Teapasar platform fights fraud, links growers with consumers

A Singapore-founded multi-brand marketplace for all things tea-related launches this month, promising plant-to-cup traceability for the region’s most popular beverage.

Teapasar will offer access to hundreds of uniquely identified teas, including rare exclusive blends, giving the tea community a peace of mind thanks to its fingerprinting technology and machine-learning predictions. Its co-founder Alan Lai hopes it will become “the sanctuary for all tea lovers and merchants”.

One of the biggest features of Teapasar is its ability to protect consumers and retailers from tea fraud, which is becoming increasingly rampant in markets like Vietnam (where cheap teas are being passed off as oolongs) and China, (where police recently seized eight tonnes of fake Puer). There are also instances of Indian authorities discovering teas adulterated with artificial colourants considered carcinogenic.

The technology behind the tea fingerprinting was developed in collaboration with the National University of Singaporeʼs (NUS) Food Science and Technology Programme under the Faculty of Science, and the Agency for Science, Technology and Research’s (A*Star) BioTransformation Innovation Platform (BioTrans). Born from pure passion for the tea industry, it aims to break down traditional barriers between merchants and drinkers from different corners of the globe by being direct-from-farm and multi-brand.

“Teapasar fills a much-needed social and ethical gap in an industry that has lasted for centuries,” explains Lai. “The marketplace, which we are fast expanding, sets a new benchmark for fair practices in tea trading. This will see the strengthening of the tea ecosystem for farmers, merchants and tea drinkers worldwide.

“Further, the tea retail sector is at an inflection point, the advent of the digital economy and e-commerce, the increased expectations of consumers and platforms cutting middleman brought about challenges as well as opportunities. Teapasar is a first step in putting brands together, redesigning retail and leveraging on technology to help SMEs grow globally.”

All teas tested by Teapasar come with a unique ID called ProfilePrint. NUS food scientists successfully established the initial metabolomic fingerprinting model with teapasar for straight teas, and A*Star validated the model with both the straight and blended teas and established a machine-learning taste-prediction model. This will be further studied using the established protocol for fraud prevention with a larger sample size, and to develop even cheaper and faster fingerprinting technology.

Chemical fingerprint for every tea variety

Professor Zhou Weibiao, director of the Food Science and Technology Programme, NUS Faculty of Science, said that the university aims, with Teapasar, to develop a fast and reliable tool to provide a unique chemical fingerprint for every tea variety, which can be used to authenticate the original source of teas and help verify product labels.

“Building on the excellent accuracy achieved during the first phase of research, we look forward to improving the tool’s capability in differentiating samples from different harvest seasons and terroir.”

ProfilePrint can be used to identify the origin, terroir, cultivar and harvest date by random testing of teas listed on Teapasar, and also allows the machine-learning prediction of taste profiles of each tea based on its organic composition. A Taste Map is developed for each tea, indicating levels in eight areas: sweetness, umami, richness, saltiness, sourness, astringency, bitterness and astringent aftertaste. Apart from fraud detection, these taste profiles between individual preferences and teas in the database can be matched so buyers are better informed before making a purchase online without tasting it.

Teapasar is described as “a treasure trove of quality and authenticated teas, with over 300 products from 35 merchants available at launch, including home-grown and international tea brands as well as rare direct-from-plantation teas”.

To help with tea selection, consumers are able to create their own Taste Map marking personal preferences – Teapasar will then recommend products from the marketplace’s comprehensive and ever-growing database.

With Teapasar’s omnichannel model, plantations and merchants are able to connect directly with tea aficionados; and consumers get to curate their favourite teas and interact with brands.

Singapore Tea Festival at Ion Orchard

Teapasar will be making its debut at Singapore Tea Festival 2018, from September 21-23 at Basement 4, Ion Orchard – where they are also the main organiser of the festival.

At the festival, consumers can create their personalised taste profiles and browse the offerings online, then sample the teas at the merchant booths, and finally make purchases online again on teapasar. Through STF 2018, teapasar strives to bring a seamless O2O2O (online-offline-online) experience to the whole tea community.

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