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Since 1st March, 1999
 
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Appetite for tea tasting on the wane

Calcutta, Oct. 9: The aroma of tea is possibly one of the most refreshing smells that greets one in the morning. The tea may be strong, light, black, flavoured, Nilgiri or Darjeeling ' people can pamper themselves with any variety. But before the tea hits the shelves of supermarkets, it undergoes the strict scrutiny of tea tasters. Nothing escapes these experts ' the flavour, colour, strength, merits and flaws.

Tea tasting, which was once treated as a sought-after job, is gradually losing its sheen. Young people are not keen to join the profession. The tea industry has to scout for people eager to join this profession.

A cross-section of the industry points out three main reasons for the lack of interest from the young crowd to join this profession.

The first and foremost reason is the condition of the tea industry. The industry is facing problems for more than four years. 'There is a general apprehension among the young that there will not be a significant career growth in this sector. This is compelling them to stay away from the industry. Moreover, the incidents of kidnapping in the gardens have also contributed a lot,' said a senior planter.

A senior tea taster of a renowned auction house said the profession once had an aura around it. 'Earlier, it was generally perceived that this is a highly paid job. This could be because it was dominated by the English,' he said.

He agreed that the aura has definitely been lost. He attributed it to the younger generation's preference for jobs in information technology. 'Infotech and multinational companies pay much more than this is possible by this profession now,' he said.

'The youth are now more enamoured by technology. They want to work with a computer,' he added. This is another reason why young people are staying away from this profession.

Moreover, the present crisis in the tea industry with a number of lock-outs and lay-offs in both south and north in recent months have added to his woes. 'Mostly, people from the north were keen to join the tea-tasting profession. But now many more avenues attract them. Moreover, earlier more orthodox tea were produced, which attracted people to come to this profession,' a senior official of the Calcutta Tea Traders' Association said.

The job of a tea-taster also entails a lot of learning and hard work.

An experienced taster can identify the garden, ambient conditions of the plucking day and can even suggest adjustments in the manufacturing process. A taster uses his sharp sense of sight, smell, touch and taste while judging the quality of the tea.

A taster must also have an in-depth knowledge about the prevailing market conditions, consumer preferences and manufacturing techniques while evaluating the tea.

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