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Tea-tasting set to turn new leaf with artificial nose

The instrument uses sensors to detect and discriminate complex odours, reports Ajayan.

india Updated: May 31, 2007 05:28 IST

Scientists at the government’s Centre for Development of Advanced Computing have developed a model ‘nose’ which can detect complex odours and help manufacture better quality tea.

The instrument uses sensors to detect and discriminate complex odours. An odour stimulus generates a characteristic fingerprint or pattern, and based on these patterns the teas can be classified, identified and graded as odour lends flavour to tea.

Tea tasters who manually taste teas by sipping it, rolling it on their tongue and inhaling the smell could now see their jobs being done with this ‘nose’, which can also act as a ‘tongue’. Its computing system is capable of sensing compounds of tea and predicting scores (or quality standards), which otherwise is manually handled by tea tasters. A few tea tasters in Kochi said it was too early to judge the efficacy of the new devise.

J.K. Thomas, president of United Planters Association of South India and vice-president of the government-run Tea Board, said the equipment was demonstrated recently during a workshop organised by the board’s National Tea Research Foundation in Kolkata. He said if it was available to the growers at Rs 50,000, the equipment could help improve quality. Such instruments are available abroad for Rs 30 lakh a piece.

The quality issue surfaced in 2001 when Libya rejected Indian tea and banned its import. When it finally agreed to import Indian tea in 2004, the stock was found inferior, forcing the Tea Board to impose strict quality norms for export and import.