The tea bush grows in warm, tropical highlands and the world’s most important cultivation areas are still China, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and certain African countries.
The best quality is obtained when only the top two leaves and the bud are picked. From this simple harvest, the three main types of tea can be made: black, green and white. In the UK and Irish markets, flavouring manufacturer Claremont Ingredients and extract manufacturer Plantextrakt have established a close partnership that makes available all the products and experience required in tea drink formulations. From the three types of tea, Plantextrakt manufactures a complete range of extracts and flavours.
The process allows complete control over all aspects of the specification. Colour can be pale or more intense, caffeine content can be high or low and the functional components such as catechins can be controlled to suit the end application.
Solubility in cold or hot water, and compatibility with different levels of fruit juice, can be tailored to suit the finished drink.
Tea is particularly rich in natural antioxidants. The polyphenols in green tea are among the strongest natural antioxidants, with antioxidative potential up to 20-30 times that of vitamins C and E. The value of antioxidant potential in foods and drinks is now well understood by consumers and is readily taken up in new product offers.
Iced tea, whether in powder or ready-to-drink form, has long been a successful product in many countries around the world, even though some markets (including the UK) were initially slower to take up such drinks.
The original products typically had sweetness levels comparable with other soft drinks, and flavour profiles that were primarily fruity with tea in the background. In continental Europe, sales of this type of drink have now peaked and the trend is towards lower sweetness drinks with a more authentic tea taste.
To meet the demand for a freshly prepared natural taste, Plantextrakt has recently launched the Elexia range of tea and herbal liquid extracts.
Martin Pinfold is managing director of Claremont Ingredients, a flavourings and colours manufacturer based in England.
See some of the latest tea-based beverages to hit the market in our special gallery.
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