Industry Intelligence: Tea
Tea is one of the most consumed and historically lowest cost beverages in the world, next only to water. It is consumed by a wide range of age groups in all levels of society. More than 3 billion cups of tea are consumed daily worldwide. Sri Lanka being one of the front-runners of the tea industry, produces the freshest and finest tea in the world. Popularly known as ‘Ceylon Tea’ Sri Lankan tea has added a new dimension to tea industry, producing variations in taste, quality, character and appearance largely based on the terroir of the region. However, Sri Lankan tea production has recently been greatly challenged by the competition from other beverages, shortage of labour and climate changes. In this report, we discuss the significant global and local trends, industry problems, emerging technologies and finally the SLINTEC’s value addition. To help the industry stakeholders understand the potential strategic avenues available to them in sustaining the fame of this iconic cultivation of our country.
Tea is one of the most popular and lowest cost beverages in the world, only next to water. Over 3 billion cups of tea are consumed worldwide everyday with Asia (mainly India and China) and Europe leading in consumption followed by the Scandinavian Peninsula . These popular trends in consumption has made tea one of the most valuable components of the world beverage market.
Global tea consumption has steadily been increasing every year by 3.45% over the past 10 years. It is forecasted to experience further robust growth, with strong trends towards more green tea, premium leaf and ready-to-drink convenience cups [2,3].
Tea production has also increased alongside consumption. Global tea production went past the 4 million metric tons mark in 2010 with China and India together claiming for approximately 60% of the world production [4,5] . After China and India are Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey among the top five tea producing countries in the world . Also, as shown in the graph, size of the global tea beverage market has been increasing with its value estimated to reach 44.3 billion USD by 2021 .
Black tea and green tea are the key types of tea produced in the global tea market. Black tea, by far is the most produced and exported tea . However, production and export of green tea are also rapidly increasing . It has recently become the fastest growing segment in the tea market owing to the emerging research findings supporting its medicinal value and health benefits .
Tea market has leaped into a new era of value-added tea manufacturing with the change of consumption styles ; from ’black’ to ’green’, ‘brewing’ to ‘ready-to drink’, ‘drinking tea’ to ‘using tea’ etc. Value added tea based ready-to-drink beverages such as flavored tea, green tea extracts, tea concentrates, iced tea, oolong tea, herbal based tea etc. are attracting market attention accounting to its nutritional value and ease of preparation  . In addition, tea nutraceuticals are also emerging as a leading product segment consumed worldwide, and reports indicate that the global tea polyphenols market is set to hit USD 368 million by 2020 .
Approximately, 320 million kilograms of tea is produced in Sri Lanka every year  . Country’s tea production was well up at 340 million kilograms in 2013, this was an all time record against the previous highest at 331.4 million kilograms in 2010. Production for 2014 was 338.0 million kilograms— almost close to the highest production reported previous year .
Sri Lanka is also a frontline tea exporter and its major export destinations include Russia, UAE, Syria, Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Japan and Libya among others . Country's tea is mainly exported in the form of bulk tea, tea bags, tea packets, instant tea and green tea etc .
Tea export statistics of the last decade indicate that there have been fluctuations in the tea export revenue generated over the past decade due the political and financial instability of main consumer markets, specially that of the Middle East . However, tea export revenues experienced a remarkable growth in 2014, both in terms of value (5.43 %) and volume (2.35%) to reach its highest recorded earnings at US$ 1.63 billion before drastically dipping to USD 1.22 billion in 2015 [11, 14]. 0f note, tea sold to conventional key markets such as Russia, Iran and Syria showed a significant percentage decrease in terms of value in 2014 .
The dip in export earnings reported in 2015 was mainly due to the persistent political and financial instability of the Middle East (the largest market of Sri Lanka’s bulk tea) leading to subsequent trade sanctions and the economic crisis of the Soviet Union (mainly Russia and Ukraine) . The amount of tea exported also drastically reduced in 2015, both in terms of quantity and value: CAGR for bulk tea, tea packets, tea bags, instant tea and green tea hit a new low of –17%, -30.60%, -33.33%, -71% and –28.62% respectively . In addition to low export earnings, the total crop production also dropped in 2015 to 329 m/kg from 338 m/kg in 2014 due to extreme weather conditions. Low land productivity caused by the aging tea bushes (low replantation rate) and poor soil fertility remains an unattended contributory factor to the decrease in crop production. .
