|CN/HS number *
(* EU Combined Nomenclature/Harmonized System)
consists of the fermented and dried leaves, leaf buds and tender stems
of the evergreen tea bush of the Theaceae family. Tea is a high quality
semiluxury item, the stimulant action of which results from its content
of 2.5 - 5% of thein. At certain intervals, the tea bushes are cut back
to a height of 1 m. Tea is always harvested as two leaves and one bud.
Tea is cultivated in plantations (tea gardens).
tea cultivating countries are in the tropics and subtropics. Unlike
green coffee beans and raw cocoa, tea is exported in ready-to-use form.
It is a cargo which demands the utmost care. Shipping period starts
approx. 6 weeks after harvest, with the tea shipped at the beginning of
a season being the most valuable. Later varieties of tea are mostly of
lower quality. The crop is harvested all year round, with the following
|Country of origin
||Time of harvest
The following types are differentiated on the basis of processing:
tea (orthodox or CTC production)
Green tea: With
green tea, the freshly picked leaves are steamed, rolled and dried so
that the green color of the chlorophyll is retained. The fermentation
process is omitted.
Figure 1: Processing flowchart for green tea
Figure 2: Processing flowchart for black tea
(processing in country of production),
differs from orthodox production solely in that, after rolling and
before fermentation, the tea is uniformly shredded with a CTC machine,
so shortening the overall production time by approx. 50%. This method
yields powerfully flavored, quick brewing teas which, while they are
not of very high quality, are particularly suitable for producing tea
Quality / Duration
distinction is drawn between the China tea plant (e.g. from China,
Japan and Taiwan) and the Assam tea plant (e.g.. from India, Sri Lanka,
Indonesia and Vietnam), each variety yielding both leafy and broken
grades of tea. Teas are also classified and graded depending upon the
size of the tea leaves. The youngest, small top leaves (= pekoe tips)
provide the most valuable teas, while the older, large bottom leaves
provide less valuable grades.
Grades of tea are classified by
,e.g. Darjeeling (district in Northern India), F.O.P. (flowery orange
The following table provides an overview of the various grades :
||Flowery Orange Pekoe
||Thin, wiry, often with a light covering of silky hairs
||Slightly twisted, often with white to golden yellow tips
||Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
||Broken Orange Pekoe
||The leaf particles and fragments obtained during
||Finely divided tea dust
product may be shipped as soon as 3 - 4 weeks after harvest, but 1.5 -
2.5 months may elapse before shipping. The tea shipped at the beginning
of the season is the most valuable. Shipping tea later after harvest
than this may result in quality degradation during transport, which may
particularly affect the light southern Indian tea.
tea has a long storage life of 18 months or more provided that proper
transport and storage conditions are maintained. However, this does not
apply to aromatized teas.
Tea leaves are used to make an infused beverage which is classed as a
Figure 3: Tea gardens in
Figure 4: Tea plant in
Grusinia, a highland tea: in order to make picking easier, the
evergreen tea plant, which can grow to a height of 4 - 20 m, is kept as
Figure 5: Tea branch
Figure 6: Tea grades as a function of leaf size
Figure 7: Assam tea
|1 - Pekoe tip,
thin, wiry, often with a light covering of silky hairs
|2 - Slightly
twisted, often with white to golden yellow tips
|3 - Somewhat
|4 - Coarse leaf
|5 - Very coarse
Figure 8: Finest Ceylon
harvest F.P. (flowery pekoe leaf grade)
Figure 9: Darjeeling tea: a
black, fragrant tea from northeastern India, one of the best varieties
of Indian tea [Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum, London]
Figure 10: Formosa oolong
tea: a black, semifermented tea from Taiwan which has the largest leaf
size. It provides a light, peach-flavored infusion [Bramah Tea and
Coffee Museum, London].
Figure 11: Green tea from
China: Phi Mu Tan
Figure 12: Bird's nest of
green tea: tea store in San Francisco
Figure 13: Bamboo cane
containing pressed tea: China Yunan Famous Aroma Bamboo
Figure 14: Tea brick
Figure 15: Preparation for
tea tasting: more than 250 grades of tea must be tasted each day by the
tea taster [Speicherstadt, Hamburg].
This Table shows only a selection of the most important countries of
origin and should not be thought of as exhaustive.
Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Bangladesh, China, Japan, Nepal, Taiwan, Turkey,
is packaged in light plywood chests which are lined with aluminum foil
and one or two plies of parchment paper, so providing aroma-proof
packaging. The corners are covered with sheet metal to reinforce the
chests and protect the contents from humidity/moisture and foreign
odors. Plywood chests from China and India are often additionally
protected by bast mats or fabric.
