Transparency is a bit of a buzz word in the tea world. A lot of companies claim to have it but what does transparency really mean? For me, it means being completely upfront and honest about where a product came from. In comparison to other industries, like coffee and wine, it is rare for tea companies to reveal where their products come from.
The time has come for consumers to vote with their wallets. These are some of the things that I look for when buying tea. If they are not provided, chances are I am not going to make that leap.
I want to know exactly where my tea comes from. Telling me that your green tea is from China is just not good enough. Give me information about the province, mountain, and village. Not only does this let the consumer know exactly what they are buying, but the value of the tea is explained in a quantifiable way. Bonus points if you reveal the actual garden where it was grown.
Not all teas are grown at high elevation and that is OK. However, this still something that I want to see companies list for their teas. Selling a “high mountain” oolong without giving the elevation sends the message that you don’t know where the tea was actually produced.
Cultivated varieties should be part of the standard lingo used to describe tea. Telling us if it is Camellia Sinensis var. Sinensis or var. Assamica is great but I recommend going even deeper than that whenever possible. Was your dragonwell made from #43 or the more traditional Jiu Keng? Tea consumers and their palates are becoming more educated than ever before. Give your customers more info to go off of and they will thank you for it.
The time of year that tea is harvested is crucial information. If I’m purchasing a green tea I might want the pre-qingming crop of early spring. When it comes to Darjeeling, the autumn flush is my jam. Is the tea fresh or has it been sitting in a warehouse for almost a year? Showing the harvest date means that there is nothing to hide. That being said, honesty is the best policy. If a company tries to sell last year’s teas as the new spring harvest they will be caught by savvy consumers.
It is important to communicate the processing method because this is how tea is currently categorized. Some tea names can be misleading but understanding how the tea was made will enable customers to manage their expectations. This is particularly true for teas being developed at newer origins.
The specialty tea industry is constantly growing and evolving but we still have a long way to go. As I head to World Tea Expo this week, transparency will be definitely on my mind. I will be keeping my eyes and ears open for ways to encourage positive change.
Is there something else that you think should be on this list? I’d love to hear your thoughts about this in the comments below!