The Sri Lanka Tea Board yesterday warned stern action against those engaged in contaminating the purity of Ceylon Tea, who run the risk of being suspended from doing business for three months.
“Extreme measures will be taken on factories engaged in tea adulteration, and the workers will be taken into task,” Sri Lanka Tea Board Chairman Jayampathy Molligoda told the Daily FT.
Noting that tea adulteration has been a major challenge to maintain the quality of Ceylon Tea in the past, he pointed out that Sri Lanka Tea Board has put an end to the menace of tea being adulterated with sugar syrup and molasses by setting up baselines for glucose, sucrose, and fructose, with the assistance of the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI). Molligoda said the root cause for adding sugar was a shortcut found by tea factory owners, as they didn't have a sufficient supply of quality green leaf with the increased competition.
“We now have a foolproof method, which includes a baseline and a validation of the test to detect sugar adulteration. We take samples from the auction, which enables us to trace the factories, and take them into task,” he added.
The Sri Lanka Tea Board tests over 3,000 samples from the auction, and is randomly tested by a panel of tea tasters thoroughly on the baseline figures outlined by the TRI.
He also said that tea inspectors are now undertaking regular checks at the factory levels and any errant manufactures will be taken into task. During the raids conducted, the number of factories found to be contaminating tea has drastically dropped, he said. “We are not compromising on leaf standards at all. The situation is fairly under control at present,” Molligoda stressed.
He noted that suspension of business for three months is a major financial loss for a tea factory. In 2018 March, out of the 740 tea factories in the country, Sri Lanka Tea Board alleged 53 to have added sugar into the teas, to increase its appearance and colour. The detections were carried out to look for the sugar in tea by obtaining samples of teas before and after rolling, as it has been found out that the sugar is added at the point of rolling the tea leaves. The detections also found that the teas were adulterated with glucose, sucrose, and fructose, and the factories were found to be mainly from Ratnapura, Galle and Matara.