ESTA launches a new scoring system for East African specialty teas

European Speciality Tea Association (ESTA) has announced its formal support of an agreement between the International Trade Centre (ITC) and East African Tea Trade Association (EATTA) in a project to explore the feasibility of establishing a regular market connection service promoting direct trade with global buyers of specialty teas.

The platform will serve not only as a means for transactions of specialty teas, but also as a means for seller/buyer discovery and long-term relationship establishment; and promoting East African specialty teas to international markets. This ITC-EATTA initiative is under the auspices of the European Union (EU) East African Community’s (EAC) Market Access Upgrade Program (MARKUP). Joyce Maina, ESTA director, is coordinating the quality side of the project as lead judge.

The first part of the process, the Competition, has already started with Maina developing a categorisation system as well as training regional and international jury panel in its application to select the best teas. This will be followed by a pilot run, the intention of which is to test the concept, absorb and analyse the process and results, and to subsequently build a longer-term and more frequently held online marketplace.

The second component is Market Place. In the coffee industry, online private auctions have been building in popularity and frequency over several years. For more than 20 years, the Alliance for Coffee Excellence ‘Cup of Excellence’ competition and auction has been promoting and encouraging high quality coffees sold at premium prices in transparent price setting mechanism and creating direct buyer/seller relationship that endure over a long term and building prestige for participants, both buyers and sellers. The project will use similar online system to a send the teas to market, thus providing such a platform for East Africa teas to be promoted to buyers anywhere in the world, aiming for producers to find new buyers, realise competitive prices and to encourage a culture of production and trade of high-quality specialty teas as an alternative to CTC.

Maina described specialty teas as being “… premium and luxury quality artisan teas of extraordinary aroma, taste, appearance and terroir; but more than that, the specialty tea movement encompasses the philosophy, deep love and inspiration that creates an elevated experience throughout the tea journey from crop nurturing and harvest to cup preparation and enjoyment.” She noted that specialty teas include all types made from the tea plant (white, yellow, green, oolong, black, purple, and dark teas) as well as botanicals, fruit and herbal infusions. “What makes the offering special is that it is grown and made, selected and crafted, presented and served with a high degree of quality, expertise, passion and care.”

For this competition and marketplace, the teas regarded as specialty will be from across the East African region. Maina said that this is a breakthrough partnership between EATTA and ITC which will potentially change the nature of specialty tea trading, and “it is so important that ESTA is supporting us in this initiative. We look forward to the first online sale coming up later this year. If you are a specialty tea hunter or buyer, you will not want to miss it! Come and discover the best of African tea and make a difference in a specialty farmer’s livelihood.”

“As an association dedicated to promoting specialty tea and inspiring excellence in the specialty tea community, we are so pleased to be a part of this initiative, its importance cannot be over-estimated,” said David Veal, executive director of ESTA, adding, “On a personal level, having witnessed at first hand the success of this model during my coffee career I have been lobbying for this for the last three years so I congratulate EATTA and ITC for their foresight and innovation.”

Results of the first online sale will be announced later in the year.

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