STiR coffee and tea magazine

Volume 5, Number 1

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38 STiR tea & coffee industry international / Issue 1, 2016 (February/March) By Anne-Marie Hardie T Why Investing in a Lab is Essential he business of tea is much more than a product: it is an investment in an entire sensory experience. From the aroma to the appeal of the liquor, consumers anticipate their choice in tea will look and taste exactly as expected. Laboratory testing plays a vital role in ensuring that the tea consistently reflects the standard of the brand. Whether the laboratory is an internal quality assurance depart- ment or an independent lab, the methods and practices need to be based on a set of standards that can be easily replicated. Coffee Analysts, Burlington Ver., is deeply invested in the sensory analysis of tea. The independent laboratory, widely known for its coffee testing, has been testing tea since 1994. Recently, they expanded both their level of sophistication and their capa- bilities with refined equipment and specialized training. In developling their internal set of standards, Coffee Analysts researched, and com- pared tea standards from the ISO, World Tea Academy, and industry experts. "When we work with our tea clients, we share both the methods and protocols we use to eval- uate the tea," said Spencer Turer, vice president, Coffee Analysts. "It is essential that we agree on the way we are going to test the product at the onset," he said. Standards were established for every aspect including appearance charts, particle size analysis, visual evaluation, and the preparation of tea from single serve to iced. Tea quality is ultimately determined by the end user. Successful investments in sourcing and blending occur when businesses learn to objectively evaluate their tea based on customer preference. Objective evaluations can be challenging, when there is an emotional and financial connection to the product. "If you just negotiated the purchase, built a relationship with the growers, and know how hard it was to get it. You now have not only the emotional burden but the financial burden of what happens if it's not good," said Turer. This is where an independent laboratory can help. The lab is not encumbered by either a financial or emotional connection to the product. This enables an authentic evaluation. "We have the time, capabilities, and the luxury of slowing down the whole process," said Turer, whose firm evaluates the chemical, physical, and sensory attri- butes of the tea making comparisons to either an industry standard or against a product specification, and then issuing a report." A refined palate When it comes to choosing an independent laboratory, there are several considerations to weigh. The lab should be able to evaluate dry leaf, the infused leaf, liquor, appear- Gastrograph online application: Sensory attributes taken to a new level Jason Cohen and the Gastrograph team inputting cupping details into the application. Coffee Analysts' Vince Caloiero, laboratory manager, analyzing tea

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