For those who turn up their nose 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.
|*Make it like a cup of instant coffee|
*Tastes like regular tea
Medical benefits are same as regular tea
*One pinch makes a cup of hot or iced tea
*Users will need six times less powder than normal tea
*Tea leaves are sourced from Darjeeling and select gardens in India
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 is a cinch, 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 tealeaves 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.
Mishra pointed out that the instant tea may not come cheap. It will be richer in flavour and colour, he said. "And the price will be high, since a very small amount is needed to make many cups."
The secret recipe uses ground fresh tealeaves, 60 per cent of their juice and enzymes and a chemical (polifinatic) 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 temperature.
After the oxidation process, new compounds are formed, and the green juice turns coppery brown. This juice is then dried in refrigeration to get soluble tea powder.
The technique was developed over the last five years by five researchers led by Mishra. "Fresh tealeaves contain about 75 per cent moisture, which is taken away by weathering while preparing normal tealeaves. We have just utilised that extra moisture to make tea powder,” said Mishra.
“Through this technology, the manufacturers will save 15 hours production time. They will not have to weather the leaves or roll the pulp," he added. "Also, due to chemical changes during grinding, the tealeaves prepared from this pulp have better flavour and colour."
With this process, a kilogram of fresh tealeaves can yield 25 to 30 grams of soluble tea powder, and 230 grams black tea. The total cost for companies to produce the instant tea would be about Rs 1 lakh —- the cost of setting up a grinder, a temperature-controlled chamber and a refrigerated dryer.