Figure 16: Tea chests, which
are usually made from plywood, are reinforced at the corners by strips
of metal [Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum, London]
Classification by net weight:
Figure 17: Tea chests
from Japan: the aluminum foil can be seen at the top of some of the
chests [Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum, London]
Figure 18: Japanese
green tea; the Japanese account for 80% of consumption. These sales
packages each hold 30 tea bags [Bramah Tea and Coffee Museum, London].
chest 35 - 60 kg  or 40 - 73 kg 
chest 20 - 40 kg  or 30 - 40 kg 
chest/box 9 kg 
and jute bags 25 - 60 kg 
China tea is
also shipped in tinplate containers which are sealed with
solder and additionally wrapped with bast mats.
chests are marked with a cross and a special stamp to indicate this
status. Sample chests must be stowed separately and accessibly. Tea
chests which have been additionally packaged and sealed in the country
of origin are described as "country coopered packages", while those
which are so packaged only on arrival at the port of destination are
described as "dock coopered packages" .
truck, railroad, aircraft (transport of sample chests to port of
destination for purposes of comparison). Tea, especially Darjeeling, is
increasingly being transported by air and is known as "air freighted"
predominantly transported in standard
Containers intended for loading have to be watertight and must not be
contaminated in any way. Containers whose floors release a foreign
odor, are contaminated by any substances or are too damp should be
rejected. Below deck stowage is required, to rule out the possibility
of exposure to rain or seawater or of overheating by day and cooling at
night. Tea in containers should be stowed away from sources of heat.
dimensions are adapted to container dimensions and allow the containers
to be filled virtually to total capacity. These two features mean that
the standard container can be used without difficulty as FCL cargo.
In damp weather (rain, snow), the cargo must be protected from
moisture, since moisture may lead to mold growth and mustiness.
must not be used because they can tear or puncture the chests,
resulting in loss of the contents. Do not use slings or cargo nets.
Handling on pallets has proved most effective because this reduces the
risk of breakage since the chests can be stacked in a uniform block.
m3/t (framed plywood chest, 50 kg) 
- 3.07 m3/t (paper bags) 
Cool, dry, good ventilation
Synthetic fiber rope, thin fiber nets
of the impact- and pressure-sensitivity of the cargo, it must be
secured in such a way that damage is prevented. Spaces between packages
or pallets must be filled, to prevent slippage or tipping. Pallets must
be loaded flush with their edges as protruding packages may readily
result in damage.
factors and loss prevention
Tea requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly
ventilation conditions (SC VI)(storage
Favorable travel temperature range: 5 - 25°C   
Tea must be stowed away from sources of heat in order to avoid the risk
of desiccation and drying.
Tea requires particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly
ventilation conditions (SC VI)(storage
|50 - 60%
|50 - 60%
||4 - 6% (black tea)
|4 - 6% (black tea)
equilibrium moisture content
The sorption isotherms for black tea of the Darjeeling and Lapsang
Souchong varieties rise steeply, reflecting the tea's strong hygroscopicity.
The water contents of 4 - 6% are at equilibrium with very low relative
humidities. Tea dust, in contrast, exhibits only slightly hygroscopic
behavior. Water contents of 2 - 4% are recommended for tea dust.
Figure 19: Sorption isotherm
for tea, Darjeeling, at 10°C
Figure 20: Sorption isotherm
for tea, Lapsang Souchong, at 10°C
Figure 21: Sorption isotherm
for tea dust at 15°C
is extremely sensitive to moisture/humidity. Moisture, for example due
to rain, seawater or condensation water, results in mold growth and
mustiness. Moldy or musty tea is unusable, its musty flavor making it
Tea chests require dry holds with good ventilation
facilities and must not exhibit any damage due to sweat. Dripping sweat
causes severe soiling of the tea chests, the contents of which must
then be repackaged. Dunnage
accordingly be carefully laid in the hold and the ship's sides covered
with mats, so that the tea chests cannot come into contact with steel
parts. Mats or packaging paper must be laid over the chests at
potential drip points.
Moisture damage may even originate during
processing. Tea chests which have come into contact with water become
speckled or the uppermost layer of chests becomes uneven.
If moisture damage is suspected, testing is performed using the silver
, to find out whether chloride solutions (seawater)
or fresh water (condensation or rain) are the cause.
water content of black tea must not fall below 2%, as the product
otherwise becomes hay-like and its essential oils readily volatilize,
while on the other hand, it must not exceed 9%  as it then has a
tendency to grow mold and become musty.
