Become a Member of STI

Mission Statement:

The mission of the Specialty Tea institute is to promote awareness and consumption of Specialty and Premium teas by providing an educational forum, resources and education about quality tea for members, the trade, the media, and consumers.

STI functions as the recognized voice of the specialty and premium tea industry, and as such interacts with other national and international trade, consumer, governmental, non-government, and other groups to further the cause of quality teas worldwide. Furthermore STI will sponsor a wide spectrum of geographically dispersed programs to promote the appreciation, consumption, knowledge and sale of specialty and premium teas.

Benefit of Membership:

  • Industry Information
  • Industry Trends
  • Statistical Analysis
  • Networking Aid
  • Educational Assistance
  • STI Certification Services
  • Access to other members who are suppliers of tea, tea supplies, tea paraphernalia, and services
  • A 6 month free digital subscription to Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
  • Fact sheets covering basic information about tea
  • A list of tea industry reference books
  • Industry Podcasts

You will receive membership in STI for the balance of the year in which you join. New members who join STI any time in the third quarter, will be offered an opportunity to continue your membership the next year at 50% off the stated dues. If you join in the last quarter of the year, your next year's membership fee will be waived. At that point, continued membership in STI offers additional ongoing services that will prove invaluable to the established specialty tea purveyor. Ongoing benefits include consulting privileges, access to educational seminars at reduced fees, and newsletters that keep you informed of issues important to the conduct of your business.

Tea consumption continues on the upswing in the United States and there is much evidence that this trend will increase momentum as a result of many factors including, the numerous scientific studies linking tea to a great many health benefits. Let STI help your company take advantage of these tremendous marketing and profit opportunities. We invite your consideration of this invitation and look forward to welcoming you as a member of the Specialty Tea Institute (STI).

Institute Structure and Membership

Membership of the Institute shall be open to all business firms and individuals engaged in any or all of the following activities of the specialty/premium tea industry. Voting membership (1 member, 1 vote) and right to serve on the Advisory Board shall apply to all categories below, with the exception of “Individual Members” and “Governmental and Non-Governmental Agencies”. Eligible members must be current with their dues and assessments at the time of election to vote or be elected to serve.

  1. Tea Importers/ Brokers, defined as firms importing/ exporting specialty teas from producing countries into the United States.
  2. Tea Wholesalers, defined as firms purchasing specialty teas for resale in the United States to retail, mail order, restaurants and the like.
  3. Tea Retailers, defined as firms operating retail operations selling or brewing specialty teas, as a primary product line.
  4. Restaurant/ Food Service/ OCS Operators, defined as firms providing food and beverage services, which include brewed specialty teas as an ancillary product category.
  5. Allied/ Service/ Distribution Companies, defined as firms manufacturing, servicing or distributing specialty tea-related products or services to firms engaged in any facet of the specialty/premium tea industry.
  6. Specialty Tea Growers, defined as firms involved in the growing and manufacturing of specialty/premium teas.
  7. Producing Country Associations, defined as governmental and non-governmental organizations involved with the growth of tea within their origin growing countries.
  8. Individual Members, defined as individuals or firms having a general interest in the specialty tea industry.
  9. Governmental and Non-Governmental Organizations, defined as trade associations, members of the trade and consumer press, members of governmental organizations, members of educational and research groups, and other organizations having a general interest in the specialty tea industry.

In all categories, “Founding Members” of STI are defined as those firms/ individuals/members in good standing who had gained that designation at the time of formation of the Specialty Tea Registry (ST*R) and the American Premium Tea Institute (APTI). No new members may be added to this category. A list of these recognized members is attached as Exhibit 1.

Any Founding member that does not pay dues for two consecutive years will cease to be recognized as a Founding Member. The Specialty Tea Institute exists as a semi-autonomous Advisory Board to the Tea Association of the USA. As such:

  1. Membership in The Tea Association of the USA does not confer membership in STI, nor does membership in STI confer membership in The Tea Association of the USA.
  2. STI self-elects members to serve on the STI Advisory Board.
  3. STI is self-governing, as long as it’s published rules and procedures do not conflict with the published rules and procedures of the Tea Association of the USA.
  4. The staff of The Tea Association of the USA provides all routine administrative and technical support for STI.
  5. STI operates under a separate annual budget mutually created and administered between the STI Advisory Board and The Tea Association of the USA, and open to examination by any voting Institute member. Disposition of any annual STI budget surpluses or deficits will be determined by the STI Advisory Board with the approval of the Tea Association of the USA Board of Directors. It should be noted that both surplus and deficits of funds are those of STI.

Any member may resign from the Institute by giving written notice to the President of the Institute. A member may be disciplined or expelled for the following reasons:

  1. Default in the payment of dues, assessments, or obligations as authorized by the Advisory Board.
  2. Conduct that is deemed inconsistent to the rules and regulations of the Specialty Tea Institute or The Tea Association of the USA shall also be a cause for termination of membership.

Definition of Specialty Tea

At risk of being overly simplistic, specialty yeas are teas which are not ordinary; there is something special about them. They can be special in many different ways and those ways may differ according to the country in which they are being consumed. For example, in the United States, where green tea represents a small percentage of total tea consumption, it may be considered a specialty tea. However, in Japan, where green tea represents the majority of consumption, it would not be considered a Specialty Tea.


Having established this caveat, specialty teas may be defined as teas which are of special (high) quality. They may be unblended teas, that is, teas which come from a particular region of a tea producing country known for high quality. They may even be teas which come from a particular tea garden (plantation) of a region renown for high quality - much the same as how some estate wines are highly valued.

Typically, branded teas available in this country are blended. They may contain teas from many tea gardens and from many producing countries. Tea companies blend their teas to maintain a particular flavor profile which consumers have come to expect from those companies and to maintain a stable raw material cost structure. These companies all employ expert tea tasters who periodically change the blends to reflect changes in the tea marketplace and in the qualities of the tea which they receive.

Specialty tea need not be unblended. The definition may also include teas which utilize traditional recipes which are recognized within the industry as being of high quality. An example of this definition is an English Breakfast blend which traditionally uses high quality China Keemuns or a blend of Ceylon and India teas. Other examples of this type of specialty tea are blends called Irish Breakfast or Russian Caravan.

In addition, flavored teas such as Earl Grey (flavored with oil of bergamot), scented teas such as Jasmine (a green tea which is flavored with Jasmine flowers), spiced teas (flavored with ginger), or a tea which undergoes special processing such as a Lapsang Souchong (which has a smoky flavor) are also refered to as Specialty Teas.

Back to top