Features Thursday, December 18, 2014 - 05:30
Amarjyoti Borah | The News Minute | December 18, 2014 | 03:49 pm IST The beverage industry could likely see a new competitor. And surprisingly it could be the humble tea and the products made from it. Tea scientists from the Tocklai Tea research station located at Jorhat in Upper Assam have developed several tea based products which includes tea based soft drinks, after years of experiment with diversifying the use of tea leaves. The research work on this project started around 2004 after the tea board awarded the research station a project to look into the alternative uses of tea. The tea research station has developed several products which include low-cost black and green tea-based soft drinks, and more interestingly tea pills that one can drop into a cup of hot water, and even tea based toffees.  "The idea is to popularize tea among non-tea drinkers," says Lakshi Bhuyan, a scientist from the station who has worked on the project.Bhuyan also added that under the Tea Board a small study was done, and it was found that today’s youth prefers something which is readily available. The soft drink and the tablet are both made from tea infusions, and the tablet is a compressed form of tea extract with additives.  “It can be chewed or dropped into hot water and sipped and has the same refreshing effect like a steaming cup of tea,” said Bhuyan. The products have already received a provisional patent.  ( Image for representation purpose ) The tea based soft drink, which also comes in a variety of fruit and spice flavours and has added sugar and edible organic acids, will cost around Rs 2 per 250 ml, whereas the price of the presently available soft drinks in the market are several times more higher. According to researchers working on tea, apart from the high caffeine content, which acts as a stimulant, the drink also has several health benefits. The drink contains Thiamine (vitamin B1)--which helps the body convert food into energy and polyphenols that act as antioxidants.“Besides this, since they are based on leaf extracts, these products are also expected to improve the market value of lower-grade tea leaves,” said Bhuyan. On being asked how the scientists at the Tocklai Tea Research Station can be so confident of these products, as similar tea based products in the past have failed to make any lasting impacts, the scientists promised that this time it will be different. ( Image for representation purpose ) They said that the biggest difference is the fact that these products will be made from Assam tea. "These products will be based on Assam tea, which is known worldwide for its quality and high polyphenol (35 per cent) and caffeine presence," said Bhuyan.  He further added that once launched in the market, these products will be a hit and will be able to soon carve out a space. “During the experimental phase we had asked several people from different age groups to taste these and had sought their feedbacks, and the responses were very much encouraging,” said Sabitri Barua, a scientist at the station who had also worked on the project. Several entrepreneurs have already approached the station looking to buy the technology used to make these products, and besides this several local tea traders are also expressing interest in these products. ( Image for representation purpose ) Officials of the tea board when approached said that diversification of tea based products is very essential to popularize tea further. â€œThere has been a decline in the popularity of the tea, and once these tea based products will be out in the market, then tea will be able to regain its lost popularity,” said a deputy director of the tea board.  Local tea based entrepreneur, when asked about these tea based products, appeared excited and said that it will give rise to industries in the state and so there will be more opportunities for entrepreneurs associated with the tea industry. “Assam caters to over half of the tea requirement in the country and moreover the Assam tea has a unique flavour which is popular the world over, so this will result in setting up of industries for manufacturing these products in the North East region itself, and this will help brig development and employment to the region,” said Sudipta Nayan Goswami, a tea grower from the Jorhat district in Assam. The Assam government, when approached said that it is in talks the tea board and the Tocklai Tea Research Station on this, and also said that it is eagerly waiting for these products to be launched in the market. “We are aware of these products that are being developed at the Tocklai Tea Research station, and we have been told that those will be out in the market commercially very soon. We are looking forward to that, as it will help in the industrial development of the state,” said Pradyut Bordoloi, Assam industry and commerce minister.

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