With Americans slowly shifting towards tea, a US business delegation is Guwahati to buy more tea from Assam to blend it with teas from Sri Lanka and China.
"The US imports 46 percent of tea from Argentina and only 18 percent from India. With consumption there on the rise, India could
very well explore the possibilities of establishing its place in the US with renewed vigour," said Kisha Omer, coordinator of the Tea Association of America.
"The Tea Board of India and our Association are working in tandem towards this goal."
Omer is part of a 12-member US team of tea enthusiasts, officials and importers currently visiting tea gardens and the tea auction centre in Assam.
The American business delegate said they would be buying Assam tea from next year. "We are working on a proposal for blending teas and it should start from early next year," said Brian Kelly, a Minnesota-based tea importer.
Coffee still remains the staple drink in the US, but the Americans were gradually shifting towards sipping tea as the beverage is considered as a health drink.
"Premium tea from Assam could be marketed in the US to cater to the niche drinkers," Omer said.
"Darjeeling tea is still considered the Indian champagne for its high quality. If Assam tea is also produced on similar lines, keeping the quality aspect high on their agenda, we are sure planters from this region could compete more effectively."
India is the world's largest tea producer, with Assam accounting for about 55 percent of the total 856 million kg produced last year.
The American delegation, however, exhorted planters in the heart of the Indian tea industry in Assam to lift the quality of the beverage.
"American tea drinker is increasingly demanding premium quality tea, and so the producers here need to concentrate on quality offerings to make a foothold in the US market," Kelly said.
The delegation asked planters and tea officials to launch an aggressive marketing drive to promote and boost sales of the beverage in the US.
India's 1.5 billion dollar tea industry is facing the worst crisis in the past century, with prices dropping in the weekly auctions, besides facing a slump in export figures and domestic consumption of the beverage.
Tea exports had plummeted from 200 million kg in 2002 to 164.8 million kg last year.