India to Require License to Sell Darjeeling

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Darjeeling has long faced the challenge of distinguishing true origin from imposters who annually sell four times more tea than that produced by the region’s 87 tea gardens.

SEAL-Geographical IndicatorA European Union Geographical Indicator (GI) is now in place and a seal of authenticity is used by wholesalers who must strictly comply with regulations insuring traceability. Still many metric tons of tea are marketed as Darjeeling, much of it brought across the border from Nepal.

To patch the leak The Tea Board of India will now require retailers in West Bengal to purchase a license to sell tea under the Darjeeling name. Packets must contain 100% Darjeeling to use the name. Retailer are subject to spot inspections and will be fined if found to be selling tea labeled Darjeeling if they cannot demonstrate its origin.

“Adulteration becomes an issue where loose Darjeeling tea is sold. In packet form such adulteration is not reported,” according to SS Bagaria, chairman of Darjeeling Tea Association.

SEAL-DarjeelingNepalese tea sells for half the price of Darjeeling. It resembles Darjeeling in color, processing style and taste and is therefore difficult for consumers to distinguish from the authentic tea. Wholesalers and retailers are known to blend the authentic tea with that from Nepal, a practice that was legal for many year but now forbidden.

India tightened its import rules requiring importers to declare to the local Tea Board office the arrival of tea and place of storage of tea within 24 hours. A declaration of origin is required.

“No such imported teas shall be passed off as teas of Indian origin. Random samples of teas may be collected from the stock of such imported teas for distribution in India by Tea Board for the purpose of ascertaining whether such samples conform to the requirements laid down,” a senior tea official told The Economic Times.

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Adulteration is more prevalent than in past years as a dry spell cut Darjeeling production by more than 1 million kilos in 2014 bringing the total yield to around 8 million kilos.

“No person can sell or export tea under any mark that contains the name ‘Darjeeling’ or carry out any activity connected with the sale of export of tea that involves the use of ‘Darjeeling’, unless such person is authorized in writing by the Tea Board,” a senior Tea Board official told the Economic Times of India.

Source: The Tea Board of India, The Economic Times

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Dan Bolton

About Dan Bolton

Dan Bolton edits STiR Tea & Coffee Industry International. He was formerly editor and publisher of World Tea News and former editor and publisher of Tea Magazine and former editor-in-chief of Specialty Coffee Retailer. He is a beverage retail consultant and frequent speaker at industry seminars and conferences. His work has appeared in many beverage publications. He was a newspaper reporter and editor for 20 years prior to his career in magazines. Dan is the founding editor of Natural Food magazine and has led six publishing ventures since 1995. He lives in Winnipeg, Canada.