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Diana Casado: a tea pioneer in Spain.

A couple of decades ago, there were no tea shops in Spain. In fact, tea itself could hardly be found here at all. The beverage just isn't part of the rich history of this nation of coffee lovers. But times have changed. Tea houses and tea stores are now opening up all over the country, and it is not presumptuous to state that one woman is in large part responsible.

Diana Casado SL has been in the tea distribution business in Spain since 1983. It grew out of Incomex, an private import trader of spices and other products run by Jose Casado. One day, a client asked Jose if he supplied black tea as well, and the idea sparked a flame, The business changed to a family limited company called Diana Casado SL, named after Jose's daughter, who was then manager of the company, and its tea business blossomed. In addition to their still-strong business in herbs and spices with suppliers all over the world, Diana Casado SL has been delivering tea, as well as tea accessories, to all parts of Spain ever since. It was a wise business move.

Diana Casado SL became a pioneer in the tea business long before any specialty tea shops existed in Spain. The company distributed considerable quantities of loose-leaf tea and related products -- and even then were market leaders in the distribution of these products to wholesalers.

In 1989, Jose retired and Diana took over the company. Witnessing interest in tea slowly and steadily growing, she expanded their range of tea products, extending their catalogue so that it not only included traditional blends for teabag producers, but also loose-leaf and aromatic teas as well as tea strainers and other related products.

While Spain finally saw tea shops slowly begin opening around 1990, the new tea market in Spain has yet to reach its peak, and it continues to grow faster than in the rest of Europe where the market has been long established. Now trendy, teashops are opening every day, and Diana is there to supply them. In fact, she was actually the first to introduce flavored and unflavored specialty teas into the new Spanish bar scene.

Casado is well aware of how the different products she brings to the market today relate to the history of tea in Spain and and its evolution. "Until recently in Spain, tea was traditionally linked to medicinal infusions which were only taken for therapeutic purposes," explains Casado. "However, the current trend is that the general public is becoming aware of and learning to appreciate quality teas and consider them a substitute for coffee. This situation has benefited considerably from campaigns being carried out to inform of the health benefits of drinking tea, particularly certain varieties. For instance, pu-erh tea was almost unheard of but thanks to one of these campaigns it has come to be a very popular variety. The same is now happening with green tea and rooibusch tea."

The size and climatic and cultural diversity of the Spanish territory also has an effect on the tea business, says Casado. "In the center and the north the climate is cooler and more humid, and the people are more traditional. Here the inclination is towards varieties of tea with medicinal properties, green tea and so on," she says. "In the south the warmer climate and the influence of the area's Arab past are apparent in the demand for more intense and varied flavors. In this area there is a greater consumption of fruit teas, spiced teas and exotic mixtures. Finally, in the eastern coastal areas and the islands where English and German tourism is so important that it conditions the marker, traditional varieties such as Darjeeling, English Breakfast, Earl Grey, Fruit Melanges, are mainly consumed."

Various hotel chains in coastal areas have begun offering specialty teas driven by a demand, created up until now mainly by foreign visitors to Spain, and her tea accessories fit right in with these these coveted new products. "Some cafe chains and the hotel trade in general are now offering fine teas and have started to take an interest in preparing and presenting these products more carefully," says Diana. "As a result proper teapots, cups, strainers and so on are now regular features in many of these establishments.... China, Japan, India, Britain, Middle Eastern countries and so on have not only contributed different varieties of tea but also different accessories and rituals for the preparation and consumption of the drink. We import all these different accessories allowing the consumer to prepare and enjoy many kinds of tea from all its different origins. We also cover the less traditional but more typical needs of the modern consumer who demands practical and easy-to-use accessories."

Diana Casado along with her 10 employees, serves about 300 retailers including tea shops, bars and gourmet food stores with specialty teas. She also supplies Spanish teabag packers. In fact, almost all of the large teabag producers in Spain feature in Diana Casado's client portfolio. She is also the exclusive distributor in Spain for J.R. Crompton filter paper/teabag paper from the U.K. and for Da Vinci gourmet syrups from the U.S (a product that Casado feels has an interesting Future in the Spanish market).

The main tea company with which Diana Casado maintains a relationship is Hamburg, Germany-based specialty tea importer Gebruder Wollenhaupt GmbH, a cooperation that goes back 15 years and is steadily growing. As the volume of trade between the two firms increased considerably, an exclusive contract to distribute Wollenhaupt's products in Spain was developed. In May 1990, board member Peter Kahn of Wollenhaupt visited Madrid and a full agreement was reached. Since then Diana Casado SL has been the exclusive distributor of Gebruder Wollenhaupt in Spain, and the volume of business between the two firms continues to grow significantly. "Our links to Wollenhaupt have always been close and cordial," says Casado.

Wollenhaupt is largely involved in new product developments with the teabag packers Casado serves and supplies her customers with new teas. "This keeps us a jour with current market developments in this sales channel (mainly supermarkets and drugstores) as well," says Brinmuhl.

He adds, "We work exclusively with her because, for one thing, she works very efficiently inside the Spanish market, exhibiting at local natural food fairs and gift fairs. The cooperation is excellent and the spirit and philosophy of both our companies fit perfectly together. Both sides just simply understand each other coming from a comparable history and both being family-owned businesses from the beginning."

"Diana Casado has a large part of the tea market inside Spain," he adds. "Competition is suffering to build up a real rival for her. She is the No. 1 wholesaler in tea in the country."

So, being a woman in what might be seen as a "man's world" of tea has obviously not gotten in the way of Diana Casado's business success. "At an earlier time, a woman would have some trouble developing this type of trade activity here in Spain. In the 1970s and 1980s, a young women wasn't exactly the most preferred dealer for some of the more traditional customer. But nowadays, fortunately, people think differently. However, today I am still one of only a few female traders who specialize in the world trade of teas," she says.

So what is in store for this company that has basically led Spain by the hand towards its discovery of this "new world" of tea? Casado has a definitive answer: "Our future plans will be marked by the development of the market -- and as its main trend is towards continued growth. we will undoubtedly have to do the same. This is not something that worries us, as we have grown constantly from the very beginning." She adds, "We will also be aware of new trends in the market in order to incorporate them immediately into our business -- and thus continue to encourage the consumption of tea in Spain."

For more information visit Diana Casado Giachi on the web at http://www.dianacasado.com and Gebruder Wollenhaupt at http://www.wollenhaupt.com.
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Author:Levy, Amelia C.
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Geographic Code:4EUSP
Date:Oct 1, 2002
Words:1357
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