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Maintaining Quality & Hygiene in Tea manufacturing

Fermenting Room

When rolled leaf is spread on floor for oxidation, some juice adheres to the surface and, if not cleaned, the accumulated juice becomes a source of bacterial contamination. Rough cement surfaces, cracks and crevices are the sources for bacterial growth. The porousness or the roughness of the cement floor can be done away to a great extent with a coat of epoxy resin paint that keeps the floor shining white to facilitate proper cleaning. Glazed tiles, metal sheets etc. are also used as juice collected over these can easily be cleaned.

On badly cleaned “fermenting” surface, the bacterial effect may arise in two ways. Bacteria present in the film of juice may penetrate the lower layers of the bed of leaf and produce a direct infection. The second effect is due to the bacteria attacking the juice deposits already present on the floor and the juice freshly deposited with each bed on leaf. The fermenting room should be well drained and cleaned with an abrasive and good detergent. The water used for cleaning the fermenting floor should be clean and bacteria free.

Many of the present day factories use Continuous Fermenting Machine for oxidation. One of the biggest problems with these machines is to keep them hygienically clean. Whenever such machines are used, extreme care should be taken to keep them clean.

In order to achieve this, Jacob explains, “Dry cleaning of withering troughs and dry cleaning and washing the orthodox rollers, rolling room floor and fermenting floor with high pressure jet using organic cleaning agents are done. Drying room, heater room and packing room are also dry cleaned with brooms and vacuum cleaner.”

Drying and Packing

Teas emerging out of a drier usually have a low microbial count as most of the bacteria are destroyed during firing. It may appear that after drying, there will be lesser chances of microbial contamination.

Quality Control, Testing and Accreditation

Quality is a major discriminating factor that sets the different tea brands apart from one another. “Acquiring quality green leaf, (raw material) is tough. The quality in the end product is achieved through Good Agriculture Practices (GAP) and Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP – HACCP ),” says Jacob.

Says Dr Kumar, “NABL accreditation is given to Chemical and Calibration Laboratories for following the norms as per the requirements of ISO 17025:2005. Manufacturing aspects are covered by HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points) principles. Tea manufacturing units obtain ISO 22000 certification besides GMP, which deals with the HACCP principles apart from quality management system.”

Moreover, the pesticide residue facility of UPASI Tea Research Foundation has been granted GLP certification by National GLP Monitoring Authority of India. The testing facilities, chemical laboratories at UPASI Tea Research Foundation, Tea Research Institute, Valparai, Regional Centre, Conoor and Regional Centre, Vandiperiyar are accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories, Government of India as per the requirements of ISO 17025: 2005. Armed with adequate infrastructure, UPASI TRF is also authorised to analyse the tea samples that are intended for export and import.

Dr Kumar gives us an overall picture on UPASI’s activities to encourage good manufacturing practices. “The Tea Technology Division of UPASI TRF is engaged in research in terms of manufacture, bio-chemical and quality aspects besides the testing activities pertaining to the bio-chemical and quality parameters of processed tea. Sometimes samples for NABL-GLP and FSSI certification too reach us. We serve as a link between the plantations. In addition UPASI Krishi Vikas Kendra (KVK) is working at Conoor to extend the analytical and extension services for small tea growers, government farms and tribal co-operatives. Members who have subscribed for our services and those from KVK approach us.”

UPASI has developed the microbial detection kit for testing the microbial contamination level in the tea manufacturing unit. “In case of microbial contamination, cleaning agent such as Purfue is being used to clean the machinery followed by high pressure water cleaning.” AVT Ltd trains its cleaning personnel before taking them on job. “Shortage of workers is a major challenge faced in plantations,” remarks Jacob.

Waste Management

Care is taken to make the cleaning process eco-friendly. “Washed water is let into three filtration tanks which have gravels, charcoal and sand. The filtered water is let into tea field. The bio degradable waste is put separately in a pit and later used as manure. Non biodegradable materials like plastic are collected separately and sold to the approved buyer. Only organic cleaning agents are used for cleaning machineries and floor,” explains Jacob. In terms of the tea waste and its feasibility Dr Kumar cites only one productive use. “Only 2% is allowed as tea waste. It gets used for vermi-compost production. The methodology for composting has been disseminated to tea industry by UPASI. In case of low grade tea varieties, they are used to make instant teas.”

Vijayalakshmi Sridhar
(With inputs from various sources)

Tea manufacturing in India is an age old industry that dates back to the 1800s. The major tea belt constitutes the states of Assam, West Bengal, Tamilnadu and Kerala.

Each tea growing areas has its own distinctive pests and diseases though several of them might have been recorded from more than one region. Number of pests and diseases associated with tea plants in an area depends on the length of time for which it is cultivated in that area. More than one thousand species of arthropod pests and nearly 400 pathogens are known to attack tea all over the world, though only about 300 species of insects and mites and 58 pathogenic fungi are recorded from tea in India. Crop loss due to pest and diseases varies between 15 and 20%. Magnitude of the losses is bound to be higher today in view of the increased production and productivity besides the variations in climatic conditions. Mites are serious pests of tea and they damage the green tissues of leaves, thereby reducing the photosynthetic efficiency resulting in yield reduction. Infestation leads to discoloration of leaves. Most of the species occupy the under surface of the leaves but a few prefer the upper surface also.

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