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Special Report

OFF THE BEATEN TRACK

The Indian Art of Tea Making: Why Amrut Tulya Chaha is Amrut !
Will you take tea? A polite question and the gentle click of glass bangles snaps me out of my trance as I sheepishly stare through the flimsy curtain into the kitchen where tea and milk is boiling over the stove top in my friends house. It is the same site, I have seen over and over again in the heat and dust all over Indian streets a large blackened tea pot boiling on an open fire in all the Amrut tulya tea stalls. No matter where in the world, Indians are inseparable from their chai. All my life we have been brain washed into believing how bad this practice is an absolute no no. You do not boil tea and milk together how crude, unsophisticated and uncivilized! But now as new scientific evidence keeps coming in, it seems the bourgeois have been right all along and beau mondes better turn the leaf, or shall we say, learn to boil the leaf. The blackened Amrut tulya tea pot is now calling the kettle: I told you so - boil down to something good! The British, it seems, like tea, while Indians like Chai. How to make a perfect cup of tea? Dozens of books have been written on this topic, poetry has been composed and elaborate rituals have been developed in countries, including Japan, China and England, over the centuries. But all these years, connoisseurs have been busy trying to extract the maximum flavour and taste by eliminatChemical Weekly May 27, 2008

ing the bad bitters from the tea. But what do you know? The so-called bad things, plentiful in Amrut tulya tea now appear to be the magical compounds for our health. The situation is comparable to the development of white Dutch chocolate by eliminating good things such as heart-healthy flavanoids. Most of the information people have gleaned from books on how to make a perfect cup of tea reflects English taste and is not relevant to us. Secondly, and more importantly, they do not reflect current scientific knowledge about the benefits of tea. Moreover, all the emphasis is on the value TEA FACTS

JAGANNATH DIXIT, M.D. USA Email: krishni@aol.com of flavour and taste. Instead, we should drink tea not for its taste alone, but because it is good for us. Indians and tea drinking Most Indians do not care for just the flavour of tea leaves. So reasons other than high cost, most Indians do not prefer to drink white tea, green tea, Oolong tea or premier black teas. Unoxidised polyphenols in green tea makes the tea taste pungent. Indians,

Tea plant Camellia sinensis


Tea is an evergreen plant of the Camellia family. It has smooth, shiny, pointed leaves and is indigenous to China and parts of India. The wild tea plant can develop into a tree 30-m high, so that monkeys were trained to pick the leaves and throw them down for collection below. Today, under cultivation, Camellia Sinensis is kept to a height of approximately 1-m for easy plucking purposes. To produce tea on a commercial scale, saplings are planted close to each other and repeatedly pruned or clipped to induct a luxuriant leaf-growth sideways as well as to avoid blossoming. The saplings take three to seven years to mature into bushes and if well-cultivated, yield leaf prolifically for as long as a century. The height of tea bushes is rarely allowed to exceed 100-cm and their number per hectare ranges between 4,000 to 15,000. A hectare can yield anywhere between 800-kg to 4,000-kg annually. The Indian average yield per hectare in 1998 was 1,996-kg. To make 1-kg of tea requires 4.5-kg of tender green leaves. There are more than 1,500 teas to choose from more than 25 different tea producing countries around the world, but the main producers are India, China, Sri Lanka, Kenya and Indonesia. It is cultivated as a plantation crop, likes acidic soil and a warm climate with at least 50-in of rain per annum.

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in general, do not like that taste. On the other hand, they seem to prefer flavoured teas mixed with spices such as ginger, cloves, peppercorn, nutmeg, star anise, cardamom, orange peel etc. These additional agents also provide their unique antioxidant properties to tea. A flavour of an expensive tea (or coffee beans) is ruined by these additional flavours. Hence, out of over 3,000 varieties of tea, Indians prefer a very cheap broken leaf black tea, which absorbs all flavours easily. Indians also most prefer their tea to be a golden yellow in colour. Expensive teas, on the other hand, have poor concentration of flavonoids (coloured pigments). In short, Indians prefer colour and aroma over the strength and the flavour of tea. (Ref: Whats in a beverage you call a Chai?: Quality attributes and hedonistic price analysis of tea. Satish Y. Deodhar et al. Journal of International Food & Agribusiness Marketing, 16, 1, p. 43-57). Medicinal values of tea Indian style Amrut tulaya Chai method of continuous boiling of tea leaves up to 5 minutes, is not only safe, but superior. Most black tea is processed by CTC (Crush, tear and curl) method. This increases levels of coloured pigments or flavonoids in the tea, compared to other expensive teas, although it allows some volatile fatty acids responsible for flavour to escape, to produce somewhat less flavour and aroma. The major polyphenols in tea are: w Theraflavins or catechins (catechin, epicatechin, epicatechin gallate, epigallocatechin gallate); w Thearubigins (quercetin, keampherol, rutin); and w Phenolic acids (caffeic acid, quinic acid, gallic acid).
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TEA FACTS