The wood of the chest
should have a water content of 10 to at most 12%, corresponding to an
equilibrium moisture content of 60 - 70%. The same applies to any
wooden flooring/ceiling in containers/holds.
particular temperature, humidity/moisture and possibly
ventilation conditions (SC VI)(storage
the product is at "shipping dryness", i.e. if there is no risk of
degradation by mold etc. due to water content, ventilation is not
required. If this is not the case, the following ventilation measures
should be implemented:
Recommended ventilation conditions: air exchange rate: 10 changes/hour
Protect from odor tainting by ventilation equipment (see RF Odor).
Tea displays 3rd order biotic
belongs to the class of goods in which respiration processes are
suspended, but in which biochemical, microbial and other decomposition
processes still proceed, which, especially as a result of
postfermentation, are associated with consumption of O2 and evolution of CO2.
Self-heating / Spontaneous combustion
Oil content: 1% essential oils
||Tea has a strong, pleasant odor.
is extremely odor-sensitive and must not be stowed together with
odoriferous products. Tea immediately absorbs any foreign odor.
this reason, many freight contracts contain a special tea clause
stipulating that certain goods which could impair the aroma of tea must
not be stowed in the same compartment. Such products in particular
include sugar, safflower (thistle-like plant from the East Indies used
in dyeing), rhubarb, rubber, rapeseed, hides, turmeric (curcuma rhizome
of an Indian spice plant), cassia or drugs.
Due to possible odor
contamination, tea must not be stowed together with, among others,
copra, tar, tarred wire, ginger, silk waste, camphor, oil cake,
tobacco, fruit, essential oils, pepper, baled feathers and
Tea experts are able to establish
whether the chests have been stowed together with such products.
Impairment of odor also has an impact on flavor, making the tea
undrinkable. Odor-tainted tea may, under certain circumstances, still
be salable for subsequent blending with cheap grades and for industrial
If used chests, the lumber of which has suffered
fungal attack, are used, there is a risk that the tea will absorb the
Odor tainting may also be caused by the use of pesticides in the
growing regions or in intermediate warehousing.
||Tea does not cause contamination.
is extremely sensitive to contamination and must thus be kept
absolutely clean and should not be stowed together with dusty or oily
cargoes (e.g. peanuts, palm kernels or the like).
chests are extremely sensitive to mechanical stresses. The very thin
plywood sheets from which they are made break, burst and tear under
even very slight stresses and such breakage then generally damages the
internal aluminum foil and parchment paper resulting in losses of aroma
and reduced tea quality.
Use of hooks must be prohibited because
they can tear or puncture the chests, resulting in loss of the
contents. In order to avoid causing damage, chests should also never be
transferred with slings or cargo nets, but should instead be handled on
Mechanical damage is often caused by exceeding stack
heights. When in intermediate storage, 50 kg chests may be stowed 5
high. However, on board an ocean-going vessel or in containers, they
should only be stowed 4 high (stack height approx. 2 m) as they are
subjected not only to static loads, but also to dynamic stresses (mechanical
due to the motion of the ship/handling operations. Total loss generally
occurs at stack heights of 7 - 8 units. According to , palletized
chests should be stacked no more than 3 high. Pallets holding chests
must not be overstowed with other pallets.
Toxicity / Hazards to health
handling or severe mechanical stresses (e.g. due to excessive stack
heights) may result in breakage of the chests and thus loss of volume.
tea is a valuable cargo, the risk of theft is not negligible. Chests
should be inspected for signs of force having been applied (damage to
plywood or to metal strips). For example, nails which have been
extracted so as to remove the content of the chest can be identified
because they are a little loose or stick out. If the chests are
refilled with other materials to replace the weight of the removed
contents, it is difficult to detect possible theft by check-weighing.
Insect infestation / Diseases
of tea are at particular risk of infestation by pests (e.g. tobacco
beetles, copra beetles, drugstore beetles or cockroaches) during
storage at the port before shipping. Storage conditions should thus be
investigated at the port of loading. If beetle infestation is
suspected, one or two tea chests should be selected from each batch in
the warehouse. These chests should then be wrapped in two or three
layers of oiled paper, with the seams being sealed with adhesive tape.
Once wrapped, these chests should be stowed separately from the
remainder of the tea cargo. If beetle infestation is then observed in
the main batch at the port of discharge, the sample chests may provide
an indication as to whether infestation occurred before loading
(samples also infested) or after loading (samples not infested). If no
assessors are available, this measure may serve as a stopgap. The cargo
must also be inspected for attack by rats and mice.
Tea is traded with a certificate of origin.
Claims for damages must be thoroughly investigated and an answer
provided to the following questions :
route did the consignment follow and in which season?
is the odor impaired in the chests: only at the edges or in the middle?
were the chests transported:
of the container on the ship
tea tasters been involved in the claim for damages?
analyses carried out by a food chemist?