Tucson, AZ (PRWEB) February 6, 2009
The Chinese government in 2008 drastically changed the export laws related to tea in order to avert any more scandals related to contaminated food products. One American company, Seven Cups in Tucson, Arizona is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the new Chinese export laws. Seven Cups is the first tea company in America to obtain its own Chinese trading license.
Chinese law now requires all companies wishing to export tea to register their tea bases, at the source, in order to qualify for inspection prior to export. Not only must producers be registered, they also must meet more stringent standards in order to qualify for registration. This means that producers must submit soil and water samples as well as detailed documentation regarding their farming processes, including the use of fertilizers and insecticides. In addition, their products must meet the standards of the importing country.
The Chinese government intends to attain a higher standard for export purity by forcing open supply chain regulations and requiring producers to meet a more demanding set of production standards. Coupled with extensive documentation, these changes in export law will make it easier to hold transgressors accountable.
Exporting restrictions are not new to modern Chinese law. It has been a requirement that tea be exported through a licensed trading company, and that the tea be inspected prior to export. However, until now there was no registration requirement for the tea bases, the source of the tea. These new regulations make it more difficult for tea companies that want to export from China.
Now, after sourcing the tea, the company must submit samples to the Inspection and Quarantine Bureau to be checked for contaminants and impurities. In order to submit the samples, the tea must come from a registered producer who meets the requirements mentioned above. The company also must have a license that allows it to submit samples for testing. And this is just the start of the process.
If the tea passes inspection, the company must then go through Chinese Customs. To do so, the company must have its own Chinese Trading License or go through a Chinese trading company. This is true for all products exported from China. Since most foreigners do not have their own licenses, they turn to Chinese trading companies at this stage.
"The common pitfall for most people sourcing tea from China is that they are required to export their tea through a licensed trading company," says Austin Hodge, owner of Seven Cups, Inc., the first American tea company to obtain its own Chinese Trading License. "Often times, a company comes to China, finds some tea to purchase, and quickly learns that they can't legally export it."
Adding to a tea importer's dilemma is that many Chinese trading companies, themselves tea wholesalers, are notorious for less than ethical business practices, Hodge said.
"At first it seems great to find a trading company that will help you export your tea," says Hodge. "But what happens is the control of the sourcing ends up in the hands of the trading company - because they have established relationships with Chinese tea producers and they're a lot easier to deal with than 20 or 30 individual tea producers."
After the first or second year of doing business, many importers find that they have become dependent upon their trading companies. If the quality of the tea starts to slip, the importer may have no recourse but to fire the trading company and look for another.
Seven Cups recently made news by becoming the first American tea company to get its own Chinese Trading License. This allows the company to source tea from its own network of producers, submit it for testing and export it without going through a Chinese trading company. Hodge has built this network of tea sources by traveling throughout China over the past decade and cultivating relationships with individual tea farmers. Today the Seven Cups tea catalog features more than 100 Chinese teas from 22 producers in nine regions. The tea is sold to customers in 35 countries.
It took several years for Seven Cups to earn its trading license, but Hodge says it has been worth the effort. His company takes pride in personally sourcing all of its teas, and does not want the quality - or Seven Cups' reputation - to be in the hands of middlemen.
"There are plenty of ways get tea out of China," says Hodge. "People carry it in their suitcases, send it through the mail to avoid customs, or smuggle it through Hong Kong to circumvent the Chinese export laws."
However, since none of these methods go through China's upgraded system of inspection and testing, consumers can be exposed to tea that may or may not be safe to drink. Neither the source nor the quality of the tea has been verified. With today's growing emphasis on food quality, organics and health, that risk is becoming less and less appealing, Hodge said.
"The excellence of the tea is worth the trouble," Hodge said. "There's a reason why tea has been the most sought-after possession of Chinese emperors going back thousands of years."
For more information, call 520-628-2952 or visit Seven Cups Fine Chinese Tea.