In order to boost consumption of the beverage in the country, the Tea Board of India is considering the use of blockchain to implement complete traceability of tea right from the plantation stage till the time it is sold to the buyer.
This will not only help eliminate adulteration of Indian tea and improve consumers’ experience, but will also help preserve the identity of Indian tea. An improved experience with tea is expected to boost consumption as well.
The Tea Board has floated an expression of interest for designing, developing and commissioning end-to-end technology to ensure traceability of the entire value chain of tea trade.
While the consultancy firm to be selected via tender will study the existing available technologies in the industry, it will also propose a combination of latest and emerging technologies, preferably blockchain technology, and mobile applications for integrating the existing systems which shall convert the stand alone applications into a ring fenced electronic environment.
This, in turn, will capture all the details of supply chain from procurement of raw materials by the manufacturers to the disposal of made teas to the primary buyers through auction. This integration will help end consumers trace Indian origin teas by digitisation of the marketing channel and bring the Indian tea industry into the mainstream of digital economy.
Additionally, it will also help foster quick resolution pertaining to quality of tea and other issues when highlighted by the consumers through digitised applications.
The need for traceability arose primarily because of the surge in bad quality teas which are preventing consumers from upgrading their purchase.
Vivek Goenka, chairman at the Indian Tea Association, said, “It is good for the industry if traceability can actually be implemented.
Not only the consumers will be able to know that origin of the tea like from which garden and region, the adulteration of tea, if any, can also be tracked”.
Since the blockchain technology will capture data at each stage of production, it will be easy to make out at what stage of the production process the tea was adulterated or underwent a fall in quality.
Some planters term bad tea as cheap quality of tea, the Tea Board terms those tea as bad which is unfit for human consumption and some of the estates terms bad tea to imply adulterated teas.
The Tea Board has advised the tea industry not to mix any colour in tea. At times, the tea which is offered in the auctions or is sold privately contains extraneous colours to impart glossiness as well as hide defects.
Black teas are usually treated with Plumbago which is used in lead pencils while Prussian Blue, a toxic substance, is also used to colour tea in some cases.
According to the Board, adulteration in tea leaves is done by treating processed leaves with a mixture containing Prussian blue, turmeric or indigo and other colours.
Sources among the planters said that around 1.5 million kg (mkg) of tea from Nepal enters India and is passed onto consumers as Darjeeling tea. While consumers pay a premium to buy Darjeeling tea, in effect, in some instances, consumers are fooled into drinking Nepal tea.
According to the Darjeeling Tea Association, the quality of these two teas is different. Nepal tea is much cheaper and there is no quality cerification attached to it. On the other hand, Darjeeling is not only one of the costliest of all teas in the world, it also carries various quality certifications and is protected with a Geographical Indication tag.
Bijoy Gopal Chakraborty, president of Confederation of Indian Small Tea Growers Association, said, “Traceability will also make it clear from where sub-standard teas are being manufactured or procured and it will help stop haemorrhaging prices”.