After studying at St. Andrews University in Scotland, Göttingen and Munich, Peter Rohrsen spent 16 years in academic research and teaching English cultural history at the University of Göttingen. After a short assignment with the German National Foundation for Elite Promotion, he headed the Asia regional section of the Carl Duisberg Society in Cologne from 1980 to 1986. From then until 2002 he worked as marketing director of the City of Cologne.
After retirement and relocation to Berlin, he was C.E.O. of his own accentour Berlin Ltd. until 2012, qualified as one of the first German tea sommeliers with IHK Rhein/Sieg and in 2013 published the paperback “Tea” in Beck’s prestigious series “Wissen” (“knowledge”).
Tea from Assam and Darjeeling: History – Taste – Business
“Tea from India” today sounds as familiar as “coals from Newcastle”. The subcontinent produces more tea than (excepting China) any other country. And some of the finest black teas in this world come from Darjeeling or Assam.
However, India’s tea culture goes back only 200 years – Chinese tea history dates from 2737 B.C. The complex reasons for this rapid success of India’s tea industry, but also some of its present problems will be discussed in the Tea Talk:
What motivated the British East India Company, the first globally acting joint-stock company in history, to foster the cultivation of tea in India? What were the factors for the triumphant advance of Indian tea – first in Britain, then in the whole of Europe and North America?
Tea drinkers all over the world love Indian tea for its unique variety of tastes: Which are the specific geographical and agricultural features of Indian tea gardens? For the production of finest teas, plucking and processing of the tea leaves are just as crucial as the natural environment: How do you produce green or black tea? Which factors make for excellence of taste? How do you set and control standards of taste? Do tea drinkers in various parts of the world prefer black or green or oolong teas? Are there any remarkable trends in recent years? What do we know about the effects of tea drinking on human health?
Until India’s independence, tea was an export product for the British and international market. Especially since WW2, the economy’s remarkable boom has boosted a quite specific culture of tea drinking in India. Today, almost 80 per cent of India’s annual tea output are consumed at home. India’s tea industry is faced with constantly growing international competition, especially from African countries: Kenya e.g. is rivaling Assam for the rank of the world’s largest tea production area. And tea companies are finding problems of recruiting and training staff: the younger generation prefer jobs in the flourishing electronic industry, or they dream of a Bollywood career and life in one of the bustling cities.
Finally we should raise the question what we, as tea drinkers can contribute to ensure that good teas from India have a future. These only account for two percent of the world market and are being forced even more out of the competition by the 98-percent dominance of the international tea bag industry.