Sir Arthur Wing Pinero once said “While there is tea, there is hope” in his famous play Sweet Lavender and nowadays after water, Tea has the honor of being the most consumed and popular beverage all around the world and India is no exception to that. Tea is an aromatic beverage which is slightly bitter, astringent and woody in taste and mostly consumed as a light brew in water. Since 16th century, Tea is always known for relaxing our senses or energizing our muscles but now loads of scientific research going around the world had once again proved that it is undoubtedly the winner of hearts along with innumerable health and therapeutic benefits. Tea is an evergreen plant belonging to genus Camellia of Theaceae family of flowering plants. The Camellia sinensis is the variety of Tea with small leaves which grow in high mountains and cold regions of central China and Japan; and the Camellia assamica is the variety with large leaves which grows best in the moist, tropical climates of Northeast India and the Szechuan and Yunnan provinces of China. The plant produce leaves of green color ranging from light to dark with small white blossoms. The quality and taste of a tea is greatly influenced by the environment in which it grows (soil, climate, and altitude) and the tea maker (who decides time and method of plucking the leaf and its processing). There are different types of Tea popular around the world for their varying aroma, taste, texture, color and health benefits. Despite being harvested from same plant tea may differ because of the way the leaves are processed after harvesting, giving rise to Green Tea, Black Tea, Oolong Tea and White Tea. The processing of Black Tea includes mainly following steps; Withering, Rolling, Fermentation, Drying, Sorting and Grading and these steps tend to vary for different teas and for Green Tea, fermentation step is excluded.
Tea Varieties Introduction, harvest, composition and uses:
Tea has various components which results in the effect desired by a consumer; Catechins, Caffeine, Flavonoids, Theanine, Saponins, Fluorine, γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA), Minerals (K, Ca, Mn, P etc.), Chlorophyll, Vitamin B Complex, and various other trace components. Catechins are a type of polyphenol and are the main astringency component in green tea, long known as tannins. Catechins oxidize extremely easily. In green tea, since the process for making crude tea involves halting the action of oxidizing enzymes, most of the catechins remain unoxidized. In oolong and black teas, the action of oxidizing enzymes produces oxidized polymers (complex catechins, such as theaflavins and thearubigins). Unlike catechins, which are colorless in aqueous solution, these oxidized catechins become orange or red which gives oolong and black teas their distinctive reddish color. Theanine is produced in the roots of the tea bushes, and migrates to the leaves where it may be broken down to ethylamino when exposed to light, which in turn changes into catechin. Since theanine does not break down if it is not exposed to light, teas high in theanine and low in catechin may be produced by using covered culture. Theanine is responsible for full-bodied, rich flavor (Umami), sweetness and relaxing effect of Tea. The refreshing property of tea is because of caffeine in it and young leaves are known to contain higher caffeine content as compared to mature leaves. Green tea is known for having more vitamins in higher concentrations than other foods, and this fact alone makes tea a superior beverage. Many types of oolong and black tea contain few vitamins, with Vitamin C and other vitamins mostly lost during the production process. Vitamin C and E are popular antioxidants, vitamin B2 and C maintains healthy skin and good defense mechanism of human body, β-carotene maintains nighttime vision and Folic acid prevents arterial sclerosis. Saponins and GABA lowers blood pressure, Fluorine prevents tooth decay and chlorophyll has deodorizing effect. The antioxidants in tea work against free radicals that can contribute to cancer, heart disease, and clogged arteries. The more processed the tea leaves, usually the less polyphenol content and hence lesser antioxidant properties. Oolong and black teas are oxidized or fermented, so they have lower concentrations of polyphenols than green tea; but their antioxidizing power is still high.
White Tea comes from picking the unopened flower buds off of the bush, аƖѕο referred as the silver needles. They are handpicked and are harvested in spring before their blooming and hence it is a costly tea. It does however make a smooth, silky cup of tea with a refreshing and unique flavor which makes the cost of tea worth. It is the purest and least processed form of all teas and is devoid of any grassy clarification found in Green Tea or Bitter flavor of Black Tea and hence demanded by Tea lovers with fine taste. One study showed that white tea has the most potent anticancer properties compared to more processed teas.
Green Tea is made from plucking the fresh leaves. Those leaves are then withered and lightly steamed or pan fried. Since it is made with steamed tea leaves, it has a high concentration of EGCG and other antioxidants. Studies show that if consumed on regular basis its antioxidants may interfere with the growth of bladder, breast, lung, stomach, pancreatic, and colorectal cancers; prevent clogging of the arteries, burn fat, counteract oxidative stress on the brain, reduce risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, reduce risk of stroke, and improve cholesterol levels.
Oolong Tea is a midway between Black Tea and Green Tea in containing the benefits and qualities of both teas. In an animal study, those given antioxidants from oolong tea were found to have lower bad cholesterol levels. One variety of oolong, Wuyi, is heavily marketed as a weight loss supplement, but science hasn’t backed the claims.
Black Tea is formed by fermenting the fresh Tea leaves until they are dark, allowing complex flavors to develop. Black tea has the highest caffeine content and forms the basis for flavored teas like chai, along with some instant teas. Studies have shown that black tea may protect lungs from damage caused by exposure to cigarette smoke. It also may reduce the risk of stroke.