SRI LANKAN ADVANTAGE
Tropical climate of Sri Lanka is a distinct advantage in tea cultivation. The terroir of each region produces the characteristic flavor, quality and character in tea giving rise to a signatory blend of aroma, colour and taste distinct to the area of growth. The Low Grown teas, cultivated below 2000 ft sea level are known for their superior leaf appearance and is highly valued in the Middle East. The High Growns’ cultivated above 4000 ft sea level are renowned for their bright, coloured, brisk and aromatic liquors .
Sri Lanka has always maintained high standards of quality of produce. The country’s industry therefore benefits from its well–reputed history of fine produce, and has managed to position itself among the top five global tea producers as well as exporters of the world throughout the years. Sri Lanka was ranked as the fourth- largest producer of tea in 2013 with a global market share of 6.3% . This long- standing trade excellency of tea industry has helped its stakeholders in many ways, specially at a multinational level.
In addition to historical advantage and optimum climatic conditions. Sri Lanka is also rich in traditional know-how of tea processing, passed down through a number of generations since the cultivation in 1880s. The country also has a strong commitment and will for new research pertaining to tea industry. Tea Research Institute has continuously worked on generating and publicizing new technologies and processes for the betterment of the country’s tea industry since its establishment in 1925 .
Government authorities such as the Export Development Board and the Sri Lanka Tea Board has constantly strengthened the industry by providing the smallholding sector and exporters with required industry support. The government has also been encouraging replanting of bushes in cultivating areas. Also, in early 2016, a total of 2 billion rupees was earmarked by the government as a fertilizer subsidy for the plantation sector. As such, treasury smallholders with a hectare of land or less are entitled to receive 12,000 LKR as a fertilizer allowance in the future. Integrated crop management practices are introduced to address soil fertility, land productivity and other environmental and health and safety issues.
Further, the country’s economy depends on tea industry. It is one of the main sources of foreign exchange for Sri Lanka. Tea industry contributes to 2% of the Gross Domestic Produce of the island . Around 6.5 million kilograms of tea is sold every week at the Colombo Tea Auction, which is known to be the single largest tea auction in the world. 10% of the country’s population is engaged in direct and indirect employment opportunities created by the industry.
To sum up. Sri Lanka has a clear competitive advantage over other countries in terms of favourable climatic conditions, historical influence, availability of workforce, traditional processing knowledge and support of governing bodies. All these factors will undoubtedly drive this age old-(150 years in 2017!) forward and the country will forever retain the long– sought-after flavours of high quality Ceylon Tea
TEA POLYSACCHARIDE NUTRACEUTICALS
Tea Polysaccharides are the carbohydrates attached to proteins or glycocnjugates. Studies have revealed of hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic. Anti-atherogenic, anti- coagulant/anti-thrombotic, antibacterial, anti-cancer, antioxidant and immunomodulatory effects of tea polysaccharides that can be of extreme benefit in human health and wellbeing. In addition, studies also report of the ability of TP to reduce blood pressure and increase coronary blood flow. It is elucidatedthat soluble TP is the major hypoglycemic factor in tea and that this may be developed to a potential natural hypoglycemic functional ingredient. In animal studies, subjecting mice to peritoneal injections of TP, resulted in reduced blood pressure / sugar levels and significantly elevated coronary blood flow and immunomodulatory activities indicating of positive health effects.
Tea TP can easily be extracted using water and alcohol extraction methods followed by protein removal, ultra-filtration, decolorizing and column chromatography [22,23].
ANTIOXIDANTS FROM TEA WASTE AND OLD TEA LEAVES
Tea waste is almost as rich in antioxidants as fresh expensive green tree leaves. Green tea is usually produced using the first two or four leaves of the tea plant, and the other leaves are known as old leaves and when the plant is overgrown the leaves are disposed as factory waste. Fermenting green tea to produce black tea also produces waste that is called as black tea waste. An Iranian study conducted on antioxidant extraction from tea waste-black tea waste and old tea leaves, reported high extraction yields of polyphenols including epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) one of the most widely researched polyphenols from tea.
Studies conducted on antioxidant extraction from tea waste indicates that antioxidant yields from black tea waste (30%) is almost as high as that of the yield from green tea (30%)  .
