Confused by a recent Tea Board circular prescribing a new method of fine green tea leaf counting, the North Eastern Tea Association (NETA) has approached the Tea Research Association (TRA) for scientific help and guidance on standardisation of fine tea leaf counting in Assam to avert possible conflict between growers and manufactures.

In a letter to TRA Chairman D. P. Maheshwari, NETA Chairman Bidyananda Barkakoty wrote on October 4 requesting that Tocklai Experimental Station of the TRA should clarify if fine shoots of three tea leaves and a bud, as prescribed in the Tea Board circular, should be taken as the standard for fine tea leaf counting as against the prevalent practice of taking two leaves and a bud as fine.

The NETA Chairman wrote in his letter that the standard prescribed by the Tea Board of taking three leaves and a bud as fine had never been used in Assam for counting fine tea leaf and that for past 100 years, the Tocklai Experimental Station taught the industry to take two leaves and a bud as fine. The Tea Board circular dated August 6 had been kept in abeyance, and was sought to be given effect from January, 2014, he stated.

The Clause 3 of the Tea Board circular states that the manufacturing units are to ensure that the fine shoots consisting of 2-3 leaves and a bud and very soft banjis should be minimum 65 per cent by weight, soft banjis (light green in colour) not more than 30 per cent by weight and Coarse leaf (dark green in colour) is not more than 5 per cent by weight minimum for quality standard of green leaf to be accepted from small tea growers.

The NETA cautioned that if issue of fine leaf counting method was not resolved before the Tea Board circular is given effect then a conflict between the growers and manufacturers might arise. Tocklai, being the world’s oldest and largest tea research organisation, has a bigger role to play in this issue, it insisted.

Mr. Barkakoty wrote that during a recent visit, the NETA found that in the Nilgiris in South India, three leaves and a bud is taken as fine while doing fine leaf counting.

The NETA has also underlined the need for TRA undertaking a study on what is minimum percentage of fine leaf required to make quality tea. He told The Hindu that Tea Board Chairman M. G. V. K. Bhanu had asked the TRA to carry out the study of fine leaf counting methodology and submit its report to the Tea Board urgently.

The tea association also suggested that there should be three categories of leaf counting percentage — standard, good and excellent — so that the grower supplying excellent quality leaf would get a better price than the one who supplies standard quality leaf. Standard quality leaf should be the minimum acceptable fine leaf percentage, it added.

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