Bangladeshi company Kazi & Kazi (KK) Tea's products are sold abroad under the brand name Teatulia, named after the place Tetulia
Although coffee is the most popular caffeinated beverage in the US, the country is slowly embracing tea, with more than 159 million Americans drinking it every day.
According to the US Tea Association, Americans consumed over 84 billion servings of tea—more than 3.8 billion gallons—in 2018, about 84% of which was black tea, 15% was green tea, and the remaining was oolong, white, or dark tea.
On the forefront of this battle for beverage supremacy is a Colorado-based tea company, Teatulia, which imports single-garden, direct, sustainably grown tea from a tea garden in the Tetulia region of northern Bangladesh.
Teatulia's strategy to popularize tea in the US has mainly been to focus on raising awareness among American consumers about where the tea is originally sourced from.
Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, Linda Appel Lipsius, co-founder and CEO of Teatulia Organic Teas, said: "Everywhere else in the world, hot tea is the second-most consumed beverage after water, except in America. However, people in the US love iced tea, which we have recently introduced to our product line up."
Approximately 75–80% of tea consumed in America is iced.
From Tetulia to Colorado
Bangladeshi company Kazi & Kazi (KK) Tea's products are sold abroad under the brand name Teatulia, named after the place Tetulia.
Commencing business activities in 2000, Kazi Shahid Ahmed, chairman of Gemcon Group (KK Tea Estate Ltd) acquired barren land in Tetulia with a vision of producing the best quality of tea, and at the same time supporting the natural and social environment.
This gave birth to the idea of organic tea farming—tea grown using bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides only. To support the organic tea garden, a regular supply of bio compost was necessary, and an innovative Dairy Co-Operative Model was developed for the local people of Panchagarh.
In this co-operative model, the Kazi Shahid Foundation lends out cows to families who repay the foundation with a predetermined amount of milk and cow dung.
KK Tea entered the local Bangladesh market in 2006 and has since specialized in producing diverse flavours of tea.
'It matters where your tea comes from'
"It matters where your tea comes from," said Linda Appel Lipsius in an interview with the Dhaka Tribune during a recent visit to Dhaka. Teatulia is targeting millennials in the US, and is focused on corporate social responsibility (CSR) action to promote its products.
"We sell to a lot of colleges and universities, and this customer group is very interested in transparency, the story of where the product originates from, and what impact it is having on society," Lipsius added.
Since 2006, KK Tea has been certified organic by the USDA and the Rainforest Alliance. It is also Fair Trade Certified.
KK Tea has more than 15 different types of organic tea to offer consumers.
Teatulia Tea is available in the US in whole-leaf pyramid tea bags, with 16 high-end tea bags and a net product weight of 32g, at a cost of $8–$9 per pack.
The company's fine-cut tea bags and energy tea packs hold 30 tea bags costing $6.5–$7 per pack.
"Recently, we launched Tea Soda for the US market which has received good feedback from customers," Lipsius informed. A 355ml Tea Soda can costs $1.99–$2.99.
Aiming to provide new flavours to their customers, Teatulia is also producing specialized premium quality tea such as White Tea, Bai Mu Dan, Green Mint Tea, Peppermint Tea, Earl Grey, and Oolong Tea.
KK Tea is planning to launch the White Tea and Bai Mu Dan in the Bangladeshi market by the end of this year.
The US tea market
The US is the third largest importer of tea in the world, after Russia and Pakistan, and the only western country with rising tea imports and consumption.
According to the US Department of Agriculture (Foreign Agriculture Service), since 2012, the US has imported an average of 212,815,262 kg of tea per year.
The value of tea imports rose by 5%, continuing a steady climb from $642 million in 2011, to $759.5 million in 2016.
In general, the price of tea has been steady on world markets in the past five years, suggesting that the United States is importing more expensive tea.
The organic tea industry in the US is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 5% through 2021.
As consumers increasingly reject high-margin sugary sodas, more restaurant operators are also turning to tea to replace those profits, according to a Forbes article.
Teatulia is planning to import over 100,000 kg of tea this year, with plans of doubling the volume next year.
Regarding the company's customer base, Lipsius said: "Teatulia Tea was the first tea brand to be sold in over 100 food chain stores, including Whole Foods, Kroger, Wegmans, Natural Grocers, Harmons, and Earth Fare. Our tea is also widely consumed by students and teachers at universities, including Ohio State University, Yale University, Umass Amherst, Colorado State, Brown University, and Michigan University."
Teatulia Tea is available in renowned restaurants such as Jose Andre, Tokyo Joe's, and Garbanzo.
Currently, Teatulia has its own tea bar in Denver, Colorado, in the US, and in London, UK.
KK Tea is planning to launch its own tea bar in Bangladesh, the first of its kind in the market.
The brand has also been recognized for leadership by Fortune Food and Wine Magazine, Newsweek, Forbes, and the Specialty Food Association.