The Food and Veterinary Service (PVD) has registered more than 40 tea and herb growers, harvesters, and sellers, but there are a few more in this business niche, pointed out Ivars Geiba, head of the Krāslava Division of the Latvian Rural Consulting and Education Centre, owner of the farm “Kurmīši”.
“It's mostly like a hobby, an extra occupation. For those who are professionally engaged in the cultivation, marketing, and processing of medical plants, I know myself about five, six farms in Latvia, for which it is, if not the main job, then one of the important sectors. Those exclusively cultivating medical herbs are two or three larger farms,” said Geiba.
Competition among local growers isn't big. The market is more regional, and tea growers supply the local neighborhoods with their products. On the supermarket shelf, on the other hand, they must compete with import teas. For local tea growers, the obstacle is the marketing of their production.
Geiba explained: “Only sales in markets and fairs cannot guarantee the viability, livelihood of the holding. It is necessary to go to shops, supermarket chains, but to get there, it is necessary to build up experience in growing plants so that production can be made at a minimum cost in order to be able to compete with Poland, the Balkan countries. A large part of the teas imported into Latvia is processed. Local producers are unfortunately unable to compete with price.”
Owner of the farm “Ragāres” Jānis Vaivars harvests plants in his farm from March until snowfall in the autumn, but right around Midsummer is a 'crazy' time, as everything is in bloom.
The types of teas in production vary from year to year, Vaivars noted. Some of the combinations have specific components that can be harvested every year.
He said: “We have peace tea, cold tea, bath tea, energy tea. That is the base. Every year. And then there are the special ones where small weeds need to be found, and you miss them by one day, then there will be none this year.[..] We harvest, pack, and in principle, it all goes away in the same year. So the stocks don't build up in any way.”
When asked to assess the extent of tea cultivation in Latvia as a whole, Vaivars acknowledged: “I think it's a very Latvian area. Extremely. It was crowded years ago and now I wouldn't say it was emptier now. On the one hand, everyone thinks they can harvest something, but there are a lot of people who do it professionally. It seems to me that it is because we can find such nice, fragrant and tasty tea, it is not so common in other countries.” He also said that there are skilled tea growers in Latvia: “Some are better, some are mediocre, but yes, there is very, very good tea in Latvia. [Teas are] different and there are very educated people behind it, who know a lot.”