Norfür said

Importing black CTC tea from Alibaba?

So my friend who started a coffee shop last year has started to expand his menu to include milk tea. But the supplier he first hooked up with via an online Amazon-equivalent in my country seems to have just disappeared after the first shipment. Thanks to my big tea talking mouth, he decided to get me to supply him with tea if I can.

I asked around with regards to some locally available suppliers, but they were all either more expensive or required direct pick-up rather than shipping, which would significantly up the price.

But I then heard from another friend of mine who’s also into tea, that a certain big milk tea chain in town has been spending under a dollar for 5 gallons of tea. So cheap that they just tossed leftovers aside instead of doing something about them. They told him they got it from China.

Which I’m guessing, it’s probably via Alibaba.

If I can get a similar rate going, that would be great, considering he’s been paying 16 dollars per kg, which amounts to about 11 gallons. Or uhh… I guess a little under 8 dollars per 5 gallons.

Now, I’ve gotten some stuff from AliExpress before, and it was good. But this is wholesale bulk buying we’re talking about here. So I’d like to make sure my money is well spent.

Does anyone here have any experience importing in bulk via Alibaba? What tips might you have for a wannabe tea importer? Steepster’s collective wisdom is much appreciated.

8 Replies
Norfür said


Leafhopper said

We Steepster folks do buy a lot of tea, but I don’t think many of us import cheap CTC in bulk. Lochan Tea might be able to provide wholesale CTC from India, though I’m not sure if the price will be low enough to meet your needs. However, you can shoot them an email and ask. I don’t have any experience buying from Alibaba, so can’t help you there.

Good luck with your search!

Norfür said

Thanks for letting me know! I realize that this is probably the wrong place to ask about cheap CTC, haha. After all, once we’ve had the real stuff, well…you know. I’m still waiting on my box of Badamtam Moonlight. I mean it’s been here for a while now, but I promised to unbox it with that friend who found out about Chinese sourcing. Just need to find some time with him, haha.

I’ll ask Lochan then. They’re a member here, right?

Leafhopper said

I’m not sure if they’re a Steepster member, but you can go to their website,, and contact them from there. They sell wholesale Indian tea and ship through FedEx. I’ve bought lots of Darjeelings and Assams from them, though no CTC, and they have great customer service. You might also google other Indian and Chinese wholesalers and contact them if you don’t want to go the Alibaba route.

Norfür said

Thanks, I guess I’ll give them a look while I’m at it. Can’t hurt to see more sources. :)

YatraTeaCo said

I import tea directly from India, but its high quality single origin tea, for the most part. You can get low $/kg rates for CTC directly from India, but you need to buy a decent amount. A few kgs means you’ll incur high air freight costs, which pretty much negates savings from going directly to the source. You’ll be better off buying from a wholesaler stateside, assuming that’s where you’re located.

Tips for importing – you better have a really good, trustworthy contact at the source. It is CTC, so perhaps you don’t need a great level of scrutiny insofar as quality is concerned, but still. Work with a good customs broker. If you can find one that has experience with food imports from India, even better. And read up on FDA and CBP regulations re importing food products. It isn’t rocket science, yet there is a lot of minutiae to keep track of.

If you have any more questions I’ll do my best to help. I don’t know much about importing from Alibaba however.

Norfür said

Thanks for the advice. I did get a figure from local wholesalers, so I’ll definitely have something to compare when it comes to air fare. Might just use it for testing out samples first. After that, I’ll see if I can ship rather than fly… I’ll need to find a customs broker though, as you said. I wonder how I’ll find someone like that.

Unfortunately, I’m not stateside, and our customs are notorious for some fishy business…

YatraTeaCo said

Re-reading your post, you mention “a certain big milk tea chain” – if they’re buying quantity, they’ll probably get a more favorable price, naturally. Unless your friend can do a similar quantity, he may have to settle with paying more. Just my two cents!

Login or sign up to leave a comment.