Air is the key to the success in tea business – this is what I learned on this trip. Air helps deliver the fresh tea in the water – which is the mother of tea. This may sound new to many in the trade, but it is the truth. Removal of moisture from green leaf is the manufacture of tea, whereas addition of moisture back is the brewing of tea. This whole process of moisture removal and addition is to give shelf life while keeping the desired qualities in tea. Air is the conductor of moisture and one of the main elements of nature. Its importance in food processing is being more appreciated recently because of increasing pollution and climate change.
Winners look for all the factors leading to their success, so let us think more about air. Recently one of the low elevation tea gardens in Darjeeling cooled the air inside their factory, resulting in producing much better filler teas. They aptly gave it a very fancy name to attract the attention of quality buyers.
Historically, consumption of tea was nearer to the producer – which kept growing with the passage of time, thereby necessitating newer forms of production like green, black, oolong and so on. Transportation required better packaging facilities to keep the teas fresh and the game changer was dictated by air. The need of the present is to learn more about air’s role in these times of rising costs and higher wages.
Japanese tea machinery manufacturers are set to pounce upon the opportunity opening up in America – be it tea cultivation, processing, transportation or storing. Both are no doubt the best, led by Prof. Hara and Nigel Melican. Governments are coming forward to study the tea sciences led by Jason McDonald; James Norwood Pratt is leading the pack to document everything which we ever knew – and never knew about tea thus far.
I feel lucky to witness the second generation onslaught. The British led the first generation from 1600’s on, following the 5000 year old Chinese tea growing model which is expanding by leaps and bounds now. This exponential industry growth is fueled by the lure of health benefits for the 7 billion world population. Given the 90 billion US Dollar annual turnover of 4 billion kilos of annual world tea production, we welcome the changes.
Let us be with the winners.
Images courtesy of Rajiv Lochan of Lochan Tea.