With manufacturers bringing out new, innovative and diverse flavours to woo consumers—and chefs, too, incorporating it in menus of high-octane bars and fine-dining restaurants—green tea is becoming the new ‘tasting’ ground for the beverage lovers
“Yes, that’s it! Said the Hatter with a sigh, it’s always tea time.”
Alice in Wonderland
THE AUTHOR of one of the most popular children’s novels couldn’t have been more correct—at least in the Indian context. Tea-drinking is one of the country’s favourite pastimes. For Indians, tea is that companion that soothes frayed nerves, fills in the long empty afternoons and even helps new friendships bloom. Till around a decade ago, though, tea for most Indians meant a milky concoction made using liberal amounts of sugar. Ginger, cardamom, etc, were occasionally added as per tastes and moods. But with exposure and a renewed focus on health, people gradually started adopting newer varieties and preparations of their beloved drink.
Among these newer, healthier variants, one that became extremely popular was green tea. Lauded by nutritionists for its myriad health benefits, especially weight loss, green tea soon became the toast of the town, so to speak.
In fact, so popular has this variety of tea become in the country now that manufacturers, chefs, hotels and cafes are boldly experimenting with it, bringing out new, innovative and diverse flavours and concoctions to woo the ever-burgeoning green tea drinkers in the country.
Walk down the tea section of any supermarket today and you will be spoilt for choice: stacked row after row are a plethora of flavours and variants—lemon, ginger, pomegranate, jasmine, mint, cardamom, honey and basil are just some of the green tea varieties on offer.
“With the modern consumer becoming more health-conscious and the rising popularity of green tea, we decided to extend our portfolio and started manufacturing various flavoured green teas apart from the regular ones to give our consumers a wide variety of tastes and flavours,” says Kunal Biswas, marketing manager, Newby Teas, which retails a wide variety of green teas like sencha, genmaicha, gyokuro, Moroccan Nights, lemon, jasmine blossom, etc.
Agrees Organic India’s chief marketing officer Saurabh Tiwari, “Change is the spice of life. It becomes monotonous if you keep consuming the same thing on a regular basis. Once that happens, either a person will move back to the normal ‘milk tea’, turn to coffee or any other alternative. Hence, we felt the need for introducing different flavours of green tea.”
Another reason behind the widespread acceptance of flavoured green teas is the fact that for Indian palates, flavoured green teas work better, say industry experts. “Flavoured green teas help mask the bitter taste of green tea, while delivering all the health benefits,” says a spokesperson for Hindustan Unilever, which owns the Lipton tea brand.
Flavoured green teas also work for novice green tea drinkers, as they help in acquiring a taste for it. “Green tea has a characteristic taste that is often not palatable for the Indian consumer. This has led to a surge in demand for flavoured green teas. Keeping this in mind, we have custom-created a wide range of flavoured green teas: honey, lemon, cinnamon, aloe vera, etc,” says Rishi Chadha, head, tea marketing, Tata Global Beverages, the company behind Tetley.
It’s clearly a win-win situation for consumers, who are just lapping all the flavours up. “Flavoured green teas add their own essence, often adding a little sweetness… These flavours enhance the taste of the tea by lending their own unique flavour. For instance, mint green tea has a soothing and calming effect. Orange green tea is like a burst of tanginess, reminiscent of peeling an orange,” says Varsha Gondane, a 49-year-old New Delhi-based volunteer teacher for underprivileged children.
Explaining the benefits of green tea, Mumbai-based nutritionist Krushmi Chheda says, “The active constituents of green tea are polyphenols called catechins and flavanols, which possess antioxidant properties. Research has also suggested that green tea increases thermogenesis, causing fat to burn. The main advantage, though, that green teas have over regular tea and coffee is the reduced caffeine content—caffeine increases heart rate and causes anxiety. A regular cup of coffee
contains up to 100 mg and tea 40 mg of caffeine, whereas green tea has just 20 mg of caffeine.”
So what should one look for when buying flavoured green teas? “The ingredients section of the label on the box gives information about the actual content of green tea present, as well as the proportion of other flavours or herbs. For example, chamomile green tea has 85% green tea, 10% chamomile flower and 5% amla fruit. One should look for at least 75% or above of green tea content for maximum antioxidant effect. Also, make sure that there are no additives, preservatives or artificial sweeteners such as sorbitol and aspartame,” says Chheda.
As far as sales figures go, Biswas of Newby says 25% of their total sales are flavoured green teas, while Organic India’s Tiwari says the rough estimate of sale of flavoured green teas is around 20-25%. “In the past five years, we have seen major growth in the green tea category, say, 30-35% annually. The total green tea domestic market approximately would be somewhere between R450-R500 crore,” says Tiwari.
And it’s not just supermarket aisles, the impact of green tea has been so powerful that it has made its way to high-octane bars and fine gastronomy as well. So while popular coffee chain Starbucks stocks on its menu concoctions like Green Tea Latte (lightly sweetened matcha green tea with steamed milk) and Green Tea Crème Frappuccino (a blend of matcha green tea, milk and ice topped with whipped cream), Mumbai-based cafe Tea Trails has varieties like Kashmiri kahwa, jasmine green tea cooler, Darjeeling green tea-based tapioca bubble tea and Darjeeling green tea-based boba bubble tea. And then there are others like Zamozza World Kitchen and Bar, New Delhi, which serves green tea martini, green tea mojito and even a green tea-infused souffle. “People are extremely health-conscious these days and keep asking for green tea innovations,” says Chandra Shekhar, executive chef, Zamozza, adding, “Our green tea-based items are quite in demand especially among health-conscious women.”
Owing to its ever-growing popularity, Barbeque Nation, too, will soon incorporate green tea in its food and desserts. “We plan to introduce green tea kulfi, salads with green tea dressing, green tea panna cotta and green tea mousse by October-November this year,” says chef Vijay Anand Bakshi, head, culinary operations, Barbeque Nation Hospitality.
Talking about the versatility of green tea, Vivek Bhatt, executive chef, JW Marriott Hotel Mumbai Sahar, says, “It can be used as a flavouring agent in various mousses, sabayon, pastry creams, etc. It can also be a basis for iced teas, ice-creams and various mocktails. Variety is the spice of life. It is only normal for an individual to seek innovation and novelty to break that monotony.”
The future certainly looks green.