TEA PRODUCTION IN PAKISTAN
DR. S.M ALAM AND DR. M.A KHAN
Aug 23 - 29, 2010
Tea is a sub-tropical evergreen native of China where in fact tea drinking was originated. Tea thrives on sloping terrain. The literatures reveal that the commercial tea belts in the world are largely confined to mountains around or near the equator. Growing tea commercially varies from place to place depending upon temperature, altitude, wind velocities and other local environmental conditions.
The tea is very much of Asian origin and India, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Uganda, Kenya and Indonesia remain amongst the world's biggest producers. Tea is a crop of wide adaptability which grows in a varying range of climates and soils in various parts of the world. The three basic factors necessary for tea cultivation are annual rainfall above 1000 mm, air temperature 10oC, soil pH value ranging from 4.5 to 6.5 and cheap and adequate labor availability.
The land selected for cultivation in Pakistan is Mansehra. The area is suitable for commercial tea production. The tea plants once start production remain productive for well over several decades.
The tea plant does best thrive under high and uniformly distributed rainfall with a minimal dry season and a mean annual temperature of 18-20oC, within a range of 12-30oC. Its best location is tropical hills. It can grow successfully in varied zones and especially in the monsoon climate of the tropics from sea level to about 6,000 feet. The production of fine tea is the result of a long and closely controlled period of processing including fermentation to yield the characteristic orange colored in the teacup. However, before embarking on the processing and manufacture of black tea, the growers must carefully organise plucking so that only shoot with leaves at particular stages of growth and development are taken. That is the newly grown vegetative shoots comprise of terminal bud, two to three leaves immediately below it and the intervening stalk. It is this part of the vegetative growth that contains the highest concentration of tea caffeine and polyphenols, which produce the best quality tea. Tea leaves contain three distinct chemical i.e. essential oils, alkaloids and polyphenols. More specially the aroma and flavor is imparted by theol, the etheral oil found in tea, the bitterness and astringency is due to the oxidation products of polyphenols, while theine (tea caffeine), an alkaloid with the same chemical structure as caffeine is responsible for the stimulating and refreshing qualities of the capped infusion.
The polyphenols in tea, commonly called tannins, are derivatives of gallic acid and catechin, which are oxidised by the enzyme polyphenol oxidase during fermentation to produce orthoquinones. These oxidation products subsequently polymerize to form theaflavins which are responsible for the bright color of the infusion and thearubigins, which give tea its body and strength. The bud and too youngest leaves on the shoot have the highest concentrations of polyphenols and caffeine and therefore produce the best quality tea. So close is the correlation between stage of growth and development of the bud/leaf and its chemical composition and potential for quality black tea, that a whole range of tea designation have been invented which relate to the types of leaf they contain. Thus, terminal buds, appropriately called 'golden tips' and highly prised in the trade, are super rich in polyphenols and high in caffeine. Orange is in the smallest (youngest) leaf (28 per cent polyphenols) and also containing many 'golden tips', based on the second leaf (21 per cent polyphenols)
Tea is one life's greatest pleasures. It is a quick and relaxing escape from the hectic pace of modern life. It improves our mood, disposition and blood circulation. Fluoride in tea strengthens teeth and reduces tooth decay, while polyphenols inhibits the growth of harmful microorganisms and improves oral health. Tea boosts the immune system. Tea contains very low quantities of sodium. Therefore, it is an ideal beverage for people with high blood pressure. Polyphenols in tea could contribute to a reduction of diabetes (blood glucose) level. Tea can act as an antibacterial agent. Tea increases alertness and decreases drowsiness, fatigue and stress. Originally tea was regarded as a medicinal curiosity and subsequently gained status as a social beverage. Tea is one of the healthiest beverages and today most people drink tea because it is pleasant and refreshing. The per capita consumption of tea in Pakistan is about one kilogram.
