Pakistani tea — Unique in taste & quality
By AMANULLAH BASHAR
Oct 22 - 28, 2001
Pakistan, a major tea importing country, is
becoming a producer of tea having a taste and quality, which may
outclass other producers in the region. The romantic geo-climatic
conditions of the Northern areas of Pakistan have blended a unique
taste to the lush green tea gardens are the relentless efforts of the
private and public sectors of the country. The nature has given an
edge to the locally produced tea in terms of the taste, now the ball
is in the court of the growers that in what quantity they can yield
which is relatively insufficient to cater to the local requirements so
far. If this newly developed agriculture sector succeeded to meet the
local demand, the national economy will be relieved from a burden of
$200m to $250m being spent on its import every year.
Three unique innovations to Tea Growing in
Expertise acquired in soil acidification
Introduction of the best known tried and tested clones
Correct Plant Husbandry Techniques including a
complete regime for land preparation, water management, fertiliser
application and bush training required for harvesting.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), an
agency of the United Nations, and by foreign tea experts, have
endorsed the value of Pakistan's pioneering tea husbandry work.
Lever Brothers Pakistan Limited (LBPL) recently
inaugurated the first state-of-the-art Tea Processing Plant in
Pakistan. Research on the possibility of Tea growing and its economic
and commercial feasibility was conducted by the Government of Pakistan
in the 1970's and also by Lever Brothers in the 1980's. Lever's
efforts have borne fruit following the import of quality cloned
planting material, mobilising the expertise of Unilever from
experiences in Kenya and Europe. Lever's Tea Growing Project was
formally established in 1988.
Since the beginning of the research on a 9-acre
Shinkiari (Mansehra) station in 1989, Lever has moved on to growing
tea on farmers' fields using its tested clones. The total area now
under cultivation is around 160 acres, and is expected to rise to 360
acres by the end of this year. Lever plans to increase tea cultivation
to some 1500 acres in the next five years.
A mutually beneficial agreement is made with
farmers who will sell their green leaves to Lever at agreed prices.
Lever has also pledged free training to farmers besides providing free
clones of the highest quality, chemicals and fertilisers for the first
three years. The Bank of Khyber will also grant farmers associated
with Lever interest-free loans during the first three years. A black
CTC Tea Processing Plant is already in operation at Dhodial (Mansehra)
while aggregate research and development including those for the next
five years is estimated to cost Lever Brothers an estimated Rs.260
People engaged in tea production in Pakistan are
trying to learn from the experiences of tea producing countries such
as Kenya and Turkey. Turkey had little knowledge and output of Tea 50
years ago. It currently produces over 150,000 tonnes and Kenya
presently has over 300,000 small growers contributing to their
national economies, as compared to a mere 4000 small farmers 35 years
It is interesting to note that the quality of tea
varies immensely depending on the climatic conditions, soil, and
location of the planting field, elevation of the farm, quality of the
bush, the season and numerous other factors. This necessitates
blending as consumers expect uniformity in their favourite brand.
Sometimes 20 or more different specimens are required to blend the
quality standards of a certain brand.
The new Lever Black Tea Processing Plant has been
set up at Dhodial, 12 km north of Mansehra on the main Karakoram
Highway on 2.5 acres of land with the Processing Plant built-in area
of 11,800 sq.ft. The plant is expected to process 50 kg per hour or
approximately a ton of made tea a day. Machinery and equipment of the
highest quality are benchmarks for the Lever Tea Plant. The tea
produced is based on CTC (Cut-Tear-Curl) technique, which is the
preferred form of tea consumed in Pakistan.
Lever Brothers Pakistan has been in Pakistan since
1948 when they installed their first unit in Rahim Yar Khan. The
company has introduced new and innovative technologies to the country
and raised local standards of quality, safety, hygiene, marketing,
distribution, labour relations and environment protection.
There is a general misconception about tea in the
country. Tea is not even among the ten most imported commodities in
the country, although we do consume a large amount of tea each year.
Lever is currently one of the largest marketers of tea in the country
and is therefore searching for a cost-effective alternative and is in
pursuit to assist the government's effort to reduce the import bills
if provided the right kind of ambience.
Scientific research has proven that tea is an
essential part of a healthy diet. It has refreshing qualities, which
all other beverages lack. Japanese and Chinese consider tea a vital
part of their tradition, with green tea taking centre stage as the tea
that naturally carries health benefits. Tea also contains Flavonoids,
which medically prove to reduce the risk of numerous ailments
including heart conditions.