Tea

Group: GREENS, HERBS AND FOUGERES

Tea
Tea
Tea

When you are feeling tired and lacking energy, then a cup of tea will help you to steal a moment and provide freshness with mind-blowing instant energy. Usually, people are addicted to the aroma, flavor and taste of tea; they fixed the time for a cup of tea in their daily routine and that is known as “TEA TIME.” It is also served as a morning drink (bed tea) for nearly 2/3 of the world's population daily. In pleasant weather, you can catch people savoring a steaming cup of tea along with fried snacks. In fact, it is so popular as a cultural norm to offer tea to guests and visitors instead of alcoholic drinks in India. It is one of the non-alcoholic caffeine-containing beverage used worldwide and further gaining popularity as an important "health drink."

Plucking of Tea Leaves. Planting of shade trees in the tea gardens
to prevent the tea plants from higher temperature

A visit to Himachal Pradesh regions is made truly memorable by the endless rolling carpets of green, which are the tea gardens, and I was feeling enthralled and captivated at the sight of the huge tea estates. A majority of the tea factories are located within the premises of the tea estates of Kangra Valley and Palampur in Himachal and this is what accounts for the freshness of the tea. The process of tea production has a series of procedures and processes. The process starts with the plucking of tea leaves in the tea estates by female employees carrying a basket over the head and ends with the production of the ultimate tea.

SOME VIEWS OF TEA GARDEN AT KANGRA VALLEY, HIMACHAL PRADESH

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BOTANY

The Tea (Camellia sinensis L.) belongs to the family Theaceae. This cultivated taxa is comprised of three main natural hybrids. They are:

(1) C. sinensis (L.) O. Kuntze or China type having biggest leaves
(2) C. assamica (Masters) or Assam type having smallest leaves
(3) C. assamica sub spp lasiocalyx (Planchon ex Watt.) or Cambod or Southern type having intermediate leaves

Tea is an evergreen, perennial, cross-pollinated plant and grows naturally as tall as 15 m. However, under cultivated conditions, the bush height of 60–100 cm is maintained for harvesting the tender leaves for even more than 100 years. Leaves are alternate, elliptic-oblong, 4-30 x 1.5-10 cm, (thinly) leathery, serrate, acuminate and young ones finely pubescent. The leaves of var. sinensis are rather leathery and stiff, dark green, 4-7 cm long, with a matte surface and indistinct marginal veins, while the leaves of var. assamica are softer, supple, lighter green, 15-20 cm long, often more pendant, with a glossy surface. The flowers are white in color and grow singly or in pairs at the axils. The fruits are green in color with 2–3 seeds.

HISTORICAL EVENTS

Interestingly, this wonderful plant of tea began as a medicinal herb rather than a beverage. Despite the legends and all the beautiful myths, in the fourth century A.D. “Shen Nung” (from China) is the first person who drank tea, according to legend. However, this theory does not have any authenticity with records. According to some other authentic records, tea spread through the subsequent Han Dynasty (202 BC—AD220) as a widely used medicinal herb. After the Han Dynasty broke up, China underwent 370 years of disunity with different dynasties ruling different regions, known as the six Dynasties. Out of these six Dynasties, four are Tang Dynasty, Sung Dynasty, Ming Dynasty and Qing Dynasty. During the Tang period, tea spread throughout China as a popular beverage. The aristocracy raised tea drinking to an art form.

In India during the year 1774, Warren Hastings sent a selection of China seeds to George Bogle, the then British emissary in Bhutan. for planting the same in Bhutan. But nothing seemed to come out of this experiment. In 1776, Sir Joseph Banks, the great English Botanist, was asked to prepare a series of notes and it was recommended by him to undertake the cultivation of tea in India. In 1780, Robert Kyd experimented with tea cultivation in India with seeds, the consignment of which was stated to have arrived from China. A few decades later it was Robrt Bruce in 1823 who discovered tea plants growing wild in Upper Brahmaputra valley. In May 1838 the first Indian tea from Assam was sent to England for public sale.

In India, there are many tea-growing regions. These regions are geographically separated, thereby producing entirely different teas both in style and in taste/flavor. These regions including Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, Kerala, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Sikkim, Orissa, Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh, Tripura, Manipur, Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya and in the adjacent plain areas of Dooars and Terai of West Bengal, out of these regions only three Darjeeling, Assam and Nilgiri regions are the main regions producing most of the tea from India.

In Himachal Pradesh mostly in Kangra valley and Palampur region, Orthodox teas are manufactured. There are too many Tea Estates under private ownership and under also the Government Organisation CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research).

Experimental Tea Processing Unit at IHBT, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh
Here tea is manufactured for experimental purpose

Tea Plantations for Germplasm Collection at IHBT

I have visited The Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory Limited and reviewed the tea processing in the traditional way, which involve the following steps:

1. Withering
2. Rolling
3. Fermentation
4. Drying
5. Sorting and Grading

Tea Withering in Withering Tanks or Chambers (above)

Withering Tank (above)

Rolling Machine – After withering, Tea leaves are rolled by the rolling machine (above)

Manually Operated Tea Rolling Machines for rolling the withered leaves (above)

Hot Air Oven for drying the rolled leaves (above)

Automated Drying Machine to drying fermented leaves (above)

Sorting of the Fermented Tea Leaves (above and below)


TYPES OF TEA

Green leaves are plucked from the tea bushes and manufactured into "Made Tea" or "Tea" in the Tea Factories through a series of manufacturing processes. Made tea or Tea is classified into two types viz. Black Tea and Green Tea.

Green tea is different from Black tea since the fermentation of green leaves is arrested in manufacturing green tea.

