Tea is a natural, healthy beverage. This is proved by recent scientific studies. Tea is brewed and then consumed. This seems a commonsense method to consumers and is the most common form of tea consumption nowadays. However, utilization of tea leaf for soup or food-dish preparation, and even in common items in our daily lives, is not that well known. With progress in our society, advances in science and technology, and elevation of living standards, people nowadays are more concerned about the food they consume, with emphasis on three requirements—nutritional value, sensory qualities, and functional properties. In order to meet this consumption trend, various food-processing technologies have diversified, and tea is no exception. In recent years, all the tea-producing countries are aggressively developing diversified utilization for tea in order to elevate its economic value, improve the health status of consumers through their daily diets, and increase the competitiveness of tea in the beverage industry.
Historically, diversified development and utilization of tea has been in existence since the old days. According to written records, the development and utilization of tea started as one of the items used in offerings to spirits, then as a food preparation ingredient, medicine, and eventually as a beverage. In the manufacture of tea, fresh tea leaf generally is plucked at the stage of'' one bud and two or three leaves'' even though older leaf below the third leaf is also plucked. In fact, various parts of a tea plant can be used. This includes the tender leaves, older leaves, trunk, root, flower, and seeds. The utilized forms include fresh tea leaf, finished tea leaf, tea powder, brew liquor, decolorized tea liquid, and infused tea leaf. With these raw tea materials and the application of scientific formulations and appropriate processing, various tea-based products have been developed and are available, as shown in Fig. 11.
Based on the level of processing, diversified tea-based products can be divided into three categories:
Utilization of preliminary processed tea. This utilizes the preliminary processed tea such as green tea, Pouchung tea, Oolong tea, and black tea as the raw material. It applies the basic and simple food-processing techniques, and at the same time preserves the original tea flavor, in the development of various flavored and conveniently consumed products such as flavored tea, scented tea, and tea bags.
Applications of reprocessed tea. This applies more advanced processing techniques such as grinding, extraction, concentration, can sealing, sterilization, and compression in the reprocessing of raw tea materials. The tea is processed into products such as tea powder, tea jelly, tea candy, bottled or canned tea beverages, instant tea, fruit tea, tea wine, tea champagne, tea pastries, tea pillows, and tea bath bags.
Utilization of tea extracts. This utilizes the fresh tea leaf, as well as secondary grade and off-grade tea as the raw materials. The functional components are extracted
with hot water or organic solvents, separated, and purified as natural antioxidants, deodorants, and health supplements.
Tea has its own characteristic aroma and taste. It also contains various functional components and inorganic nutrients. When used as a food ingredient, tea reduces oily sensation and fish odor, has a clean sensation, and improves color and taste. Tea itself has antibacterial, antioxidative, and heavy metal-neutralizing effects, as well as other health maintenance functions. Therefore, tea can be utilized to formulate various diversified products and has extreme development potential. When utilized properly, preserving its characteristics and nature and applying the principles of scientific formulation and proper processing, tea can be formulated into various tea products with different color, aroma, and taste. Fig. 12 presents some of the diversified tea products.
A. Development of Diversified Tea Products
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