Tea meet to finalise quality parameters

Jorhat, November 28:

Top Indian researchers begin a three-day long meeting here today to devise new strategies for improving the quality of teas and sexing up the brew to push domestic consumption. The three-day long scientific conference of leading tea experts, including from Britain, Japan, Kenya, Bang-ladesh and Rwanda, is being held at the Tocklai Tea Experimental Station in eastern Assam’s Jorhat town, the heart of India’s tea industry. “The conclave would come up with a set of new standards for producing quality teas and also efforts at value addition to woo people to drink tea based drinks,” Mridul Hazarika, director of the Tocklai Station, said. The Tocklai Station located was set up in 1901 and is the world’s biggest facility for tea research.

“The idea of the meet is to give the industry a competitive edge to tide over the crisis facing Indian tea and also help planters use improved planting techniques that could add to the quality,” Tea Research Association chairperson Sudhir Prakash said. New innovations developed by scientists would be demonstrated — for instance, tea scientists at the Tocklai Station would demonstrate a cola made from black and green teas, besides a tea pill that could be chewed or sipped or even sucked. “We are sure we could be able to market these

innovative value additions, especially the tea colas,” Hazarika said. Efforts to run an automated tea factory to standardise parameters for tea production would also be discussed at length at the conclave.

“The automated factory will help in online monitoring of the entire process of tea production which in turn will ensure better quality,” Hazarika said. India’s $1.5 billion tea industry is facing a crisis with prices dropping in the weekly auctions, besides a slump in export figures. India is the world’s largest tea producer with Assam accounting for about 55 per cent of the total 825 million kg produced in 2004. Tea exports had plummeted from 200 million kg in 2002 to 170 million kg last year, while a kg of good quality Assam tea that fetched Rs 100 Indian Currency (IC) five years back today sells at around Rs 65 IC in the weekly auctions.

The slump in tea prices was largely attributed to cheap and inferior quality teas produced by many new tea-growing countries, thereby pushing premium quality Indian teas to facing stiffer competition in the global market. Moreover, there are complaints that the quality of Indian tea has deteriorated over the years with planters not conforming to a uniform set of parameters for tea production.