The tea management group directs the pickers to select for quality, but against this they must keep an eye on the market trends and receive sufficient weight of leaf to satisfy factory capacity and customer demands. By selecting the very youngest, and therefore the smallest and least heavy parts of the shoot, they may well gain the right quality, but jeopardize yield. By the same token, going all out for yield by taking the maximum number of leaves on each shoot, or may compromise quality. Whether the plucking is light, standard or hard will not only determine both yield and quality, but also the capacity of the bush to regenerate with new growth with implications for maintenance of regular harvesting for a long-term yields,
Skillful and well-practiced hand picking of tea ensures that only those parts of the shoot at the right stage of development are harvested. This means that the picker takes the maximum amount of good quality leaf which is compatible with the continued health and well being of the bush by ensuring that sufficient leaves are left intact to allow continued normal growth and vigor. In general, this means that picking should be repeated every 7-10 days on lowland estates and every 14 days on tea grown higher up, where cooler temperatures mean that growth rate are slower. Plucking is carried out with a basket suspended from the waist or the back and into which are transferred the young plucked shoots. Experience pickers can harvest around 35-kg tea per day with a mature tea bush yielding about 1 kg of fresh green shoots per year. With water content of up to 80 per cent, these fresh pickings are processed into black tea to give a ratio of 4:1 plucked fresh shoots to processed black tea.
Scrupulous hygiene, which is practiced throughout the process to prevent contamination and the acquisition of taints or off flavors, starts at picking and is maintained as the freshly picked shoots arrive at the factory. Here, they are inspected to ensure at least 75 per cent 'good' shoot per basket, no pre-fermentation and a weight loss through water evaporation after picking, of no more than 0.5 per cent.
Once the inspectors are satisfied with fresh-leaf quality, the leaves begin a 48-hour process involving withering, rolling fermentation and drying to achieve the twin aims of carefully controlled water loss through evaporation and the development of flavor through fermentation.
Pakistan is the world's second largest importer of tea after Britain and may become number one due to fast population growth rate and unabated increase in tea consumption. Most of land suitable for tea plantation is located in Mansehra's hilly terrain. Some parts of Swat and Azad Kashmir have also been declared suitable for production. The social transformation involving consumption basis offers a premium on efforts to boost production through research on this commodity in the country.
The government has started the cultivation of tea plants in Shinkiari in 1980. In 1986, it acquired 50 acres of land in the area to set up a tea research station where tea was cultivated on around 35 acres. The Pakistan tea research institute-Mansehra has also decided to enhance the area under cultivation to about 3,000 acres to achieve self-sufficiency in the commodity. One local company started tea cultivation project in Mansehra district formally in 1988 and locals started cultivation in their fields in 1999. The project aimed at bringing 1,500 acres of land under tea cultivation by 2005. On maturation of bushes in about 5 years, the crop becomes available for many years without the usual annual investment of cost and proper care essential for other crops. Tea cultivation is labor intensive, creates employment opportunities and helps in the economic development of the region. If government spends only one per cent of its amount of import on the development of tea, it would give a good start for research and development.
In conclusion, it may be suggested that the prospects of tea cultivation in the country seem to be very bright due to presence of suitable soil and climatic conditions in the northern areas of the country where it is possible to introduce tea cultivation on a garden scale as it has been practiced in other countries. The efforts in local cultivation of tea would hopefully reduce the need to import tea and save valuable foreign exchange. The crop offers immense scope for long-term cash return to growers with small land holdings. In commercial plantations, tea is grown mainly from selected cuttings and contour-planted interspersed with shade trees which also help provide biomass to the soil. Pruning also encourages a continued production of a flush of fresh, tender shoots for plucking, which is done every seven to ten days, depending on the elevation.
Tea is a beverage with numerous health properties and benefits. Scientific research indicates that regular tea drinking reduces the risk of heart disease, strokes, and certain forms of cancer, maintains proper body fluid balance, relieves fatigue and strengthens teeth.