Ceylon tea just got better. An industry long built on a tradition of quality, will have its official stamp of approval, when quality standards for made tea are rolled out at factory level.
Led by the Tea Association (TASL), a gold, silver and bronze standard have been laid out, that will revamp factories and certify the tea that comes out of them.
The Association has already begun the legwork; Talking to companies, going down to factories and conducting workshops for tea smallholders to lay the groundwork.
“So far, the response has been tremendous. There is a two-pronged strategy to this. First we tell them what has to be done to upgrade their factories. They then can internally work out a budget to gear their factories up to standard”, TASL CEO, Niraj de Mel told Lanka Business Online.
“Then comes the certification. An internationally accredited agency will then guide them through bridging the gap to reach the certification standards”, he adds.
Geneva based standards institute, Societe Generale de Surveillance (SGS) Lanka, are being appointed to implement the standards locally.
The standards are three tiered at gold, silver and bronze, and will extend from manufacturing processes to the standard of leaf that is used.
“The standards will focus on three main areas. Pesticide residue levels, microbiological factors and the presence of heavy metals”, de Mel explained.
The three-year certification comes at a cost of Rs. 0.22 a kilo, for a factory that has the capacity to produce 500,000 kilos of tea.
This standard will be over and above the basic standard of ISO 370 that most companies already have.
The difference is, where existing standards are more process oriented, this will certify the finished product, Ceylon tea.
For now, a general standard has been drawn up for teas produced at all elevations, high, mid and low grown, though there are differences in the tea texture at each level.
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“Already 15 estates – a mixed bag of regional plantation companies and private factory owners have already committed to the project”, de Mel says.
He expects an initial 40 companies to tie up to the scheme, confident that almost all factories can achieve a bronze standard.
“There are in addition, top plantation companies that can reach the gold standard. For the rest, it is based on each ones commitment to work for it”, he adds.
Food safety standards like HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Point Control) do exist, but there arent mandatory international standards expected of the tea that is shipped out.
Different markets have different requirements, from the Middle Eastern to European and Asian markets like Japan.
But as internationally accredited quality assurances gain popularity, it gives global credence to the quality of one of the finest cheerer uppers.