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Tea processing: The importance of cupping in quality control

Tea processing: The importance of cupping in quality control

During my tour of Nyamasheke, I visited Gisakura Tea Company and learned how to harvest and process tea. Then I tasted the self-processed product and determined its quality. Sampling the fruit of my own labor was a very fulfilling experience.

Tasting is done in order to determine the quality of the final product. A number of factors lead to the differences in flavor and appearance. These include climatic conditions, topography and the degree of oxidation.

Also known as cupping, tasting is the best way to distinguish different qualities and establish quality control. While processing is aided by different machines, cupping relies on the natural power of the tongue and other sensory organs.

My cupping lesson took place in the premises of Gisakura Tea Company located in Bushekeri Sector. Following instructions from Stephen Wahome, the manager of the factory, I used a big spoon to fetch brewed tea and slurped it into my mouth. While doing so, I puffed in some oxygen as well.

One sample at a time, I sensed the findings of my tongue’s taste receptors before spitting the liquid into a spittoon. The tasting experiment gave me a better understanding of the criteria used by tea companies to place value on their products.

I have to admit, my cupping adeptness is still pedestrian. I am not a pro taster. Far from one. But as I keep visiting more tea factories, my tongue is gradually acquiring a new skill.

The author is visiting all 30 districts of Rwanda. His tour of Nyamasheke is sponsored by Nyamasheke District, The Click Creations, Tec Global Ltd, Elimo Real Estate Ltd and Exposure.

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