For those who turn up their noses at tea bags, the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is about to reveal a secret method to brew instant Darjeeling tea, just like coffee.
The IIT’s food and agriculture department is currently in business talks to transfer the secret recipe for instant soluble tea — it won an Indian patent last year — to two Bangalore-based tea companies, and one from Ooty. If the deal takes effect, the copper brown tea powder will hit stores mid-2008.
All one needs to do is to stir a pinch of the powder into a cup of hot or cold water, with sugar or milk to taste. While 2.5 gram tealeaves can brew a cup of tea, the same amount of soluble tea can make six cups. So just a pinch of powder is enough to brew one cup.
“Manufacturers using this technology can produce extra tea powder, enough for 100 cups of tea, with the same amount of tea leaves used to make regular tea powder,’’ said professor HN Mishra at the post-harvest technology centre in the IIT’s agriculture and food engineering department.
The instant tea, rich in flavour and colour, will not come cheap. “And the price will be high, since a very small amount is needed to make many cups.’’
The secret recipe uses ground fresh tea leaves, 60 per cent of their juice and enzymes and a chemical to add flavour and colour similar to regular tea powder. The extraction is fermented for an hour in a controlled chamber at 30 to 35 degree celsius. After this, new compounds are formed, and the green juice turns coppery brown. This juice is then dried in refrigeration to get soluble tea powder.
“Fresh tea leaves contain about 75 per cent moisture, which is taken away by weathering while preparing normal tea leaves. We have just utilised that extra moisture to make tea powder,” said Mishra.