Women pluck leaves in a tea garden in Assam. File picture
Guwahati, Aug. 18: Specialty teas are fast catching on in Assam and a forthcoming tea expo is focusing on them.
The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), in association with the Tea Board of India and the Assam government's directorate of tea, has organised the North East Tea Conclave and Expo 2016 (NETCE 2016) in the city on August 26.
A contest will be held for specialty teas at the expo and the winner will earn the title of "The King" and the runner-up will be named "The Queen".
A statement issued by CII today said the expo was an "unique forum" which would bring together all stakeholders, manufacturers, growers and traders from Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Nagaland, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram and Meghalaya.
Bidyananda Barkakoty, vice-chairman of the Tea Board of India and convener of the expo, said discussions would be held on key policy interventions, ways to improve quality and add value in terms of production, packaging, price realisation and innovations, especially for specialty teas. Assam industries and commerce minister Chandra Mohan Patowary will be present on the occasion.
Barkakoty said already about 70 growers in Assam are producing specialty teas at the cottage-industry level and about 30 of them will be present at the expo.
A clear definition of speciality tea is not yet available but, usually, these are teas that are of special/high quality.
The International Specialty Tea Association, founded by Austin Hodge, is striving to establish quality standards in tea making and create an unbiased process for judging tea quality. This will result in the best teas setting the bar for standards of excellence, which will thereby define what is a specialty tea.
Some of the elements for authenticating a specialty tea are the condition of the leaf, adherence to the plucking standards, uniformity of the leaf, origin, harvest date, aroma, taste and others.
Two planters from Assam - Rajen Baruah and Raj Barooah - were felicitated by the International Specialty Tea Association at the World Tea Expo in Las Vegas in June.
Raj, of Aideobarie tea estate in Jorhat district, is starting an online store ( www.rujanitea.com) of specialty teas from Assam soon.
Dinesh Bihani, coordinator of NETCE 2016 and secretary of the Guwahati Tea Auction Buyers' Association, said the expo will also try and find ways to forge stronger synergies between bought leaf factories and small tea growers.
A large number of packagers and buyers from western India, northern India and eastern India are expected to attend the event.