Great strides in the Indonesian tea market

Once only known for its exportation of black tea, Indonesia has now diversified its yield and taken steps to improve its business.

By Foster, Lauren
Publication: Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date: Tuesday, September 1 2009

For over 200 years, tea has played an integral part in Indonesian culture. Since then, it has blossomed into a major tea-producing country Teas from Indonesia are light, fragrant and flavorful, and mainly used for blending purposes. But, new developments in the industry have fueled the expansion of the Indonesian tea trade, opening up the market for more variety in the types of tea produced and giving the tea business even more room to grow.

Today, Indonesia's main market for exporting tea is Germany, the UK, Japan, Pakistan, the Middle East and Russia. Prices for tea continue to fluctuate, and most companies are following the international market; presently, prices are quite high due to a shortage of tea production in origin countries caused by a period of inclement weather conditions. The biggest challenges the exporting companies are presented with are the increasing complexities of rules and regulations of importing countries. In addition, non-tariff barriers still exist in several countries. Another major issue is the increasing pressure on the tea farmers in developing countries from the consumers to develop more eco-friendly processes. While some companies are finding it difficult to deal with Europe's strict requirements about staying environmentally conscious, other companies are making great efforts to do their part in protecting the planet. Most tea farmers have supported the consumers' noble intentions, for they are aware of the ways in which they will benefit from these efforts in the future. But, it must be noted that factors such as language barriers and certain customs of the country prevent many of the ideas behind the eco-friendly campaign from actually being implemented in the fields.

There is a growing market for tea exports in Indonesia, which means a surge in business for companies like Buhler Sortex--a global company with over 20,000 installations in more than 100 countries worldwide. Buhler Sortex has about 30 installations currently in Indonesia. The market has continued to grow steadily over the last ten years, and has picked up even more rapidly in the last three years. Indonesia is one of the biggest green coffee bean exporters and as people are becoming more health conscious, the demand for green tea (due to its anti-oxidant properties) has increased. The market also continues expand for the processers because more and more processors are considering sorting technology to help increase the quality of their products to meet their customers' expectations.

Companies such as PT KBP Chakra (tea) and PT Sari Makmur (coffee), in Indonesia, have found success in using Buhler Sortex machinery--equipment designed to clean and sort the products. The high resolution SORTEX Z+ product is a sorter for food processing and known for its efficiency. Buhler's SORTEX Z+ optical sorter enables processors to deliver cleaner and safer food by eliminating defective product and foreign material from tea and coffee. Recently, Buhler has launched a new shape sorting enables both coffee and tea processors to simultaneously sort the product according to shape, and even by color. Previously, it was only possible for the machinery to distinguish defects by optical color sorting, but this innovative development has enabled such progress. The removal of foreign material the same color as the accept product, such as stalks that are the same color as tea leaves or brown sticks in roasted coffee, could previously only be done by a mechanical or hand sorting process. The new PROfile shape sorting technology enables SORTEX Z+ sorters to simultaneously identify and reject material by shape as well as color, dramatically increasing productivity and operational efficiency. For tea, the SORTEX Z+ optical sorter works to identify and remove sticks, stalks, rotten leaves, stones and other foreign material. For coffee, the technologies employed by the SORTEX Z+ recognize and eliminate from green and roasted coffees any color defects, broca (insect damage), under/over roasted beans and foreign material such as glass, metal, sticks and stones.

In addition, Buhler Sortex has representatives in over 100 countries globally. Specifically in Indonesia, Buhler Sortex employs the help of ET. Jabar Mulia, an engineering company founded in 1971. Its head office is located in Jakarta, and the business has a branch office in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia. This location remains one of the most promising markets in the Far East due to its large population of over 210 million and the abundance of natural resources in the area. ET. Jabar Mulia has several sales and service engineers to cover the whole of the Indonesian market and whenever Buhler Sortex customers require assistance of any kind, technicians are on hand to assist. However, Buhler Sortex also offers remote diagnostics-- meaning that the SORTEX Z+ can connect by phone to Buhler's Z-Anyware service. This allows engineers to access the sorter in order to evaluate and prevent problems before they arise, thus optimizing performance remotely.

Buhler Sortex is not the only company making adjustments to stay modern--the oldest Indonesian tea export company, Yoosuf Akbani, too, has committed itself to advancing itself. Yoosuf Akbani was established in 1937, when Indonesia was still a Dutch colony and its capital was Batavia. This company is undergoing some changes, such as shipping more packed teas (in addition to the bulk teas they usually ship) and they are also working with producers on specialty teas, which continue to grow more popular. The main product in the Indonesian market remains the black tea--of which 80% of production is exported. It may come as a surprise then that in recent years, consumers have begun to look at tea from Indonesia as a specialty tea and therefore, it is now possible to purchase Indonesian tea that is branded and marketed as a specialty tea.

A great example of producing specialty teas in Indonesia originated over a decade ago, when the TEH 63 company believed they could turn a 40-km area just south of Bogor, West Java into a tea plantation that could grow and produce Taiwan Oolong tea. Despite the difference in climate and soil type, they managed to produce quality Oolong tea, and now, the Jawa Oolong TEH 63, is sold in over 30 outlets throughout Indonesia, in addition to being exported to numerous countries worldwide. Currently, TEH 63 is focusing its efforts on educating consumers about the health benefits of Oolong tea, seeing as it is the only producer of Oolong tea in Indonesia. The tea was first used in the third century B.C. as a medicinal tea, containing more polyphenol (also known as tannin) than green tea. Scientists believe tannin may account for the lower risk of cancer in tea drinkers because of its ability to help DNA cells reproduce accurately. Reduced heart disease, aided digestion and lowered cholesterol accumulation are all health benefits attributed to Oolong tea. But, TEH 63 is also striving to educate consumers also on the wonderful flavor and aroma of this special tea. A step that TEH 63 has taken to promote the Jawa TEH 63 is to offer free demonstrations of its teas and sample out six flavors in the TEH 63 boutiques, which are located in major shopping malls and airports in Indonesia, offer free demonstrations of their teas and sample out six flavors.

The promotion of specialty teas, along with Indonesia's usual export of black tea, will prove beneficial to the country's economy. Exporting companies will proceed to make adjustments in light of the continuously evolving market. Luckily, companies, such as Buhler Sortex, make this easier by continuing to develop technology that can aid in the processes of the tea trade.

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