Louise Roberge has energized the Canadian tea neighborhood since she was first named president of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada in November 2000. Always prepared with a smile, Roberge has a comfortable, pleasant method… unassuming till challenged on any of the various topics she holds expensive. She leaves a legacy of non-combative Canadian diplomacy assertively utilized with mild humor. Roberge introduced her retirement final fall will conclude her 18-year tenure on June 1. She shared her parting ideas with World Tea News.
WTN: How do you view the function of a tea affiliation president?
Roberge: I’m principally there for the board and our members. The motto of the Tea and Herbal Association of Canada is that we’re there for everybody from bush to cup: The retailers, packers, producing nations, importers, growers, allied commerce, and tea sommeliers. We exist as a type of “insurance” to guard the industry and shopper. What I imply is that as a result of the federal government regulates meals, we help members by ensuring we’re at all times involved with the best authorities individuals to offer members with the present and related laws.
We additionally exist to advertise the industry. Our essential message is tea and well being. It’s a meals so firms are restricted within the well being claims they will make on the label. They can’t actually point out lots of tea’s most essential well being advantages―however we will. With scientific proof to again it up about antioxidants and issues like that in addition to being a wonderful drink.
WTN: What has modified throughout your time as president?
Roberge: A good instance is natural. Before 2003-Four it wasn’t a factor. So we’d go to consultations with the federal government then flip round and share the brand new laws. In that manner we protected the industry. Protection, that’s been our essential mandate. We used to have an umbrella as our image.
There had been two tea organizations after I began. The Tea Council of Canada, which began in 1954 and existed for producers and packers, and the Tea Association, which was extra a watch canine involved with authorities laws. They had been unified in 2002. Part of selling tea has been schooling. In 2009 we began our tea sommelier program and it’s now acknowledged internationally.
When I began it was all about black tea. The variety of merchandise has modified.
We modified the title in 2016 from the Tea Association to incorporate Herbals as a result of the federal government stored asking us about herbals through the years. I’d say “we’re Camellia Sinensis”, however in fact I had solutions for them and we handled herbals from the start. Whatever you pour water on, that’s who we’re.
WTN: With the altering occasions how has your expertise been as a girl president?
Roberge: It’s no completely different than another industry. Women are attending to have extra of a place within the tea industry. As a girl you will need to at all times be extra conscious of what’s taking place. Most of my colleagues within the US and UK are males. But it’s evolving, ladies are having an even bigger function. For instance, in China, they’ve the Top Ten Tea Man Award. I used to be the primary lady to obtain the “Top Tea Man” award in China (2015). This was not simply due to me, it was due to all the ladies earlier than me in tea.
When I went as much as obtain my award I began my acceptance speech by saying, “how many women in tea are here? Stand up.” There had been many and we received a pleasant spherical of applause.
Whenever I journey overseas, there can be different ladies attending. They’d usually sit on the again, actually taking a backseat to the boys. I pushed them to take a seat on the entrance. I’d inform them “Let’s go to the front” they usually’d say “Oh we’re not like you, we don’t like the spotlight.” I replied, “it’s not to be in the spotlight, it’s so the men that are talking can see you.” So, then they might.
WTN: Who are probably the most fascinating individuals you’ve met alongside the best way?
Roberge: I met Princess Anne (the one daughter of England’s Queen Elizabeth II). I used to be requested to organize tea and so we received to fulfill her and shake fingers. That was particular. Really although, my favourite persons are at all times the individuals on the farm, pluckers, the farmers. I feel they’re probably the most fascinating individuals each time I meet them. They are the primary ones that have a look at the tea. When I journey to a producing nation and meet the farmers, ladies pluckers, I at all times inform them, I give you the results you want. I’m making an attempt to advertise tea. They are the inspiration for why I’m doing this.
WTN: Congratulations in your nomination for a lifetime achievement award by the organizers of World Tea Expo. What would you say are your biggest contributions to tea?
Roberge: I have a look at the of names of these nominated and I’m humbled. It’s an honor to be thought-about. I feel the place I contributed probably the most was schooling. We did rather a lot. But I additionally love individuals. Treating individuals with kindness and placing individuals up, considering of them versus “how do they fit in the industry.” Talking to them about their households and their points and actually listening.
Influencing and understanding that everybody within the worth chain from bush to cup has a special purpose to be there and making an attempt to affect who needs to be with who. I feel that may be a trademark of Canada and I’m a Canadian. We’re usually checked out as making an attempt to convey individuals collectively. Bring everybody to the desk to attempt to work collectively. Being the communication focus on the numerous NGO teams and coalitions that I’m part of. Pushing and selling ladies within the industry.
WTN: What is the most important problem for the tea industry wanting ahead?
Roberge: It’s at all times been the identical. Everyone works very exhausting however in their very own silos. In Canada you have got the standard industry and the specialty tea industry. We’re making an attempt to place all of it below the identical roof but it surely’s nonetheless in silos. The identical factor with producers and customers. Producer nations akin to India, China, Sri Lanka, and Kenya all work a technique and shopper nations akin to Canada, US, UK, Australia work one other. Working exhausting however not working collectively. There is not any worldwide group. Other industries akin to espresso, they’ve a sustainability web site, ladies in espresso web site, espresso discussion board and baristas. They work extra in unity. We have schooling— Jane Pettigrew within the UK, the Tea Masters of Australia, THAC, the Tea Sommeliers, the Specialty Tea Institute … all of us work exhausting but it surely simply doesn’t appear that we will synchronize our efforts for the tea industry. We’re nonetheless not there.
It simply appears to me that different merchandise are gaining as a result of they’re working collectively and if we aren’t working collectively then we’re taking a again seat much more. They are in entrance, they’re organized and in our faces on a regular basis. The tea industry shouldn’t be progressing sufficient as a result of it at all times appears that we’re competing with one another, as an alternative of working collectively.
WTN: Where do you see the best alternatives for progress within the tea industry?
Roberge: Foodservice is certainly a spot the place we will develop. If that explodes then careers akin to tea sommeliers and entrepreneurs in tea would choose up as properly. I may also see the standard aspect. I can see retailers or small packers shopping for straight from small farmers extra sooner or later.
A remaining thought:
“When I talk about tea to consumers everywhere in the world, I say tea is good for you. First of all, you need to take a moment to boil the water, so spiritually, you need to take time. It’s a healthy beverage, no calories, lots of antioxidants, it protects your cells like wax on a car, and thirdly, it helps the farmer. Particularly the small holders. A farmer that sells one more kilo of tea a day, will be able to pay for a better education for his children and better life for his family. So I say, I’m not asking you to run a 10K, or to give me $100, all I ask is that you is to drink one more cup of tea a day. The world will be better for it. That’s been my message to the tea industry and the consumer and I strongly believe it.”