The Tea Research and Extension Station is next month to establish a “beverage center” to develop new methods for creating tea-based mixed drinks in response to the expanding popularity of the hand-shaken beverage industry.
“Hopefully, technical investment from the government can help the private sector further develop the market to form a ‘national tea team,’” Council of Agriculture Minister Chen Chi-chung (陳吉仲) said on Saturday of the new center.
Taiwan’s tea-based beverage industry is renowned worldwide, providing a valuable and growing export market for farmers.
Photo: Chang Chia-ming, Taipei Times
In the first 10 months of this year, exports of tea and related products rose 30 percent year-on-year, Ministry of Economic Affairs data show.
Drink stores comprise a significant industry, with sales exceeding NT$58 billion (US$2.09 billion) last year, an 80 percent rise over the past decade.
About 1.02 billion hand-shaken drinks are sold every year in Taiwan, working out to at least 43 cups per person or one every week.
Taiwanese tea drinks have changed dramatically over the years, station director Su Tsung-chen (蘇宗振) said.
“It used to be a tea culture, but now it is a tea drink culture,” he said.
To meet demand from an increasing number of tea shops and younger tea drinkers, the station decided to create the beverage center to further expand the growing industry, Su said.
The center would have five to seven people collaborating with private operators to develop drinks using local crops, he said.
As tea is the base for all of the beverages, the center is to research tea blending techniques along with the best ratios for pairing additives such as alcohol or fruit juice, Su said.
The station’s ginger black tea is a prime example, he said.
Ginger must be boiled for a long time to release its flavor, but if tea leaves are boiled along with it, the drink becomes bitter and astringent, he said.
The station therefore pairs ground dried ginger with tea, so the two flavors are extracted at the same rate when it is steeped, he added.
The center would also look at other beverage crops such as coffee, cocoa, mint and chrysanthemum, as well as toppings such as fruit, tapioca pearls and jellies, Su said.
“This is because tea drinks use many mix-and-match ingredients,” he added.
Anything that can be used in a drink would be considered, Su said, adding that the station has developed a method of turning fruit into fine powder.
Apart from its use as a natural coloring or baking ingredient, the powder can also be added to tea to create fruit drinks, he said.
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