KOLKATA: The Korean chaebols like LG, Samsung and Hyundai have already won over the hearts of millions of Indians. It's now the turn of Darjeeling tea to make inroads into the Korean market, which is largely dominated by green tea.
South Korea, for the first time, has imported 1,500 tonne Darjeeling tea with a promise to buy more in the coming days.
Talking to ET, SS Bagaria, chairman of Darjeeling Tea Association (DTA), said: "Korea is a new market for us and they have evinced interest to taste Darjeeling tea. We have sent first flush and autumnal teas to the Korean market."
According to international media reports, tea had a -2% decline in off-trade value sales, reaching Won220 billion in 2012. Though the market declined, the negative growth rate became slower. Black tea remained stagnant whereas green tea shrunk at a moderate pace. Fruit/herbal tea and instant tea contributed to the segment with a value growth of 3% and 5%, respectively.
"We are aware that Korea is predominantly a green tea market. But the teas that we are sending to South Korea have almost equal taste of green tea. We are hopeful that the Koreans will definitely develop a palate for Darjeeling tea just like the way we have developed a preference for Korean electronic goods and cars," said Bagaria.
The Korean interest has come at a time when Darjeeling tea is facing a drop in exports. Producers feel that a number of reasons has impacted exports this year. While the agitation launched by Gorkha Janmukti Morcha demanding a Gorkhaland has impacted exports to some extent, the adherence to geographical indication for Darjeeling tea in European markets might have some influence on exports.
In 2012, the EU recognised the authenticity and uniqueness of Darjeeling tea and had registered 'Darjeeling tea' mark as a 'protected geographical indication' (PGI). "There may be some old Darjeeling tea stocks with the packeteers or blenders, which they may be clearing off. That may be one of the reasons why offtake is less this year. However, we have got 10 Euros for a kg from the European buyers this year. The Koreans are offering lesser price than the Europeans," the DTA chairman said.
The rising demand of Darjeeling tea in non-traditional markets like Korea and China reflects a new global trend among the younger consumers to experiment with different varieties of the beverage just as black tea gains ground in China and green tea becomes popular among Indians. Globally, the market share of green tea has risen to 31% from 17% over the past decade. This year, 87 tea estates in Darjeeling have produced 9 million kg tea. But rains during August-September had affected the quality of tea.
Source: The Economic Times