Organic certificates and regulation of tea production in China

Type of organic certificates:

There are two main types of ‘organic certificates’ in the tea industry in China:

  1. Plantation certified: Tea plantation owners apply for organic certificate for their plantations/tea fields, which are granted after assessment of farming practice against guidelines and tests of the fields and products. 
    • These certificates are renewed regularly to ensure that the guidelines are followed and standards are met.
    • There are various local and international bodies that carry out inspections and issue certificates. 
    • This type of certification is more economic - being at the plantation level, but has the weakness that once granted can be misused at the product level. 
  2. Product  certified: the final products are tested for residuals, as well as assessments for farming procedures.
    • The strength of this type of certificates is that they are attached to the end products, and therefore less chance for misuse. 
    • The weakness is its double costs: cost of the plantation certificate and product certificate

Regulation of tea production in China

China is the biggest tea producing country in the world, producing one plus million tonnes every year. The regulation for organic farming at the legislation level however did not start until the early 1900s, mainly as a result of excessive use of synthetic agriculture products of recent years. To date, China is one of the countries listed as ‘having fully implemented regulations on organic agriculture’.

Teas are graded into three levels according their organic nature:

  1. Organic tea
  2. ‘Green products’ : teas with minimum chemical residues that the test results meet food safety standards of most of the countries in the world.
  3.  ‘Public harm free’ tea:  teas produced using conventional methods where synthetic fertilizer and pesticides are used.  Products under this category meet the health standards of Chinese authorities. This level is the basic entry level for a tea product to be traded on the market.

Note that Tea quality grading is different from organic classification.