure green tea and flavored green consumption. Now, we analyze what people are drinking and how big a part the health message plays in consumer choices.” Kevin Gascoyne agrees: “Tea being so extremely good for our daily well-being and long term health, a 5000 year human habit is hard to argue with. And consumers are bombarded daily by a constant media flow of Tea and Health information.”


Research shows that the amount of money spent on tea is highest amongst those who associate tea with the message that it delivers an important dose of antioxidants into the body, may prevent cancer, maintains fluid intake, relieves anxiety and reduces cholesterol. And of 4205 people quizzed in a Nielsen survey, 64% said that they associated health with hot green tea (compared to 56% of those surveyed in 2007), only 28% with flavored hot green tea (against 13% in 2007), and 27% with hot black tea (compared to 10% in 2007). But black tea persists as the favorite. In a Nielsen survey of 3,177 regular tea drinkers, when asked what teas were in their cupboard, 68% said regular black tea, 53% said green, 50% flavored black and 28% flavored green.


Education and Sommelier Training


Many tea stores and tea rooms across Canada now offer regular tasting events since they recognize that this is the best way to engage customers who are often unaware of the different types and varieties of tea available and, as happened with wine in the past, are hesitant to ask for information. As well as events, classes and courses offered by individual companies, the Tea Association of Canada has for the past few years been offering a tea sommelier program through adult education colleges.


Tea Association President Roberge explains that, “We have worked diligently to provide Canada with a Tea Sommelier program that will educate and empower any novice tea minded individual.” The 150 hour course teaches an understanding of the production of different types of tea and different tea regions, the tea taster’s vocabulary and sensory evaluation of tea, brewing skills, menu design, food pairing, cooking with tea, and the business of tea. The course is currently offered at six colleges across the country and more academic institutions are waiting for approval to go ahead,” she said.


The program “attracts not only people who work for tea companies, serve tea in tea lounges and tea rooms, or plan to work in tea in the future, but also a high number of interested amateurs who simply like tea and want to know more, in perhaps the same way that they may want to learn about wine or chocolate,” said Roberge.


“There’s a constant demand for the course and because it’s physically challenging to teach right across the country in different time zones, we now also offer the course online. Classes fill up very quickly and, as well as Canadians, we’ve had people from America, Italy and Egypt recruiting for the online course. We send out teas to participants beforehand so that they can taste the appropriate teas during the course,” said Weber, who helps organize and teach the course.


Shops such as Toronto’s Tao Tea Leaf and Maison De Thé Camellia Sinensis are typical of the new success of shops that specialize in Chinese teas and host regular tasting events and classes to inform and educate new tea aficionados. Since 2009, Tao Wu of Tao Tea Leaf has been offering 180 different teas sourced directly on personal visits from tea farms in China (including rare oolongs and ancient Pu-erhs), has a team of staff who have completed the tea Sommelier course at the local George Brown College, runs workshops at his tea school, participates in the Toronto Tea Festival, and takes groups of interested tea over to China.


“We are always ready to show the art of tea, a cup is always waiting for you. Here we open closed doors to the culture and history behind the world of tea,” said Wu.


Camellia Sinensis is a 15-year old specialty tea company with stores in three locations in Montreal and Quebec City. The company is owned and managed by four tea tasters who travel to Asia every spring to source teas. All the leaf from the more than 250 teas in their catalog is directly purchased fresh from the season direct from the growers (with the exception of their large collection of Pu-erh and aged teas of other regions). The company’s two tea schools offer more than 20 different courses for both amateurs and professionals, providing a wealth of information on the teas, techniques and cultures of India, Sri Lanka, China, Taiwan, Japan, Vietnam and other tea regions, as well as tastings and gastronomical pairings. How could tea lovers resist the invitation, for example, to “discover and savor the quality of the World’s greatest terroirs, experiment with the gong fu cha technique and watch the production of the famous Yixing teapots.”


What are Consumers Drinking


Black tea blends still seem to the most popular among mainstream tea drinkers. According to Grant Kuebler, “Generally Murchies has the most success with our black tea blends. The two most popular teas have been our new Scottish Breakfast and Canadian Breakfast, which are fairly traditional blends and true to Murchie’s roots.”