Tea production in India


Four popular varieties of Indian tea are Assam, Darjeeling, North Bengal Teas and Nilgiris. Two varieties of manufactured tea are popular in India Black tea (99%) and Green tea (1%). There are two types in the black tea category CTC and Orthodox. Tea plantations in India are mainly located in rural hills and backward areas of North-eastern and Southern States. Major tea growing areas of the country are concentrated in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. The other areas where tea is grown to a small extent are Karnataka, Tripura, Himachal Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Sikkim, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Bihar and Orissa. Unlike most other tea producing and exporting countries, India has dual manufacturing base. India produces both CTC and Orthodox teas in addition to green tea. The weightage lies with the former due to domestic consumers preference. Orthodox tea production is balanced basically with the export demand. Production of green tea in India is small. The competitors to India in tea export are Sri Lanka, Kenya, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Because of absence of large domestic base and due to comparatively small range of exportable items, Sri Lanka and Kenya have an edge over India to offload their teas in any international markets. This is one of the reasons of higher volume of export by Sri Lanka and Kenya, compared to India. Another important point is that, UK has substantial interest in tea cultivation in Kenya. Most of the sterling companies, after Indianisation due to implementation of FERA Act started tea cultivation in Kenya. So, it makes business sense for UK to buy tea from Kenya and Kenya became the largest supplier of tea to UK. Major producers and exporters of tea [Million Kg] Country China India Sri Lanka Kenya Turkey Indonesia Vietnam Bangladesh Malawi Uganda Tanzania Others Total Production 1,094.00 944.68 304.61 369.61 178.00 149.51 148.27 57.96 48.14 44.91 34.86 352.15 3,726.70 Exports 289.43 156.71 294.25 345.88 NA 83.00 111.46 10.56 46.59 43.64 29.50 143.54 1,565.16
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The longer you boil the tea, the more of these tannins are released. Tea polyphenols, though popularly known as tannins, are not, as widely believed, the tannic acid used in leather preparation. Tannins are bitter (which is why you add milk or cream to mask its effect) and were once considered toxic or harmful. And they are so in large quantities, but medicinal in the quantities found in tea. In nature, they discourage animals from eating tree leaves, by making them sick. These chemicals also kill bacteria: they are wonderful chemicals with astringent properties which gently strip your gut wall and clean it. They also seem to inhibit the growth of bad bacteria in the gut, such as clostridia, and promote good bacteria such as bifidobacteria. There is a correlation between Indians consuming large quantities of black tea and not having significant numbers of cancers of the colon or polyps. Tea has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties, is a stimulant, a bronchodilator and helpful in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinsons and Alzheimers. A Chinese study carried out in 2007 claims tea helps fight obesity. The longer you boil your tea, higher is the concentration of thiaflavin or yellowish brown pigment in tea. If you just pour hot water over your tea leaves the amount of polyphenols in the extract can vary only from 15-60%. By boiling it little longer it can increase over 90%. The longer you boil your tea leaves, more the caffeine and theophylline released. Theophylline is a bronchodilator, and good for treatment of asthma, bronchitis etc. While more and more caffeine is released into tea as brewing time increases, a cup of tea has about half the amount of caffeine as compared to
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coffee. Caffeine is a stimulant, and those preferring to avoid it have the option of drinking decaffeinated tea. Since tannins can block absorption of iron, it is preferable to take iron supplements in case one drinks a lot of tea. All teas also contain oxalates, and can produce kidney stones. People who are susceptible to formation of such stones should take calcium supplements. Tea is rich in fluorides. Hence, it has a positive influence on bone density and osteoporosis, especially for older women. TEA FACTS

