Dubai looks to bag top spot as tea goes green

DUBAI, June 8, 2011 (AFP) – Exotic and organic teas are wooing tea drinkers and challenging traditional black tea’s dominance as never before, tea industry experts say, as a tea factory in Dubai bids to become the world’s largest. The shift in global tea-drinking trends is felt at the Jebel Ali Free Zone, despite it being more than 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles) from the nearest tea bushes in the lush misty mountains of South Asia and East Africa.

Unilever’s Jebel Ali tea-blending and packing plant is in the middle of a major tea-consuming market — the oil-rich Middle East — and records the changing habits of tea drinkers.

The plant, producing 1.1 million tea bags an hour every day all year round, begins expanding later this year aiming to double its output within four years to become the world’s biggest tea factory.

“Green tea was relatively unheard of 25 years ago in many Middle Eastern countries,” Dubai-based Kurush Bharucha, a Unilever director and world authority on tea, told AFP.

“But this has changed rapidly in the past five years. Green tea has got a lot of good press… its health properties are well known,” added the professional tea taster, buyer and blender.

“Women, in particular, are embraci