October 2014 saw me back in Xiamen for the tea expo but my mind was still wandering with tea blossoms which we were to enter into a technology sharing agreement with China in Beijing on October 20th. Here, Prof. Xu’s dream came true after 40 years of research on the tea blossom. Her research has already been patented in 27 countries, and will be put to use in skin care and food products. The Indian Embassy was pleased with the prospect of utilizing this hitherto wasted product and attended the ceremony.
The Technology Development Board attached to Science & Technology Ministry of the Government of India encourages development of indigenous technologies for the utilization of hitherto natural waste products and tea blossoms are one example. We harvest only the green leaves from the tea trees -and/or the husbanded tea bushes – since time immemorial. Finding a use for tea blossoms and lately, using tea seed oil as edible oil, increases the value and sustainability of the tea plants.
Tea Blossom is a newly discovered plant resource. On February 1, 2013, the Ministry of Health of the People’s Republic of China issued the administrative license for application of “Tea Blossom New Resource.” The Ministry requested that the approved organizations implement their production in accordance with the provisions of laws and regulations strictly noted on “The Seven New Resources” on January 4, 2013. According to the ingredients of the tea blossom raw material, the products can be mainly divided into three kinds: raw material for healthy food (natural food supplement), extract and terminal products; and be used for food, cosmetics, medical, and health products. India and China are in a mutually beneficial and positive relationship. The strategic agreement with Lochan Tea Limited was signed on 20 October, 2014.
The tea tree blossom (referred to as the tea blossom) is the reproductive organ of the tea tree, which grows together with buds in the leaf axils of the tea tree /bushes (Camellia sinensis). For thousands of years, people have cultivated tea trees/bushes, but picked only the buds. These were processed into the six types of tea beverages using various processing techniques.
As the blossom undertakes the responsibility of reproduction, humans have not exploited and utilized it. With the popularization and application of asexual reproduction technology, the blossom doesn’t need to carry out the genetic task of reproduction, resulting in an encumbrance of tea tree, and a burden to tea farmers. Because of the higher germination rate of blossom bud than leaf bud in some tea trees which belong to the species of asexual reproduction, blossoms and fruits will grow more if the level of production and management are too low. Such excessive growth of blossoms and fruits would consume the nutrients of tea tree, affecting the output and quality of tea. Therefore, tea farmers often adopt the method pruning branches and spraying chemical drugs to achieve the goal of increased production, ensuring a good harvest. Actually, after pruning the blossoming branches on the top of tea tree, strengthening the ratio of fertilizer is needed promptly for healing the cut. Otherwise, the plant is not only unable to achieve the goal of increased production and ensuring a good harvest, but also results in wasted labor and yield reduction. Spraying the blossom-drop drugs can indeed restrain the growth of blossoms and fruits, promoting the tea output for more than 30% at the same time, but the remaining residual of drugs may affect the quality of tea and the safety for food. Thus, tea blossom is considered a major problem plaguing tea-growing areas.
The tea tree is a woody perennial, flowering and fruit-less plant. Typically, a 100cm width of tea tree can germinate more than 2000 pieces of leaf buds each year, and 300～4000 pieces of blossom buds, up to 8000 pieces at most. Generally, the quantity of blossoms is 200～800 kg per mu, and also consumes more than 50% nutrients and the products of photosynthesis of tea tree at the same time.
Images courtesy of the contributor.