[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 23:36 GMT 00:36 UK
Bangladesh tea trade gets new brew
Roland Buerk
BBC Bangladesh correspondent in Srimangal

Bangladeshis are growing increasingly fond of tea.

Domestic demand is going up by between two and three percent every year.

A man drinks tea at a roadside tea stand
Roadside tea stalls are increasingly popular

Tea stalls are found in every village.

Many of them are little more than bamboo and corrugated iron shacks on the roadside but they do a roaring trade.

At every establishment, satisfied customers sit on wooden benches sipping at their drinks.

But the boom has led to real problems for exporters.

Stirring up exports

In 1980 Bangladesh produced just over 40 million kilograms of tea and more than three quarters of it was shipped overseas.

The country now produces nearly 60 million kilograms a year, but after domestic demand has been satisfied just 12 million is left over to be sold for much needed foreign exchange.

Tea taster Mukul Jyoti Dutta of the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute
Good tea is bright copper in colour

Botanists at the country's Tea Research Institute hope they have found the answer.

It is called BT16, a new variety of tea that has just been developed.

Much of the work took place in the Institute's brightly-lit tea tasting room where every day rows of cups are set out and the kettle is always being boiled.

They wanted a drink with worldwide appeal.

"We were mainly looking for very bright, coppery bright infusion and very thick strong pungent liquor," said Mukul Jyoti Dutta, the Principal Scientific Officer at the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute.

He slurped noisily from a cup, swirled the liquid in his mouth and spat it professionally into a spittoon.

"We got it in our BT16. When you taste our BT16 you will get some bite in your mouth and a very strong cup of tea."

Plants with promise

It is also high yielding, producing much more tea per hectare of land than other varieties.

Mohammed Shahiduzzaman, the acting director of the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute.
The new tea bushes are high yielding

"Normal production is 1,270 kilograms per hectare, but our clone, it gets more than 3,000 kilograms per hectare. It is more than double," says Mohammed Shahiduzzaman, the acting director of the Bangladesh Tea Research Institute.

"There are 162 tea estates in Bangladesh, and I think most of the gardens will take this latest clone, because they are very much interested to increase their production."

Already the mother bushes have been established in the carefully tended gardens of the Institute.

Now workers are taking cuttings of individual leaves and planting them in neat rows to produce new plants.

The first bushes have begun to be sent out to gardens across the country.

A Finlays Tea estate near the Institute has already received a batch.

It is set amid the lush hills of Srimangal where the dark green carpeting of tea is broken only by the pale trunks of trees planted to give the tea bushes shade, and brightly coloured saris of the pluckers.

At the estate the old bushes, some of them planted a century ago, are making way for the new.

"We are uprooting our old tea which is below the garden production average, we are uprooting and going for new plantation," said planter Faizlur Rahman Mohammed Kausler.

"We will get more crop, yield will be more, and ultimately this country's tea production will increase."

It will be several years before the first crop of the new BT16 tea passes through the country's factories to be processed into the dry black leaves found in tea bags.

The bushes will need to reach maturity before they can be harvested.

Already though the new brew is being hailed as just the tonic to revive Bangladesh's tea exporting industry.

Bangladesh strike sparks clashes
21 May 05 |  South Asia
Bangladesh clothing exports slide
10 Mar 05 |  Business
Bangladesh could import tea
12 May 03 |  Business
Bad weather hits Bangladesh tea
08 Nov 02 |  Business
Country profile: Bangladesh
10 Mar 05 |  Country profiles

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific