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David vs. Goliath in the Tea World

Those Goliath-sized tea vendors out there are getting a bit of a licking from the smaller David-the-Shepherd-sized tea vendors out there. Premium teas are on the rise, and awareness that there is more than that dust-in-a-bag style tea is the stone in David’s slingshot that could topple those Goliaths. Or so my analogy goes. And, of course, I’m assuming that you’re familiar with that story. The giant versus that little shepherd.

The Goliaths have a number of advantage. One is – well, duh, size! They’re big. They have big marketing budgets. They can get their products on store shelves. They can buy up an entire tea crop at the tea auctions, grind it to dust, bag it, box it, and create an ad campaign that will make you wonder how you could ever get through your day without it. (Being just a bit facetious here, but you get the idea, I’m sure.)

One of those Goliaths. (ETS image)
One of those Goliaths. (ETS image)

Some of those Goliaths:

  • Unilever (produces various well-known brands, including Brooke Bond, Lyon’s Tea, and PG Tips) – they are considered the largest tea producing girl in the world.
  • Tata Global Beverages (produces Tetley Tea) – headquartered in Kolkata, Bengal, India.
  • That coffee chain that now owns two tea companies here in the U.S.

The Davids of the tea world, increasing in number every day, are smaller, dedicated to that superior quality, and getting known through alternate channels such as tea blogs and social media sites. They sling a stone here, a stone there, and little by little are converting those who have fallen under the spell (a bit of metaphor mixing here) of those Goliaths into true believers in the Davids.

The Davids are too numerous to mention. They are sometimes tea garden owners selling directly to customers instead of through those large auctions (and getting a better price). Sometimes they are small companies with online store that they work directly with to sell their products (dealing with all the shipping, customs, and other issues for international sales is rather daunting). And they have a legion of helpers – mainly tea bloggers and social media folks who get the word out through their reviews posted online.

It’s quite a battle, but the Davids are getting more attention than ever. And that’s not to say you can’t enjoy your PG Tips with a clear conscience. Just wanted you to know that things out there in the world of tea are changing.

See more of A.C. Cargill’s articles here.

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2 responses to “David vs. Goliath in the Tea World”

  1. yes, i agree 100%!!! …i have been ordering my second flush darjeeling margarets hope for decades . never use tea bags ever …

    1. Great! There are about 87 or 88 Darjeeling tea gardens and also some wonderful teas with very similar flavor profiles coming out of Nepal. You might want to look into them. I know the English Tea Store carries the Mim Estate Darjeeling tea in loose leaf. I’m pretty sure it’s second flush. There is also some good tea coming out of the states of Bihar and Sikkim in India. Not too impressed with the teas from Nilgiri, India, though. So fun to explore the “Davids” out there. Enjoy!

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