Canadian consumers are also fond of flavored greens, herbal infusions such as rooibos, chamomile, fruit blends, and blends that contain superfoods such as gogi berries and mulberry leaves. Ron Sadler, managing director, Canada at Twinings North America, says that Twinings has seen green tea sales stagnate over the past three years while sales of herbals have increased by 42%.


“Green was the darling three years ago but people do need information about how to brew it well. Flavored greens are still popular but sales are flat. What consumers are looking for at the moment is the wow factor in terms of flavor and aroma. Chamomile is our top seller and customers love blends such as chamomile, honey and vanilla, and pomegranate and raspberry,” said Sadler. Fine tea counter inside Loblaw’s Grocery, downtown Toronto.Fine tea counter inside Loblaw’s Grocery, downtown Toronto.Also popular are white tea, decaffeinated teas, tea lattes and green iced teas. Older consumers still seem to prefer hot black tea while younger households often choose flavored greens, tea lattes, white tea and rooibos. Around 96% of tea drinkers (mainly those over the age of 55) say that they use tea bags; 43% (younger to middle-aged consumers particularly in the Ontario and British Columbia areas) apparently choose loose leaf; and 26% (mainly those aged 20-24) use pods – a relatively new format for tea.


Specialty tea continues to grow and is up 4% on 2012 value with premium specialty up 7%. A significant change also worth noting is that consumption out-of-home is growing as well, especially among younger couples with children. The fact that Teavana locate 62 of its 351 outlets in Canada has meant specialty teas are now more readily available. Starbucks spent $620 million to acquire Teavana in 2011 and intends to build 1000 more stores in the next few years, recognition of the growing consumption of foodservice opportunities and the demand for more variety and better quality.


When it comes to the choice of how people brew – bags, loose or pods – it is pods that have shown the largest increase in popularity. Nielsen reports 16% of tea drinkers said that they use more tea bags than a year ago, 28% say they buy more loose leaf, and 45% have increased their use of pods. The use of pods has grown


by 67% in the past year. DAVIDsTEA shop in Upper East Side New York City, one of 107 locations.DAVIDsTEA shop in Upper East Side New York City, one of 107 locations. Ron Sadler says that pods are driving the growth in the market at the moment: “Pods are an easy way to bridge from coffee to tea. People are used to using pods in their coffee machines and younger consumers particularly like the convenience of this single-serve format. Single serve pods such as Tassimo Twinings range and Keurig Twinings K-cup pods are energizing the market at the moment. The number one Twinings variety at the moment is the Chai Latte.”


Euromonitor International reports that overall growth of the Canadian market “will likely come from specialty black tea as well as such innovations as tea pods that cater to increasingly premium-minded Canadian consumers, offering them a new and refreshing way to consume tea.”


The Main Players

The largest wholesale supplier is Metropolitan Tea Co. in Toronto, a 30-year-old importer with 7,000 specialty tea shops, hotels like the Fairmont chain, grocers and restaurants on its client list. In 2013 the company received the Toronto Board of Trade’s “Sustainability Award” for its 2,600-panel solar powered facility


and innovation in becoming a carbon negative. The Main PlayersThe Main PlayersHiggins & Burke, headquartered in Toronto, dates to 1912 when the company distributed groceries. Teas from its modern blending and packaging facility in Mississauga, Ont., and its ready-to-drink bottling plant are today distributed around the globe. The company’s Mother Parkers brand of coffee launched in the 1930s expanded into the U.S. in the 1990s with a roasting operation in Amherst, New York and is now one of the largest in Canada and the fourth largest coffee roster in North America. Mother Parkers owns the largest instant coffee making factory in Canada, operates facilities in Ft. Worth, Tex., and is one of only three companies operating a direct decaffeination factory in North America.


Across Canada, there are a growing number of small independent specialty tea stores, tea rooms and online businesses offering a good range of single origin, single estate, blended and flavored teas. In Toronto The Tea Emporium is the first specialty tea company to have a presence in a large supermarket. The company has a space inside Loblaws, the largest food chain in Canada, and owner Shabnam Weber says, “Hats off to Loblaws for recognizing the value of placing a specialist tea company inside their store. It’s very good for the category and other food companies are adjusting to the fact that it makes sense to have in-store tea specialists in exactly the same way that supermarkets have specialist fish, meat and cheese counters.”


