India is the 2nd largest producer of tea in the world, with per capita consumption amounting to 19 per cent of the total world-wide consumption. The domestic population in India consumes around 76 per cent of the total tea produced in the country. With such a large tea drinking population, the news of adulteration of tea is not surprising. Several complaints have come up about manufacturers making fake tea powder by roasting the outer shell of cashew nuts until they acquire a burned texture. It is then mixed with quality tea powder. Very often, manufacturers also add banned colours to the tea.
In August this year, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) seized 1.5 tonne of adulterated tea dust from Coimbatore. Designated Officer of FSSAI K. Tamilselvan, said, “Some of the 500g tea dust packets we seized had 50g sachet of tea dust mixed with high concentration of colourants. This sachet was meant to be mixed with genuine tea dust to get strong colour. Several other packets contained tea dust which was mixed with colourants and ready for use.”
FSSAI 2011 regulation 2.10.1 (1) on tea mentions, “The product shall be free from extraneous matter, added colouring matter and harmful substances.”
With adulterated version having the same colour and consistency as pure tea leaves, it is next to impossible to just look at tea leaves or even smell the leaves and ascertain whether it is genuine or fake. However, there are some methods that you could try to find out its purity.
So how can you find out the difference? Read on to find out.
1. How to detect if tea leaves have been mixed with coal tar
Spread a few tea leaves on a filter paper/blotting paper, sprinkle some water on them. Once done, remove the tea leaves and wash the filter paper under tap water. Observe the stains that are left behind against the light. If the tea leaves are pure they will not stain the filter paper and if adulteration has creeped into you tea in the form of coal tar then you will find the filter paper changing colour immediately.
2. How to detect if tea leaves have been mixed with iron fillings
For this you will need a magnet. Spread out a small quantity of tea leaves on a glass plate and gently move the magnet above the tea leaves. If the tea leaves are pure then the magnet will be clean. However, adulteration will manifest when iron fillings get stuck to the magnet.
3. The water test
One of the easiest methods of checking the purity of tea is to add a tablespoon of tea leaves to a glass of water. Ensure that the water is either cold or at room temperature but not hot. If the tea is pure then there will be no change in the water’s colour. If the tea leaves have some colourant added to it, the colour will immediately change to red, so beware.
One of the reasons why tea leaves are adulterated is because while a kilo of genuine leaves brews about 400 to 500 cups of tea, adding artificial flavors and colour can almost double the number to between 800 to 1,000 cups for the same amount of tea.
Now, it is time for you to go and check if your tea is pure or not!
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)