Taiwan Tea and RFID: Promoting Consumer Confidence

Lugu Jinxuan OolongConcerns about the mixing of tea from Vietnam with authentic Taiwanese tea has raised quality and price questions. Researchers from Aletheia University are considering ways that Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology could help address the problem.

In 2013, 70% of tea imports to Taiwan were from Vietnam. Recent reports suggest that some tea shops are passing off this Vietnamese tea for premium Taiwanese tea. This mixing of leaves is of great concern as leaves grown in Vietnam draw approximately $3/kilogram while Taiwanese tea commands a price of $92/kilogram.

A scandal recently erupted when the Taiwanese Stornaway tea chain was shut down for purchasing ingredients from a supplier that was accused of falsifying country of origin documents to suggest ingredients were safe. The ingredients actually contained high levels of DDT.

Aletheia University School of Management professor Hong Chao-fu developed a plan to use cameras to record the processing of the tea leaves in Taiwanese factories and to put the footage in the cloud linked to an RFID tag. The RFID on the package would provide access to that video so consumers can have confirmation of the source of their tea leaves. The video had to be taken in wide-angle shots to allay industry fears about revealing trade secrets. RFID tags are harder to fake than QR codes. Because the information is centrally managed, counterfeit tags would not bring up information in the cloud.

Hong says that the packaging process will also need to be included to provide a full chain of information. He believes that if this program is run through the government it will be trusted by consumers.

RFID technology has been used heavily in Taiwan to combat counterfeiting. In 2009, containers were tagged with RFID. In 2013, fruit producers began embedding tags into their plastic crates. The wine and liquor industry has also worked on a number of strategies to protect their products with RFID.

Source: Tapei Times

Katrina Avila Munichiello

About Katrina Avila Munichiello

Katrina Ávila Munichiello is an experienced freelance writer and editor with a passion for tea. Formerly the Senior Editor at Tea Magazine, she is also the author of "A Tea Reader: Living Life One Cup at a Time." She currently co-owns and operates Tea Biz, a custom content company that specializes in supporting the tea industry.