The fluoride also appears to be responsible for the anti-caries effect of tea drinking. Theanine, an uncommon amino acid found in tea, appears to be anticarcinogenic and a relaxant for the brain. (Black tea helpful or harmful? A review of the evidence. EJ Gardner et al. European Journal Clinical Nutrition, 2006, 1-16). How much tea one should drink? Drinking tea, or for that matter coffee, is associated with a low level of

The market for tea in India


Tea is an essential item of domestic consumption and is the major beverage in India. Tea is also considered as the cheapest beverage amongst the beverages available in India. The tea industry provides gainful direct employment to more than a million workers mainly drawn from the backward and socially weaker section of society. It is also a substantial foreign exchange earner and provides sizeable amount of revenue to the State and Central Exchequer. The total turnover of the Indian tea industry is in the vicinity of Rs.8,000crore. As of 31 December 2006, the Indian tea industry had 1,655 registered tea manufacturers, 2,008 registered tea exporters, 5,148 registered tea buyers and nine tea auction centres. Tea production in India [Million kg] Year 2002-03 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 North India 639.84 647.94 673.57 721.47 724.80 South India 206.13 230.71 233.27 227.47 222.37 Total 845.97 878.65 906.84 948.94 947.17

Tea exports from India [Quantity in Million kg; Value in Rs. crore] North India Year 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 Quantity 101.47 100.53 100.87 Value 1228.70 1160.14 1223.20 South India Quantity 104.34 96.14 117.28 Value 696.01 633.44 822.52 Quantity 205.81 196.67 218.15 Total Value 1924.71 1793.58 2045.72
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habit forming. One to three cups a day with or without caffeine as a blanket recommendation seems reasonable at present. It is also safe for breastfeeding mothers. After reviewing worldwide research on tea drinking (2006), E.J. Gardner et al, give the following recommendations: w If you are not caffeine sensitive, for prevention of heart disease 3 cups a day; w To increase plasma antioxidants up to six cups a day; w Above 8 cups a day iron deficiency develops; and w For cancer prevention, bone, or dental health specific amounts are not recommended. Making the perfect tea Indian style! If you are going to use tea bags do not put milk, hot water, sugar, all in one go. Milk solids clog the tea bag and block the release of beneficial chemicals, as well as flavour and aroma molecules. Tea leaves also absorb sugar, which is wasted. Loose leaves are preferable over tea bags since bags prevent leaves from getting properly infused and expand to release all its ingredients. Milk proteins, while adsorbing some bitter tannins, somewhat ruin the taste of tea, and water it down. Milk solids, such as solid creamers are better in this regard they make the tea thicker and give it a body. Since they often only contain mono- or di-glycerides (flavour enhancing fats), the tea even tastes better. While tea connoisseurs debate whether to put the milk in the tea first or later, it is absolutely safe to boil tea and milk together. It does not reduce the blood concentration of beneficial antioxidants (Addition of milk does not alter the antioxidant activity of black
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tea: Reddy VC, et al. Ann Nutr Metab. 2005, 49 (3) 189-95). Although tea connoisseurs frown upon finding fat globules on the surface of tea and consider it a faux pas, this caramelized non-homogenized floating macro fat globules as found on the top of Amrut tulya tea are healthier and a delicious treat. There is, however, one fly in the ointment. Rather in the cup of tea! A recent article (Addition of milk prevents vascular protective effects of tea, Mario Lorenz, Nicoline Jochmann, Amlie von Krosigk, Peter Martus, Gert Baumann, Karl Stangl and Verena Stangl. European Heart Journal, doi:10.1093/eurheartj/ehl442) claims adding milk in tea ruins its benefit. I think this sample study is very small and has questionable value, since tea does contain caffeine and would constrict the arteries normally. Also the diet in India and Britain is vastly different. In fact, Britons are the worlds largest beef eaters, a major cause of heart disease. Besides, adding cold milk to hot tea as was studied in this study is not similar to our style wherein the tea is literally boiled in milk. Although it is true that any undesirable smell from chlorinated water, minerals, soap residue in utensils, or poorly oxygenated water will ruin the taste of tea, you do not need to buy water with a special TDS (total dissolved solids) rating of 35-50 from the American Premium Tea Institute, specially designed to make tea! Just boil fresh ordinary tap water with milk and you are fine! If you are still concerned about adding milk in tea, why not consider adding Kokam syrup? This makes a delightful drink, hot or cold.The base flavour of tea comes from an essential

