Surakarta (The Jakarta Post/ANN) - Tea masters from nine countries are joining the three-day Solo International Tea Festival (SITF) held Oct. 12-14 in Surakarta, Central Java.
Heralded as the first event of its kind held in Indonesia, participating countries include Japan, Hong Kong, India, Australia, Malaysia, Taiwan, Singapore and the US.
"We play a role as a facilitator and hopefully after becoming a routine event, SITF will become another Solo attraction," said Municipal Culture and Tourism Agency head Widdi Srihanto, Friday, referring to the popular nickname of Surakarta.
Widdi said the municipal administration pledged to make SITF an annual event.
The festival was officially opened on Friday evening at the Surakarta mayor's official residence, Loji Gandrung, with the presentation of a Japanese style tea ritual by Japanese tea master Soren Mikael Cristian Bisgaard.
The festival preceded by a culinary competition on Thursday in which participants were required to use tea as the main ingredient for traditional foods. On Friday, a tea exposition involving 26 national tea producers was also opened in conjunction of the tea festival.
The festival will officially end on Sunday evening at the Cetho Temple in Karanganyar with prayers for the of those involved in the tea business.
The chairman of the festival's organizing committee, Arys Buntoro, said that Surakarta was chosen to host the event because of its strong tradition of tea mixing and tea drinking.
Separately, the chairman of Indonesian Tea Council (DTI), Rahmad Badrudin, said that the general Indonesian population's consumption of tea was relatively low, only about 350 grams per person per year.
The figure, he said, was far below that of the UK (2 kilograms per person per year), Sri Lanka (1 kilogram per person per year), Kenya (1 kilogram per person per year) and India (750 grams per person per year).
In terms of tea production, Indonesia is currently the world's seventh-biggest tea producer, having fallen behind Vietnam and Sri Lanka from its former position as the world's fifth biggest tea producer just three years ago.
Indonesia currently produces 130,000 tons of tea per year from 120,000 hectares of tea plantations. Of the amount, only 40 percent is domestically consumed, while the rest is exported.
Rahmad said that 45 percent of the country's tea came from small farmers whose tea quality and technology were far below that produced and implemented by state-owned plantations. As a consequence, more and more people's tea plantations were converted for other use.
"They prefer to plant vegetables or oil palms instead," said Rahmad, adding that the land conversion rate had reached 30,000 hectares per year.