This would be the book I picked up from my university library some time before Christmas. I feel a bit apologetic writing about a book that, as far as I’ve been able to find out, is just about impossible to obtain. There is a short inscription on the back of the book regarding messaging the United Nations for publications, but it seems to imply that if your local bookstore doesn’t carry it, you’re out of luck.
The UN, however, does seem to have a lot of their articles and books published online now. Although this publication isn’t among them (I know, I spent a tireless evening looking for it, because I liked this enough to want a copy on-hand [though it WAS published in 1996]), I wonder if emailing them might prompt them to post this and similar works online.
On to the work itself; it’s a very concise volume detailing the tea market systems of each above-mentioned country. It’s actually so concise I don’t know how I’d go about summarizing it. It’s really a great book to have on-hand for reference, I think, despite being published in 1996, meaning some of these models may be out of date now. The first chapter details the TYPES of systems–specifically tea auction systems used in the non-China countries of Asia (there is also a section detailing how tea sales and systems in China differ from the rest); this first chapter is most definitely my favourite, as it details the auction types found around the world in dealing with tea. The information given is then crucial to understanding the rest of the book, laying down a basis of terminology for the discussion of market types.
Much of the world’s tea market in the 1990’s was based around the London Tea Auction. Though not the largest tea auction of its time, it was the most publicized, and had a hand in leading the year’s tea-pricing trends. The book is quite critical on London’s involvement in the tea trade, of its influence on production countries and other national auctions. It goes on to criticize the London auction’s status as the “nerve centre for the International Tea Trade”. “London is neither a production centre nor the largest auction centre and yet the price line it determines influences the prices adopted in virtually all the other auction centres world-wide”.
Another interesting topic the book inadvertantly covers, is America’s descent into the mainstreamization (is that a word?) of teabags. It discusses how leading up to the 90’s, orthodox loose tea of high quality was valued above all. But as the world’s consumption shifted towards more “instant” methods of tea, CTC production began to catch on in estates, and tea bags became prevalent. “…the increasing popularity of tea bags, the preference for quality tea is waning. Variations in flavour, appearance, and so on, are no longer as important as the liquoring quality and its packaging.” Those countries that chose not to embrace CTC production begin to decline economically, which the book supports with a few short tables of information (among these countries, of course, is China with no CTC production).
China’s chapter shifts away from the previous chapter’s style, as it’s in its own category. Individual estates are rarely recognized, and China does not have its own auction system to review. And it never embraced CTC production. During the 90’s then, its black tea’s price falls at auction, and subsequently the country begins to put more stock in its green and ‘specialty’ teas in order to compensate. The book predicts that China’s black tea market may completely collapse, in favour of India’s.
Overall, I think it’s a handy book to have on-hand for reference, and I wish I could find it in ebook format. I would be interested if the UN were to publish a more up to date work on the current state of the international tea markets, though this book is a good basis for information.