Camellia for Foliage, Flowers, Fruit & Tea
The UK is the world's foremost authority on western tea and is among the trendsetters both in consumption and technology, ably supported by the UK Tea Council. Bulk tea sourcing for the UK is into low cost/high volume areas, and will continue thus. Quality and speciality teas are emerging away from the mass market and, as a percentage of the whole UK market value, will grow rapidly. This is also true for the Japanese market. Quality teas will command a higher margin and increase overall share to perhaps 15% of the market.
In my study, countries to visit were chosen for extreme differences in approach to tea cultivation. It is recognised that tea production is predominantly in low-waged countries and this usually forms a central plank in the argument against developing tea in high wage economies. However, in Australia machinery has been developed to pluck (harvest) the black tea which now supplies up to 10% of their own domestic market. In Victoria a Japanese green tea industry is being developed with direct investment from Japan's "Ito En". This kind of innovation takes account of the whole scenario and demonstrates possibilities despite labour costs. Across the world there is a slowly dawning realisation that much of mass-market tea will eventually be mechanically harvested; Australia leads in example.
Analysis of tea in countries visited is limited to aspects possibly relevant to establishing tea in the UK.
7) Tea Processing
Because "black tea" is the mass market product, it is not considered in detail in this study.
Processing depends on starting with a good leaf. Good tea cannot be made from a poor leaf - however a good tea can be ruined by poor processing. The estate or garden establishes a 'plucking round' determined by growth rate; the more frequent the plucking, the more total area can be covered each year and continuous processing can be achieved with corresponding efficiency gains.