Oxidising Tea

At the laboratories of the tea research centre, scientists are brewing a new cup of tea. They are testing the properties lquote Ceylon Tea grown in various regions of the island.

Tea Board officials are hoping they will produce the marketing and branding break through the industry has been waiting for.

” If we could prove chemically, quantitatively and qualitatively Ceylon Tea, in certain regions depending on the climate, has a high percentage of antioxidants than other countries teas, then we are definitely going to have an edge,” Sri Lanka Tea Board Director Hasitha de Alwis says.

The research is being conducted on tastes, aromas and liquors of six varieties of regional teas from Uva, Dimbulla, Nuwera Eliya, Uda Pussellawa, Ruhuna and Kandy.

The Food and Agricultural Organization or FAO has already given the green light for the research.

The FAO funds are expected sometime in October. The funds are being given on a proposal made jointly by the tea board and the tea Traders Association.

” The preliminary report was submitted in the last IGG meeting in New Delhi and that was accepted in principle,” de Alwis says.

” And now Sri Lanka has to come with a detailed project proposal which we are now doing using a sub committee involving certain member of the CTTA and the Tea Research Institute and that is to get an initial funding of US$ 50,000 by early next year. The entire project proposals they have approved is US $250,000.”

The project will draw on both local and intentional researchers.

They will be looking for the oxidant qualities that give the teas distinct liquor.

A lot will depend on the success of the initial research trying to find if local teas have the oxidant advantage.

” Whether certain regions in Sri Lanka have a high antioxidant effect, if we can chemically prove it with the blessings of the FAO, we might get the permission to use it in our marketing as the entire health concept of tea is directly related to the anti-oxidant effect.

” So if a particular origin tea has a higher percentage of antioxidant it would be really marvelous for Sri Lanka.”

The oxidant properties could become a unique selling point.

The industry believes this could give them the edge over the competition.

” Individual brand owners will be able to use it on their pack that it is with a high antioxidant.”

FAO backing will give the project credibility in addition to a two hundred and fifty thousand dollar grant. Leading tea marketing companies are already branding tea based on their agro climatic regions.

The industry is hoping the research in agro climatic regions will reinforce this view.

The tea board is prepared to pump in start up capital to get the project off the ground.

” The Sri Lanka Tea Board is prepared to pump a percentage of the start up capital when the FAO gives the green light that they are going to remit us money.”

Analysts say that competition in the orthodox tea market is heating up.Countries like Indonesia and Vietnam are now producing orthodox teas that are increasingly similar to local teas.

These countries are also developing their homegrown brands.

The industry is hoping the research findings will tell them something they already know, ie that Ceylon Tea has distinct agro climatic characteristics.

If scientifically proven it could give the industry the branding and marketing edge they are looking for.

Some thing the Tea Board hopes the industry would exploit.(LBR)