Mega tea vendors produce the lion’s share of tea sold and consumed in the world. Here in the U.S. a certain coffee shop chain that already owned one fairly well-known tea company recently acquired another (a rather sizable one). Justified concerns abound. Will it degrade the overall tea market here? Will their flavored teas dominate? Will the price of a cuppa go sky high? Or does this benefit all tea drinkers? The real issue seems to be a bad reputation attached to mega tea vendors.
What Is a Mega Tea Vendor?
It’s a big company. A really big company. And it produces tea for the commercial market. It may produce other products as well. People get concerned about both of these. The claims:
- A big company producing tea just can’t be producing a quality tea product.
- A company that produces other products, usually foods, can’t know enough about tea to make a quality tea product.
Big companies can be rather misunderstood, and they’ve certainly been given a bad reputation lately, sometimes justified but more frequently not. Some folks worry that their tea is made by a company that makes a lot of other products. As if they didn’t have any real knowledge of tea or could process it with the same skill as their cookies or powdered soup mix are processed. This view comes from not understanding corporate structure. In a word: divisions. Big companies are divided, with those divisions handling different product lines. Each employs specialists in that particular product.
Years ago, I worked for a company that had two divisions. One made electronics (televisions, record players, and radios). The other made appliances (refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers, and dishwashers). Never the twain did meet, as the saying goes. None of their TVs could wash clothes or bake a cake, and none of their refrigerators could play a record. (Yes, it was that long ago.) And both the electronics and the appliances enjoyed a good reputation on the market for quality and reliability. A big company that makes tea and powdered soup mix and other products usually has separate divisions handling each. And separate specialists.
Most of these mega tea vendors produce the machine processed bagged black teas that many of us (yours truly included) rely on for a daily potful or two. (Some folks claim they drink 3 to 5 cups of tea per day, where hubby and I each drink about 6 to 8 cups per day, and the first 6-cupper potful is often one of these brandname teas from a mega tea vendor.) These teas are usually blends made from ultra-secret recipes. So much of black tea A, so much of black tea B, a dash of black tea C, and so on. Not only are the recipes secret, but they are adhered to with a fervor that can be unmatched in any home kitchen. After all, a consistent flavor is expected by their customers. If they let that consistency vary, it can be as disastrous as when Coke changed their recipe (and then had to bring back the original recipe as Coke Classic).
Three Brandname Teas Made by Mega Vendors
- Typhoo — On 31 October 2005 Apeejay Surrendra Group, one of India’s largest tea producers, acquired Typhoo and its associated brands. In addition, they have hotels, retail stores, shipping concerns, and commercial real estate. Most of these are in India. And they approach all they do with the same high standards as they do the production and blending of Typhoo tea.
- PG Tips — The giant company Unilever is now the owner of PG Tips. They also own a host of other brands (TRESemmé hair spray, Marmite, Dove soaps, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, Knorr foods, Lipton, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter fake butter goop in a tub, Colman’s foods, Bertolli pastas, Slim-Fast diet drinks, and many more).
- Lyon’s tea — Another tea brand now produced by Unilever.
While I love enjoying those special teas from those small specialty vendors who are really in touch with their teas and every step of production, I also appreciate those mega tea vendors who can crank out the volume and keep the quality consistent and at a level that satisfies their customers. After all, those customers could just switch to another brand or another source at any time!
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