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Time for ‘Chai pe Charcha’ on International Tea Day

Tea is the world’s most consumed drink, after water, and a major source of livelihoods and income for millions of families in developing countries

Tea industry workers in India and all over the world are today celebrating the International Tea Day even as they stare at an uncertain future as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.  

In December 2019, the United Nations General Assembly supported the call from the Intergovernmental Group on Tea and proclaimed 21 May as the International Tea Day, calling on the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to lead the observance. The proposal was first put forth by the Indian government in 2015 at the FAO Intergovernmental Group (IGG) on tea.

The Day aims to raise awareness of the tea sector’s socio-economic relevance as well as its contribution to achieving the 2030 agenda. The first observance of International Tea Day was held virtually last year and it is no different this year as well.    

Tea is the world’s most consumed drink, after water, and a major source of livelihoods and income for millions of families in developing countries. It can only be produced in narrowly defined agro-ecological conditions and, hence, in a very limited number of countries, many of which are being already impacted by climate change.

India has acquired an exalted status on the global tea map. The country is the second largest tea producer in the world, accounting for 23 per cent of the total global production.

Though the 170-year plus tea industry is facing a challenging time, several Indian tea varieties such as Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiri, Kangra, Dooars-Terai, Masala Tea, Sikkim Tea and Tripura, remain popular globally.

"As some of you may have heard, I have a special association with tea. Chai pe Charcha, or discussions over tea, is not just a slogan. Rather, a mark of deep respect for the dignity and integrity of honest labour," Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in while addressing a large gathering of Indian origin Tamils at Norwood in Sri Lanka's Central Province, a few years ago.

Tea for boosting immunity

According to the Indian Tea Association, epidemiological observations have clarified that the incidence of certain diseases, most notably cancer and heart disease, is substantially lower in countries with a culture of 'tea break' than in countries with a practice of 'coffee break'.

The beverage's anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and weight loss effects were known already for several decades but several studies done in the last 12 months have detailed how tea chemicals could even lower coronavirus activitiy.

Last year, during a webinar orgaised by Palampur's Institute of Himalayan Bioresource Technology (IHBT) on the International Tea Day, the institute's Director  Dr Sanjay Kumar said that that tea chemicals could be effective in boosting immunity as they can block coronavirus activity better than anti-HIV drugs.

In his lecture, Dr Kumar discussed the benefits of Kangra tea for society and industry, medicinal properties of tea for human health and the technologies developed and transferred by IHBT for combating Covid-19 disease.

"Using computer-based models, the scientists screened 65 bioactive chemicals or polyphenols that could bind to a specific viral protein more efficiently than commercially available anti-HIV drugs approved for treating Covid-19 patients. These chemicals might block the activity of the viral protein that helps the virus to thrive inside human cells," said Dr Kumar.

Did you know? 

– Tea is one of the world’s oldest beverages, and is the most consumed drink in the world
– Tea is available in many varieties, which differ according to the applied oxidation and fermentation technique
– Tea cultivation provides employment and income to millions of smallholder growers, who are supplementing or even replacing production of larger tea estates in many countries
– While three quarters of tea produced is consumed domestically, tea is a widely traded and exported commodity
– Over the past decades, the global tea industry has seen rapid growth, with a rising number of consumers globally
– Drinking tea can bring many healthy benefits, from anti-inflammatory to antioxidant and weight loss effects