Again black tea is of two types viz. Orthodox tea and CTC tea. Orthodox teas are manufactured with the help of an orthodox roller in the process of rolling while CTC machine/Rotervan is used in the rolling process in manufacturing CTC teas. "CTC" stands for "Crushing, Tearing and Curling."

A Sample of Orthodox Tea (above)

Apart from Orthodox, CTC and Green tea, another one which is known as “Instant tea” is also being manufactured in India and in a few other tea producing countries of the world, like Kenya and Sri Lanka. The factories for instant tea are separate and known as an Instant tea factory. The procedure for manufacturing Instant tea is different—the raw materials used for manufacturing Instant tea are green tea leaves and/or tea waste. The manufacture of Instant tea in India started since 1960.

Grading of Various Type of Tea (above)

Oolong tea is another type of tea, which made in a different manner. It is produced in a unique way including withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting. The traditional Oolong tea is brewed in a special type of pot known as Gaiwan and the final sip may vary according to the length of brewing time.

Raw Fermented Tea Leaves for Sorting and Grading (above)

Bagging of Tea (above)

QUALITY OF TEA

The Scientists of the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur, Himachal Pradesh (a leading Institute engaged in research and development on Tea) says that the quality of tea is comprised of internal and external characters like aroma/flavor, strength, colou, briskness and character of the infused leaf. The quality of tea may vary between garden to garden, region to region and depend on the tea leaves, plucked at different times in a particular garden. The green tea leaves of the plant belonging to the species of Camellia sinensis has its natural "aroma." Tea manufacturers maintain the natural aroma in the made tea as far as possible. The quality of tea depends primarily on the nature and chemical composition of the plucked leaf,  depending on the type of bush, the growing conditions and the kind of plucked leaf like coarseness and fineness, etc. Only careful and proper processing will bring out the full potential of the green leaf.

COLOR OF THE LEAF

The grey color of tea leaves is not desirable as it denotes faulty manufacture. It plays an important part in liquoring properties. If it is absent, the tea is deprived of its fullest liquoring capabilities. A brown appearance, on the other hand, is often unavoidable with very "tippy" tea. The reason for this is the hair growth down the shoot, which has been picked for manufacture. The second leaf may have a quantity of hair insufficient to produce a golden appearance known as "tip" but sufficient to discolor the leaf to that of a brownish color. During firing this hair is affixed to the leaf and results in a brownish leaf appearance.

CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS OF TEA

The main constituents of tea leaves belong to the polyphenol group, accounting for 25 to 35% on a dry weight basis. The polyphenols in tea mainly includes six groups of compounds, namely flavanols, hydroxyl-4-flavanols, anthocyanins, flavones, flavonols and phenolic acids. These compounds contribute to the bitterness, astringency and sweet aftertaste of tea beverages. Tea contains also favonols, mainly quercetin, kaempferol, myrecetin, and their glycosides. In black tea, the oxidation of polyphenols during processing leads to the formation of catechins and gallic acid complexes such as theaflavins, theaflavinic acids, thearubigins or theasinensis, and of proanthocyanidin polymers. Tea contains many amino acids, but theanine, specific to the tea plant, is the most abundant, accounting for 50% of the total amino acids. Chlorophyll, carotenoids, lipids and volatile compounds are not major constituents in a tea brew but they play an important role in the development of the aroma.

TEMPERATURE RANGE and RANGE OF pH FOR CULTIVATION

Temperature affects tea yield by influencing the rate of photosynthesis and controlling growth and dormancy. In general, the ambient temperature within 13°C and 28-32°C is conducive for growth of tea. Maximum ambient temperature above 32°C is unfavorable for optimum photosynthesis. Flushing commences from March with the rise in temperature. Winter dormancy, however, is the result of interaction of a short day length and low temperature. Tea grows well on high land, well-drained soils having a good depth, acidic pH in the range 4.5 to 5.5 and more than 2% organic matter.

TEA RECIPES IN INDIA

Tea with Milk - Need Some creative inspiration? Try Indian Chai Tea. In India, all tea is called "chai." The most common method of brewing Indian chai involves tossing tea leaves (usually CTC) into a kettle of boiling water, simmering for a few minutes, adding milk and sugar, and once the milk boils, removing from the stove and straining into a pre-warmed teapot or mug. Indian chai sold by chai wallahs at train stations is usually made this way, and is very strong, milky, and sweet. The unglazed clay cup used for serving is then tossed from the train as you travel down the line.

Masala Chai - This recipe is the same as the chai recipe above, but with the addition of spices such as cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and so on. Many families in India have their own recipe, and grind fresh spices at home.
Tea Latte - Usually a strong black tea is mixed with steamed milk and sugar, plus flavored syrups, such as almond and vanilla. But be careful that the syrup flavor doesn’t overpower the taste of the tea.
Tea Cola - After intensive research, the Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) at Palampur, has developed value-added tea-based products, including a range of beverages with healing properties that are free from hazardous chemicals. Besides, it has also developed a technology for preparing wines from the orthodox variety of tea grown in large areas of the Kangra valley. The tea wine is produced by fermenting wild berries, and tea leaves are used for activation of yeast. As an alternative to cola brands, the IHBT has recently developed a 100% natural "tea cola" and is now looking to sell the technology to private investors.


Source:

The Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT), Palampur,
Himachal Pradesh.
The Palampur Co-operative Tea Factory, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh

Photo from Gardens and Factory by Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta
 


Author: Dr. Chandra Shekhar Gupta (cshekhar)

Fragrantica Writer

 

 




 

 

 

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