When I started to promote tea in Belgium in 1995, soon I noticed the Tie Guan Yin from Mouzha, Taipei that I used to enjoy very much in the past, the taste has changed, the tea has more astringing to bitter taste. That was the time, I started to ask the Why questons.
Of course, I understand partial reason can be because of the difference in water. I said to myself “there are much more quality issues that require further investigation”; because every question opens another door of learning.
In Belgium, the first thing I noticed is after several food safety incidents, the EU has anonymously set up very strict standards against pesticide analysis standards for all food products.
The pesticide analysis report was not yet popular in 1995 when I asked for such report from Taiwanese tea suppliers. At the beginning I even have experienced certain degree of hesitation or even resistance because it means extra cost.
In the recent years, finally the concept of quality has grew fast across the Taiwan Strait. Many international food analysis laboratories are setting up their operations in China, Japan, Korea and some in Taiwan. Sending sample for pesticide analysis is now much easy than 20 years ago.
In the recent few years there were several unpleasant food safety issues and reports about using the import oolong tea from Vietnam or blending imported tea with Taiwanese oolong to fake as famous high mountain oolong tea….. those unethnic business conducts urged Taiwanese tea farmers and responsible tea traders decided to pay more attention to the authenticity quality issue.
After several food safety and tea quality problems being reported, there are more and more tea farmers are much willing to comply with the policy.Now they are much willing to send samples for pesticide analysis as proof for quality.The government tries to persuade farmers to send agricultural products for pesticide analysis, but it is not an impulsive obligation for tea farmers or traders.
The cost for the pesticide analysis for the domestic market either conducted by TRES, SGS, TUV or other laboratories is more or less the same. However there are few things are not exactly same as the practice in Europe:
- Difference in the testing items, the basic testing items in Europe is 500; 296 items were analyzed by TRES (Tea Research and Extension Station) and over 300 by SGS. Each laboratory has its own standards.
- The permission index used in different country are different (the first number on the report is what has actually showed from the analysis, the 2nd column of number is how much is permitted in Taiwan and the 3rd column is the Japanese standards)
- What I have learnt in the past when I asked my supplier to check with SGS for pesticide analysis, they asked me “should they ask for the pesticide for the domestic market or for exportation”. One thing I noticed the number of items that they analysis is different; the analysis domestic market is less than for the exportation.
This is a copy of Pesticide Analysis Report from an organic tea farm in Taiwan. The tea farmer is using the permitted organic fertilizer but not using any chemical compounds to remove grass or pesticide. The chemical compounds mentioned on the report confirmed our concerns for the air, rain and water pollutions. Luckily, the result is much lower than the permitted standards in Taiwan; again it is much lower than the Japanese pesticide standards.
Once upon a time, an EU tea importer shared his experience with me that he received the delivery of very fine Shencha from a Japan tea farmer who has ‘organic’ tea certificate; but the Pesticide Analysis conducted in Europe still showed some chemical compounds. In Europe, the pesticide analysis standards are pretty high and strict, normally the definition for organic tea in Europe should be zero-pesticide to be detected from the sample. So it raises another question – how organic is organic?