What Happened to My Favorite Tea?!
If you’ve ever discovered that your all-time favorite tea is out of stock or—even worse—just gone, you are in good (although not happy) company. Three of my go-to teas are no longer available and, in my mind, they aren’t really replaceable!
Sadly, there are many reasons why a particular tea may go off the market, either temporarily or permanently.
When Human Events Intervene
Sometimes politics or economics disrupt the industry.
When tea workers in Darjeeling went on strike in 2017 (one of the foundational issues was the call for a separate state for Gurkhas living in Darjeeling), most of that year’s tea went unharvested and there was fear that after the strike was resolved it would take yet another year to bring the tea gardens back into shape.
Back in 2015 there was news about a group of ethnic Palaung (or Ta’ang) in Myanmar who once supported themselves by growing and selling tea. However, their land was seized for commercial agriculture at the same time that cheaper tea became readily available from China, thereby ending their own tea production.
One of my personal black tea favorites, Vietnam Yen Bai OP, was once harvested from wild tea plants in northern Vietnam. Supply was discontinued when the government apparently took over operations.
Tea gardens may become economically unviable and close down, just like tea shops. The shuttering of Teavana in the U.S. due to “underperformance” left many without their favorite brew.
Similarly, demand may not be enough to outweigh cost. For example, decaffeinated tea is not very popular in Europe, so there is little incentive for European suppliers to bother with decaf tea.
Sometimes there is a problem with the tea itself. There may not be enough produced for whatever reason, and so global demand may simply outstrip supply. Or, the tea may not meet purity or quality standards and therefore is refused. The market is increasing for products that are certified free of heavy metals and pesticide residue, for fair trade, for environmental sustainability, for higher-quality teas.
When Nature Speaks Up
Tea is, of course, an agricultural crop, and so inclement weather, natural catastrophes, and climate change directly impact supply, even to the point of decimating a harvest.
Low-lying tea gardens, such as in Assam, are damaged or destroyed by flooding, which may occur more frequently as heavy rains become increasingly erratic.
As I wrote in a recent post, prolonged cold weather in India’s Nilgiris District ruined the tea leaves so nothing can be harvested until new growth appears.
Because tea is sensitive to precipitation levels, vacillations in rainfall are devastating. Researchers seek to minimize the effects of low rainfall—by developing drought-resistant strains of tea plants, for example—and strive for long-term sustainability by investigating tactics such as smart irrigation.
Myriad other factors affect tea plants—age and overall health of the plant, soil degradation, pests, weeds, humidity. Again, unpredictable and erratic weather can tip any of these into the danger zone and threaten yield.
But Think of This As an Opportunity!
Be the glass half full person: Take advantage of the loss and try a tea you haven’t had before.
Today’s ZMR Research News claims that the “Global Tea Market Set for Rapid Growth” so some new teas ought to be headed our way—and you just might discover a new favorite!