By Ankur Biplav

The International Tea Day is celebrated on May 21 every year. The celebrations are aimed at promoting and fostering activities which would help in the sustainable production and consumption of tea, as per the United Nations. The origins of International Tea Day can be traced back to December 2019 when the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution proposed by several tea-producing countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Vietnam and Kenya. The resolution recognized the importance of tea as a symbol of cultural heritage, sustainable development, and livelihoods for millions of people worldwide.

While there are several kinds of tea available, tea leaves have a usage that goes far wider than just a comforting brew. By Ankur Biplav

Agriculture and horticulture

The natural compounds found in tea leaves have proven to be an effective organic fertiliser and plant growth stimulator. Tea leaves have been found to be rich in essential nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus and thus the composting of tea leaves helps in enhancing the fertility of the soil, which finally leads to an improvement in crop yields.

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Beauty and skincare

Tea leaves have found their way into the realm of beauty and skincare, as their antioxidant properties are said to have a positive effect on the skin. Extracts from green tea leaves, renowned for their high concentration of polyphenols, are now being incorporated into various cosmetic products. These extracts combat free radicals, reduce inflammation, aid skin rejuvenation, and provide a natural, healthy glow.

Uses in cooking

The distinct flavors and aromas which tea leaves bring to the table are the reason why they have made their way into the culinary world. Renowned chefs and food enthusiasts are experimenting with tea-infused recipes. Tea leaves are used to enhance the flavor of a dessert, they are also used to infuse broths and stocks, and even to marinate meat.

Jorhat, India – August 25, 2011: Tea pickers harvest the second flush of tea leaves on a tea estate in the early morning near Jorhat, Assam, India.

sustainable packaging

As the world grapples with the environmental impact of plastic, tea leaves have emerged as an eco-friendly alternative to packaging. The sturdy and fibrous nature of tea leaves enables their transformation into biodegradable packaging materials. Companies are exploring ways to harness the natural strength and moisture resistance of tea leaves to create sustainable alternatives for single-use plastics.

Industrial applications

Tea leaves have also made their mark in industrial settings. Reports show that tea extract possesses remarkable properties for textile dyeing, rendering it an eco-friendly alternative to synthetic dyes. This breakthrough offers the textile industry an opportunity to reduce its ecological footprint while still achieving vibrant and long-lasting colours.

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Tasseography, also known as tea leaf reading, has been around in society for centuries. This ancient practice involves interpreting patterns formed by tea leaves at the bottom of a cup to gain insights into a person’s life and destiny. Rooted in various cultures worldwide, tasseography has become an art form that merges intuition, symbolism and imagination. By carefully observing the tea leaves’ arrangement, shape, and lines, a trained tasseographer can unravel several meanings of the patterns and symbols.

Tea leaves in a wooden plate and spoon on a black background. Asian style

Medical uses

Studies have indicated that tea leaves contain numerous health benefits, including antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Researchers are exploring the potential of tea leaves in developing new medicines and treatments. Compounds derived from tea leaves are being investigated for their effectiveness in combating various ailments, such as cancer, diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases.

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