The Rajasthan government may be on to something. Olive leaf tea is already a popular drink in some countries of Europe, Japan, Korea and the USA where it is consumed for its health benefits. Selling olive leaves to tea producers is another way for growers to increase earnings.
After successfully extracting 8,000 litres olive oil from just one of the 11 state-owned olive farms, the Rajasthan government is now hoping to take a bigger leap and titillate taste buds of the tea-savouring nation with olive tea. The government has already sent samples of olive leaves to Himachal Pradesh for developing an anti-oxidant rich variety of tea.
An olive tea manufacturing plant will come up in the state once the samples yield positive results, Prabhu Lal Saini, agriculture minister told Hindustan Times.
“Olive tea has great health benefits and is considered three per cent more beneficial than normal green tea. We have sent olive leaves to some factories for experiments. They (the factories) have prepared some tea samples already. Now further tests are on to assess their health benefits,” Saini said.
Chemical tests will also be conducted on the tea samples that have been prepared by the labs to better the quality of tea, the minister added.
Since 2007, the Rajasthan government has planted olive saplings on more than 200 hectares (in a phases), spread over 11 centres in seven districts, in government-run nurseries and also distributed saplings to farmers for plantation on around 115 hectares to promote olive cultivation as it requires less water and is more money-spinning than other crops.
Government sources claim 8,000 litres oil has been extracted from the fruit procured from the olive farm at Lunkaransar in Bikaner. The government expects to reap huge fruit from the other 10 plants too.
However, Gagnesh Sharma, the deputy director (tea development) of Tea Board of India, Palampur, Himachal Pradesh, has expressed skepticism over calling olive tea a variety of the beverage.
“As per the country’s Tea Act, only produces made from leaves of Camellia Sinensis (L) O Kuntze, shrub or small tree, can be termed as tea for commercial purposes. Preparations from olive or other plants can be termed herbal concoctions, but not tea in proper sense,” he said.