Aren’t you one amongst those who tried Green tea and gave up mainly on account of taste! Or is it your will power that is helping you to continue with Green tea in the hope of accruing health benefits? Or maybe, you are now used to the bitter taste of Green tea.
While the awareness towards Green tea increased significantly over the past 3-4 years, the acceptance still remained at a low level due to its bitter taste.
While most people in India relate only Green Tea with health, Black orthodox tea without milk is also quite healthy, and tasty too. Black tea-based blends are more accepted in countries like USA, Canada, etc.
The other premium variants of teas namely Oolong and White also offer better taste and health benefits. However, the awareness and consumption of Oolong and White teas are low on account of being too expensive.
What if there was a tastier option available with Green tea! There are many herbs that make the taste of Green tea truly enjoyable.
Green tea is great, but not the solution to all health needs:
Green tea has enormous health benefits. The antioxidants (catechins, mainly EGCG) that protect cells against damage, and scavenge and flush out free radicals from the body. Green tea is linked with health benefits associated with weight loss, cardiac health, anti-carcinogenic, antiviral, bone density, stress, arthritis, anti-diabetes, etc. While Green tea provides a good base to health needs, there are popular Indian herbs for specific health issues. These herbs go deeper than Green teas in addressing specific health aspects.
Thanks to the internet and various social media platforms, a large segment of society is reasonably aware of the enormous health benefits associated with ancient Indian ayurvedic herbs. Also, they understand that most of the common herbs have no or little side effects, and any little side effects are far outweighed in relation to the potential health benefits. Simultaneously, people are becoming more and more aware of the serious side effects associated with long term usage of allopathic medicines.
Why Herbal Teas? Why not just the Ayurvedic medicines:
Herbal medicines in traditional form like capsules, tablets, and syrup are typically consumed with a feeling of being patient, and people stop taking these as soon as they recover from the ailment. In the form of herbal tea, provided it is reasonably tasty, people don’t mind accepting these herbal teas as part of their regular lifestyle after recovery.
Additionally, with warm/hot water as the media, the absorption of herbs in the form of herbal tea is better in the body. Also, unlike tablets and capsules, the absorption of herbs starts right from when tea goes from mouth to throat and further down in the body.
Categories of Herbal Teas:
The herbal teas can be divided into two segments:
- The wellness segment covers basic health themes like detoxification, immunity system, slimming, relaxation, refreshing, digestion, metabolism, etc.
- The illness segment covers chronic issues like diabetes, high BP, Uric acid, Joint Pain, Acidity, Blood purification, Thyroid, Cancer, etc.
As part of their first introduction to herbal teas, most of the people look for tea for detoxification and slimming. While Oolong tea and Garcinia Cambogia are directly associated with weight reduction, detoxification is a generic concept for various body parts, leading to the usage of a wide range of herbs. There are different herbs for the detoxification of different body organs. Detox teas currently available in the market vary a lot in terms of their formulation.
As people graduate to the next level, they look for teas for their specific health needs. This segment is still taking up a shape.
Herbal Tea Formulation Process:
The tea industry experimented with herbs by blending one or two basic herbs like Tulsi, Mint, Lemongrass, Chamomile, Ginger, etc with Green tea.
A new set of entrepreneurs studied established ayurvedic formulations and modified the same to replace bitter-tasting ingredients with additional suitable herbs. Formulations are often tweaked versions of competitor’s formulations in the market.
Human psychology also plays a role as people tend to get more convinced about the efficacy of the blend by the number of herbs used in the formulation. Blending 10-20 herbs in a formulation has become a common practice.
Not all herbs are water-soluble. Certain herbs are alcohol soluble. Herbal tea formulation makers often don’t consider this factor while making new formulations.
Bioavailability determines the quantity of active herbal ingredients in the dosage. As too many herbs are put in a formulation, and the brewing process is also typically limited to 90 degrees C for 3-4 minutes, the availability of active ingredients in tea is low. However, as these herbal teas are targeted to become part of daily lifestyle, the long term usage of herbal teas should yield positive results.
In order to claim health benefits, the manufacturing companies need to conduct clinical trials and seek Ayush’s product approval. As it is an expensive and time-consuming affair, the start-up companies take a short cut and don’t claim intended health benefits on the product packaging. They spread customer awareness using social media/website and other communication channels.
Premixes and Herbal Extracts:
Premixes are blends of extracts of tea, spices, fruit, and herbs in solid powder form that get dissolved in hot or cold water. These offer convenience and taste to make a hot or cold drink, and therefore, have gained a lot of popularity in offices. From the quality and health perspective, natural herbal teas are far superior to premixes as the extraction process results in the loss of natural aroma and original properties of tea/herbs.
As this is a relatively new product segment, the customers are not able to understand and appreciate inherent quality aspects! They accept herbal teas as long as teas have aesthetic appeal and acceptable taste. Suppliers are taking advantage of the same, and often compromise the quality aspects to keep the costs low.
The origin of herbs, production practices, and the process of drying, storage, cutting, and sterilization play an important in the quality of herbs. Organically produced herbs in pollution and dust-free Himalayan region are far better than the herbs produced in plain regions. Herbs can be sun and/or shade-dried or machine dried. As most herbs are seasonal, the long term cold storage at appropriate temperature becomes a need. Herbs need to be cut in different sizes based upon the target product. Conventional teabags require TBC sie(1-2mm), pyramid teabags require 3-6mm and loose tea pack requires 5-12 mm cut to size. Powdered herbs are not good for consumption, and also spoil the aesthetic appeal. Pulverization or multiple rounds of cutting result in loss of aroma.
Sterilization of herbs is also important to stop any bacterial growth. Certain herbs like Chamomile, Mint, Peppermint, Tulsi, etc are quite susceptible to catching insects. There are multiple sterilization processes e.g. Steam, Gas (Ethylene Dioxide), Gamma rays, Microwave, etc.
On the other hand, tea has it’s own quality factors:
- Whole leaf teas are better in comparison to broken leaf, fanning, and dust. Whole leaf tea leaves require a lot of space for expansion and therefore come in loose packs or pyramid-shaped tea bags. Conventional teabags have tea fanning/dust which is relatively poor in quality.
- Darjeeling teas have the best aroma, whereas Assam teas are strong in taste.
- First Flush teas produced during March-April have the best aroma. Second Flush teas produced during May before monsoon are strong in taste, and have a good aroma. The quality goes down after monsoon.
- Good quality of tea would have only top bud and two leaves of the plant termed as ‘Premium Pluck’.
Herbs and teas have different brewing parameters. Herbs are typically brewed at 99 degrees C for 5 minutes, whereas Green tea is brewed at 80 degrees C for 2 minutes. Blending experts overcome this issue by managing the ratio of tea and herbal ingredients and also use some dominating herbs to suppress the bitterness of Green tea.
In order to succeed, a company needs to continuously focus on future trends. The following trends are likely to define the growth of the herbal tea segment over the next decade:
- Herbal-Milk tea: 95% of people in India consume milk tea and are likely to continue to do so. As soon as the milk is added to tea, all the health benefits associated with tea are lost. However, herbs could still be added to milk tea to make it a healthier option. Baidyanath (Kapiva) has come up with a set of such teas.
- Make your own herbal tea: People are likely to choose herbs for their specific health needs and request herbal tea manufacturers to make a suitable tasty blend incorporating those herbs.
- Use of unique herbs: There are unique herbs produced in remote regions whose knowledge is limited to locals/tribes in those regions. The Discovery and production of such herbs would get more and more institutionalized, and incorporated in the herbal tea industry.