tea oil, theol. In addition there are over 550 different compounds responsible for flavour and aroma identified in tea by gas chromatography. They are esters, carbonyls, lactones, monoterpene alcohols (linalool, mostly in Indian black tea variety), phenols, etc. But how many human beings can identify these as distinctly separate entities, or can anybody? Although women have a somewhat sharper sense of smell, all of us significantly lose sense of taste and smell as we get older. So why pay for something which you really cant enjoy? It is like buying a Ferrari and driving it in a 25 mile speed zone. While making tea in an open room or in Amrut tulya tea stalls, a pleasing aroma is constantly disseminated in the surrounding air. So you start enjoying the experience, before you taste the tea. In a traditional English style tea, you pick up the cup by the ear, and not knowing the temperature of the liquid, you could accidentally burn your lips or tongue. Amrut tulya, on the other hand, is often served in a glass without the handle. It is unlikely you will put something hot in your mouth, which your fingers cannot hold in the first place! The origins of tea drinking Although today, Indians are inseparable from tea drinking, the Chinese have been drinking tea from 2700 BC. While India with an annual production of over 900,000-tons of tea is the worlds largest producer and consumer, Indians had very little to do with tea drinking until the middle of the nineteenth century. The stories that when native East Indians first introduced the British to the modern cup of tea, the British used to boil the leaves, discard the liquor and eat the boiled leaves is just a malicious gosChemical Weekly May 27, 2008

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sip. Actually, the English taught Indians to drink tea and not the other way around. The custom of tea drinking with milk started in China thousands of years before. However, it is now most prevalent in India. In addition, the Indians have put their unique twist by adding masala to tea. The English first learned tea drinking from China not India, hence the Chinese word for this drink Te became Tea in English. The other words such as Chai, Cha, Chah or Char all have Chinese (Mandarin) origin and are not Indian. In fact, prior to the British, tea in India was mostly unknown to the masses and was used as a drink continuously in a boiling pot in Assam, Nepal, Tibet etc. Prior to the arrival of the British, tea was grown by a few Singhop hill tribes in Assam and was locally known as viridis. By 1833, the East India Company had lost the monopoly on tea shipping from China. After the Opium Wars, when tea shipment became difficult, the British with their ingenuity and tenacity found the suitable Camellia sinensis Assamica native plant in India, similar to the Chinese variety, started Indian plantations and popularized tea drinking in India, as well as in the rest of the world. While Americans today think Cha Ching is a sweet sound of a cash register ringing, it is actually the name of the first treatise on tea by Lu Yu in 780 A.D. from China. In Orange Pekoe tea, the word orange has nothing to do with oranges, but is named after a Dutch traders family named, Orange. On the other hand, Earl Grey tea, flavoured with oil of bergamot, is an oil of citrus/orange variety. Pekoe means silvery underside of the leaf in Chinese. CONCLUSIONS In summary, the days of ceremonial and elaborate tea drinking as a pompous ritual in countries such as Japan or England, while claiming superior or cultured process of making it, are gone. People looking down on Amrut tulya tea should be reminded that it is as good and perhaps more scientific than other methods. Most of the beneficial chemicals in tea are heat stable and do not lose their value by keeping it boiling just a little longer. How much to boil? What kind of tea? Brand? Flavor? How much cream, sweetener or sugar, etc.? These are matter of personal preference. We may not have fancy tea accouterments or scones, rich lemon tarts, or blackberry jams, but a little Amrut tulya tea and a small snack is probably the best thing going for the Indian masses. Due to the extended period of boiling and always being served hot, it is one of the safest drinks anywhere in India all year round. Amrut tea may not make you live forever, but Amrut tulya tea might slow down the aging process. In the 21 st Century you should drink tea not because of its flavour or taste alone, but because it is good for you. A US$500 per pound Premier Spring Flush, a yellowish amber hue Darjeeling tea may be a Champagne of the teas, but the golden yellow Amrut Tulya tea is definitely an amrut.

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