JAKARTA — The tea industry has watched in envy as coffee’s cachet has skyrocketed across Asia, and now it wants a piece of the action. But it faces a difficult challenge: How to convince people that something they’ve been quaffing like water all their lives can be a premium product. Eliawati Erly, vice president of David Roy Indonesia, the local distributor for Sri Lankan brand Dilmah Tea, recognizes that developing a culture of cool around tea won’t be easy. “People are accustomed to having tea and teh botol (bottled tea drinks sold in shops) since they are young,” she said. Erly and others in the tea industry are well-aware of how coffee companies have benefited from promoting the ethical sourcing of beans and the distinct qualities of single-origin roasts from specific regions.
JAKARTA — Businessmen clad in batik shirts tap on laptops and smartphones, while women in designer Muslim garb chat over pots of hot chai and browse menus listing hundreds of teas, from the exotic (Yellow Gold Tea Buds from China) to the commonplace (English Breakfast). This crowd, a mix of old and young and mostly well-to-do, has made the TWG shop in the Pacific Place mall in Jakarta a lively meeting point in the city. With dozens of these boutique tea shops across Asia offering fine dining and veneered furnishings, Singapore’s The Wellbeing Group, known as TWG, is trying “to bring a new era of tea appreciation” in the region, said Trixie Anindita, the group’s communication and operation manager in Indonesia.
JAKARTA — Southeast Asia hosts some of the world’s leading coffee growers and exporters, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, the world’s fourth- and second-biggest producers respectively. Neighbors such as East Timor, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand are home to smaller coffee-growing regions. Their beans have typically been for export. Many end up in cups in countries such as the U.S., the biggest importing country, and Italy, the third-biggest importer, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Italy is also the home of espresso, the strong and sometimes bitter caffeine shot that for many drinkers is the quintessential coffee pour. Now, coffee consumption is on the rise in what were mainly exporting countries of the region, and the race is on to see which kind of coffee will lure would-be local drinkers.
NUWARA ELIYA, Sri Lanka — K. Sagunthaladavi, 36, has spent half her life among the waist-high bushes that cover the verdurous slopes of Sri Lanka’s tea country, plucking hundreds of thousands of the green leaves used to make one of the world’s oldest and most popular drinks.