Brendan Waye, The Tea Guy, has opened five of his own shops, helped in the creation and development of 14 others over the past 10 years, and today sells a wide range of specialty teas via his online business. And among the growing number of new tea businesses, a few big names stand out – Murchies, Teaopia, David’s Tea, Teavana and Steeped Tea.


Murchies has been around for more than 100 years and has seen tea sales go up and up and since 2007 has been revitalizing and expanding the business, with new stores, new blends and a new range of tea-related gifts and tablewares.


Murchies has been around for more than 100 years and has seen tea sales go up and up and since 2007 has been revitalizing and expanding the business, with new stores, new blends and a new range of tea-related gifts and tablewares.


Stir I2Stir I2The vision behind Davids Tea, established in 2008 by David Segal, was to offer “great tea, a friendly environment and a colorful modern store. It seemed like a simple idea but we couldn’t find anyone else doing it.” Before he opened his own shops, he was a regular customer at the Camellia Sinensis store in Montreal and with his growing experience, knowledge and love for tea, he developed the idea of building a chain of tea stores across the country. The company now has 120 locations in the Canada and the U.S. and offers 150 mainly flavored blends, both in the shops and online, with trendy packaging, monthly specials, and up to the minute information that keeps the business dynamic and successful.


Multi-million dollar Steeped Tea, the other major success story in Canada, is a direct-sales business offering loose leaf teas, tea wares, and tea gifts. Established in 2006 by Tonia and Hatem Jahshan, the Hamilton-based company has recruited 3,000 consultants to hold ‘tea parties’ in private houses across the country at which potential customers taste and order teas. Parties typically generate $500 in sales. The company appeared on Dragon’s Den in 2012, landed a $125,000 for a 10% share deal from backers David Chilton and Jim Treliving, and has grown six-fold in three and a half years, expanding into the United States last year. It is the most successful venture ever funded by the Dragon’s Den investors.


Tea Festivals


With a growing number of trainee tea sommeliers, an increase in the number of tea businesses, and the surge of interest in tea across the country, local tea festivals are now attracting high numbers of visitors who want to taste, learn, and participate in all sorts of tea-related activities.


In Toronto, organizer and participant Tao Wu of Tao Tea Leaf explained that, “the idea of a festival grew out of the desire to promote tea culture and share tea knowledge and experience. The first Toronto Tea Festival was held in 2013 and everyone was surprised by the success of the event. More than 1200 attendees attended the one-day event – far more than we thought would come. There were seven different tea lectures given by tea experts, including one from Montreal and one from U.S., and we also held the beautiful Korean and Chinese tea ceremonies. The Tea Ceremony Demonstrations also generated an interest in tea culture. In 2013 we had a long queue of people at the door so we’re planning a much bigger, 2-day event for 2014.”


In Nova Scotia, the second Valley Tea Festival, held in October 2013, was organized by Margot Bureaux , town councilor, tea specialist, sommelier, and consultant working in partnership with the Valley Regional Hospital Foundation. “The Hospital Foundation has the best and largest volunteer base I’ve ever worked with - they were tireless in their enthusiasm to put their very best forward. Various vendors had samples of tea many people have never tried,” said Bureaux. This is great for the industry and helps showcase the true breadth and scope of tea. Those that attended were very pleased and enjoyed the event.” There are plans for another festival, possibly in Halifax, in 2014


The 3rd Ottawa Tea Festival, organized by tea specialist and sommelier Kimiko Uriu, was held at the Ottawa Convention Centre on 23rd November 2013 and offered tea and chocolate pairings, iced tea and Virgin MarTEAni workshops, tastings of teas from all around the world, blending workshops, Japanese tea tastings, and Indian dance. Well over 1000 tea lovers browsed 35 booths and, says Uriu, “It’s exciting to see the growth of the festival. So many tea lovers, performers, people from all over Canada came to experience the event.”


In Vancouver, Delano Tamborini and Sharryn Modder organized a festival deemed “an overwhelming success. We had a lot of great feedback from attendees about how the event really opened their eyes to how broad and diverse the tea world truly is,” said Tamborini. “So many people said they found out about teas they’d never even known existed. We’ll hold another festival next year, and hopefully annually for quite a few years after that,” he said.

The big crowds attracted are indicative of the surge of interest in one of the most enthusiastic tea drinking countries in the world.














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