Tea crystals are an innovative product introduced by a US based company called Pique. In producing tea crystals, leaves are slow brewed for hours to extract flavors and antioxidants. These flavors are then crystallized using a proprietary process to form tea crystals. The producers claim that these tea crystals have better bioavailability, absorbability and solubility properties that enhance the nutritional passage in the body 
STAINLESS TEA BAGS FROM TEA WASTE
A USA based company has produced a new, innovative single portion stand up pouch called ‘stea bags’ that can be used for stain free disposal of tea bags. This paper based bag has entry barriers for oxygen and moisture and keeps the product fresh till it is used. It also has an aroma barrier that protects the aroma of the product. The material is also uniquely biodegradable and can be disposed in an environmentally friendly manner. Tea waste and other agriculture and textile waste can be used as raw material to produce such innovative packaging material to help the industry propel forward with a variety of novel material .
GREEN TEA EXTRACTS IN WEIGHT LOSS AND MANAGEMENT
Green tea is termed as the “healthiest beverage on the planet” due to many beneficial health effects it imparts on human health. Many studies, conducted both on humans and rat models indicate that green tea can enhance energy expenditure and fat oxidation and thereby induce weight loss (WL) and weight maintenance (WM). These studies demonstrated the ability of bio-reactive compounds such as polyphenols (epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), epigallocatechin, and epicatechin gallate) present in green tea to reduce symptoms of metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors such as increased waist circumference, elevated triglycerides, reduced HDL-cholesterol, increased blood pressure and increased fasting blood glucose, that increase the chance of developing heart disease and other serious health problems, such as diabetes and stroke) and diet-induced obesity [27,28].
In addition, another meta-analysis based on 11 cases conducted on human trials indicated that consumption of green tea extracts can significantly increase energy expenditure and fat oxidation, specially in Asian populations . Also, a number of studies have observed positive effects of green tea extracts on fat metabolism at rest and during exercise, following both shorter and longer term intake .
HARD ICED TEA
Hard Iced Tea is a lightly carbonated alcoholic iced tea with 5% alcohol by volume. The product was introduced to the market by MillerCoors, USA in eaerly August 2016. The product is described as a simple soda based beverage that has a crisp and citrusy flavor imparted by tea. The soda category of beverages has grown-fast over the years and is largely consumed by the generation X [31, 32] .
MECHANICAL HARVESTING OF TEA
Mechanical harvesters such as the single man harvested reciprocating blades, deep pruning machines, rotary cutters, Williams T-3000, magic carpets, and other handheld battery operated machines are increasingly used to harvest tea as a solution to the persisting labour shortage faced by the industry .
A series of experiments conducted in Tamil Nadu, South India showed that application of mixtures consisting of tea pruning, high quality organic matter and earthworms, alongside commercial fertilizers potentially increase the tea yields from 79.5 % (commercial fertilizer application only) to 276% due to its favorable effects on physical and biological properties of soil. The study also showed that integration of this bio– organic fertilization application practice leads to profit gains up to US$5500 per hectare per year compared to conventional techniques . Accordingly, Institute of Fundamental Studies, Kandy has developed a Biofilm biofertilizer -“BIOFILM– T” ,using locally sourced ingredients. This cost-effective, eco- friendly fertilizer is reported to be capable of restoring soil fertility through re- establishment of beneficiary bacterial and fungal species in soil .
USE OF DRONES IN TEA CULTIVATION SURVEILLANCE
Reports and field trials from around the globe show that using drones for crop surveillance can dramatically increase the yield while minimizing crop damage. Small flying devices such as fixed-wing airplanes, multi-bladed helicopters and more commonly quadcopters equipped with advanced sensors(accelerometers, gyros, magnetometers, and often pressure sensors) / imaging capabilities and autopilot using Global Positioning System (GPS) are increasingly used in agriculture as a green –tech tool for smart– surveillance of crops. Some applications of drones in agriculture include soil and field analysis (precise three dimensional maps generated by drones are instrumental in effective irrigation and nitrogen-level management), crop spraying (drones can scan the ground and spray the correct amount of liquid, modulating distance from the ground and spraying in real time for even coverage resulting in increased efficiency with a reduction of in the amount of chemicals penetrating into groundwater), crop monitoring (time- series animations produced by drones can show the precise development of a crop and reveal production inefficiencies, enabling better crop management), crop irrigation (drones with hyperspectral, multispectral, or thermal sensors can identify which parts of a field are dry or need improvements) and health assessment (drones scan the crop using both visible and near-IR lights to produce multispectral images that track changes in plants) [36- 38].
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