Other Variants of Tea:
Matcha in Japanese means “finely powdered tea”. It is completely pulverized green tea yielding a fine powder which is mixed in water and consumed without straining. As a result drinker is getting leaves inside his system which provides about ten times the antioxidant potential of regular green tea.
Earl Grey is made by adding fragrant citrus oil extracted from the rind of bergamot orange (distinct citrus fruit grown in Italy and France) to normal black tea. Its unique flavor makes it the most loved version of Black Tea.
Flowering tea are the hand sewn Flowers by tea artisans and when put in pot of hot water they mimic a blooming flower as they brew in a glass pot. It is very gorgeous to watch and turns tea time into more of an event. These can be made from any type of Tea and run gamut from simple to incredibly elaborate.
Herbal Tea does not contain any leaves from the Camellia plant family, so it is sometimes referred to as a tisane. Herbal teas can be broken into three categories: rooibos teas, mate teas, and herbal infusions. Red tea comes from either rooibos or honeybush plants unlike traditional Camellia sinensis teas. It does not contain any caffeine and have a fruity sweet flavor with higher antioxidant level than Green Tea. Mate Tea is considered the coffee lover's favorite tea as it tastes close to coffee and is made from the leaves and twigs of the yerba mate plant. Herbal infusions consist of pure herbs, flowers, and fruits; and there are thousands of possibilities when it comes to herbal tea. They can be delicious hot or iced. In simple words herbal tea is any tea bent by steeping plant topic in water. Flowers such as lavender, chamomile, hibiscus and roses; Bark like cinnamon and fruits like citrus rind and herbs like mint, sage, and lemon balm are used.
Masala Chai is the black and herbal tea variant famous in India, which is strong brew of various spices such as basil (Tulsi), cardamom (Elaichi), pepper (Kali Mirch), liquorice (Mulethi), mint (Pudina), etc. Traditional Indian kitchens have long utilized the medicinal benefits offered by masala chai. The taste of milk and sugar added to chai disguises the stronger and bitterer flavors of the medicinal additives, while other, more pleasant flavors such as cardamom and ginger add a pleasing taste and aroma to the tea along with health benefits.
India Status, Types, Locations and India Tea Regulatory Authorities:
Tea was introduced to Indian subcontinent by The British in 17th century to end the monopoly of China on Tea and in 1838 India sold its first Tea. Today India produces 1200 million Kg and consumes 926 million Kg, exporting the rest with an auction rate of 128.27 Rs/Kg (2013 data by The Indian Tea Association). The consumption is more than any other country in world except China. Major and popular producers of Tea in India are Kangra in Himachal Pradesh known for Kangra tea with its distinct golden brew with sweet undertones, Assam Tea from Assam known for its strong, bright, full-bodied liquor and is for those who prefer strong cup of Tea, Dooars and Darjeeling Tea grown in shadow of Himalayas and while Dooars is known for unique flavor; Darjeeling Tea is known for its fine aroma, unique "Muscatel" flavor and exquisite bouquet making it the finest among all, Nilgiri Tea and Munnar from south best known for their fine fragrance and brisk liquor which makes it perfect for Iced Tea. There is no surprise that the unique exquisite and mystical flavor of Darjeeling Tea has prompted The Tea Board of India to get it registered as Geographical Indication (which identify a product as originating in the territory of a member, or a region or locality in that territory, where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin). Tea production, certification, exportation, and all other facets of the tea trade in India are controlled by The Tea Board of India (under the Tea Act, 1953) which itself works under Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Government of India. It also evaluates the quality of Tea produced in India before putting it on auction and that is done by commercial tasters known as Broker. Tea tasting describes and evaluates tea in the form of individual grades or as blended product and it includes the appearance of the dry tea, of the infused leaf and of the infusion obtained by brewing the tea with boiling water, the taste characteristics of the infusion, commonly called the liquor, etc. During tasting the various characteristics that make up a tea liquor viz. briskness, strength, color, body, quality and aroma or flavor, are assessed individually. In assessing the characteristics of a tea the taster first examines the dry tea for colors, uniformity, twist, tip and aroma and then passes on to the infused leaf. Ideally, this should be of a bright copper color and substantially devoid of the green tinge of unchanged chlorophyll. From the color and evenness of the infused leaf the taster forms his opinion about the quality of the fermentation. The brightness of the infused leaf is correlated with brightness of liquor and both are indicative of briskness. Founded in 1881, The Indian Tea Association is the premier and the oldest organization of tea producers in India and it plays a multi-dimensional role towards formulating policies and initiating action towards the development and growth of the Industry, liaising with the Tea Board, Government and other related bodies. The ITA has branches at different locations in Assam and West Bengal. With over 425 member gardens, the ITA and its branches represent over 60% of India's total tea production. As employers, ITA member gardens provide direct employment to more than 400,000 people.
So it is safe to say that Tea business not only provide a cup to breathe fine aroma, taste exotic flavor or a cup to spend a good time with friends but also it provides employment to millions of people around the world. Fortunately there is a Tea for every occasion, “If you are cold, tea will warm you; if you are too heated, it will cool you; if you are depressed, it will cheer you; if you are excited it will calm you” (William Ewart Gladstone, four times British Liberal Prime Minister).