Indian tea hasn’t exactly taken the Chinese market by storm but a rising demand for black tea in China could just prove to be the opening that Indian tea growers and promoters are looking for.
The Chinese drink copious amounts of tea: mostly green tea. But the demand for the black kind is growing and it is expected to touch the 100 million kg mark by 2015, experts said on Friday at an Indian Tea Promotion Seminar and Tea Tasting function at the Indian embassy.
This is where India can repay some of its debt to China for freely adopting and using the term 'cha', which is originally a Chinese word; both the plant and its name found their way to India via ancient traders and travelers.
“As the largest black tea producer in the world and home to some of the most exclusive and premium brands, India is well positioned to meet Chinese demand,” Namgya Khampa from the Indian embassy’s trade and commerce wing told a gathering of enthusiastic Chinese entrepreneurs and tea enthusiasts at the function.
Currently, the share of Indian black tea exports to China is small. In fact, the export volume fell last year. In 2012, India exported nearly 20 million kg of black tea to China but the figure fell to around 15 million kg last year.
But as demand for black tea rises with more Chinese experimenting and opting for stronger variety of the drink, India, as the largest producer of black tea in the world, is in the right position to pour and fill up China’s cup.
“In 2010, India produced 966.4 million kg of which 80 per cent was black tea,” Khampa said in her presentation.
“Indian tea also offers variety to the Chinese market. It has tropical tea from south India and tea that is grown in the Himalayas,” Marco Wu, a representative of an Indian tea company doing business here since 2006, said.
Indian varieties like Darjeeling and Assam are premium quality brands which have the potential to expand their presence in the Chinese market.
Wu added that Chinese urban youth are also experimenting with tea – many opting for the quick RTD or ready-to-drink format -- and that is one reason why demand for black tea is expected to rise.
There is much work to be done though as India though the largest producer of black tea – and the second largest producer of tea in the world after China – streamlines its export and marketing procedures.
And since, tea drinking is a matter of habit, it might take a while for the Chinese to opt for an Indian cup.