SPARKS, Nev. (KOLO) - Northern Nevada is home to an organic tea business unlike any other you will find in the United States. It starts with the family who owns and operates Davidson's Organic Teas.
Family members in India grow and ship half a million pounds of organic tea leaves a year to family members in northern Nevada where they are processed and packaged.
Davidson's Organic Teas co-owner Kunall Patel says this is the largest supply chain of this kind in the U.S. owned by one company. He says this gives his business unparalleled quality control from farm to table.
"I think the journey to every Davidson's Tea cup begins at these dock doors. We source organic ingredients from all around the world," said Kunall.
Every year 1.4-million pounds of tea leaves are shipped to a facility at 665 Spice Island Drive in Sparks. Each shipment costs between $25,000 and $150,000.
Most of the suppliers are small farmers like Kunall's father-in-law Binod Mohan and brother-in-law Gautam Mohan in northern India. Kunall says they pioneered organic tea farming in India and were the first tea company to be certified organic.
Along with buying from family in India, Kunall and his wife buy tea from more than 75 suppliers across the world including China, Egypt, and South Africa.
"We don't put our eggs in one basket. We source ingredients from multiple containers (and) multiple regions," said Kunall.
This helps ensure a steady flow of organic fresh tea leaves regardless of the myriad of problems that can stop a supply line. "We source black teas from China. We source black teas from India. We source black teas from Sri Lanka," Kunall said.
These teas will sit in a hold area until they pass quality control. Then they're moved to a storage area. "We put them away on racks and label them accordingly: what is organic, what is conventional, and what ingredients they are," said Kunall.
Davidson's Organic Teas sells over 300 certified organic teas. The tea will rest for a short period of time before it's brought to the production room. Workers blend teas together in small 100 pound batches to prevent any possible damage to the tea leaves to preserve its quality and leaf integrity, which can happen in larger production facilities.
The bulk tea hopper conveyor sits several feet from where the tea is blended. It weights the tea leaves for bulk packaging and drops those leaves into bags for sale.
The machine will run for 16 hours at a time in two different shifts to meet demand. One tea on this line is the Gunpowder Green Tea.
In another area nearby, tea leaves are placed in small bags and then put in boxes for shipment.
Davidson's Organic Teas has twelve tea bagging machines that can run at one time. They can make between 10,000 to 40,000 teabags in one shift.
Most of the major buying decisions are made in the Company's break room.
"I'm visually verifying the grades of the ingredients that I'm looking to buy. I'm looking at the cut size. I'm looking to see how granulated they are, how large they are, if it's consistent or not. I'm looking at the color as well. All this encompasses the organoleptic property review of each ingredient before we purchase," said Kunall.
He lines up product samples from all over the world. Each one represents a product ready to ship from various parts of the world "This is a white coconut cream blend again consisting of white peony tea leaves from China as well coconut from Indonesia," said Kunall.
"The next thing I'm going to do is smell the infused tea leaves just so I know what I'm expecting from the cupping stand point," said Kunall.
"I'm smelling a hibiscus flower. I want to smell its tartness and tanginess. Same with ginger. If I'm smelling ginger, I want to smell ginger. I don't want to smell a peppermint kind of profile," said Kunall.
Next, tasting. "I would actually start with the lighter first because the tartness over here will contaminate my palate," said Kunall.
He uses a technique you won't use in a public setting, slurping the tea to ensure the sample touches all parts of his tongue. Then he spits the sample into a container.
"By the time I finish cupping I don't want to finish all that tea because your drinking herbs, spices, so you want to spit it out," said Kunall.
Each taste will help him make critical business decisions about whether to buy a particular ingredient.
Click on the attached link to learn more about Davidson's Organic Teas.
Copyright KOLO-TV 2019