Last updated on November 30th, 2020 at 05:42 pm
Since the Spanish flu infected close to a third of then the global population a century ago, not even the First and Second World War could bring about an enormous tragedy on the human race until the COVID 19 pandemic hit all corners of the Planet Earth. The New Corona Virus cases are already racing towards the 50 Million mark and the death toll exceeding 1.2 Million people with just the Second Wave of the pandemic beginning or if at all spreading all over the world like a wild fire aided by the natural wind. The pearl of the Indian ocean; tropical and mystic island of Sri Lanka is blessed with abundance of rich culture and fertile nature, rain forest, daily direct sunlight of at least 6-7 hours throughout the year, resulting in a conducive climate, soil and weather ideal for growing tea.
Sri Lanka in entirety and the tea industry in particular overcame the First Wave of the COVID 19 during the 2nd Quarter of 2020 with admirable success. The immediate transformation from an “outcry system” to an online electronic Colombo Tea Auction after more than 125 years and the continuation of the total value chain mechanism from the growing, plucking, manufacturing, selling at the weekly auctions, blending and packaging, and finally marketing and exporting branded, packeted or bulk form during the lockdown by re-positioning the tea industry and its export process as an essential service paved away the day for “Ceylon Tea”. Though the tea crop has declined over 10% owing to a number of reasons, the tea prices fetched at the Colombo Tea Auction has in fact appreciated by about 15% up to end of September 2020 vis-a-vis same period of last year from Rs 542 per kilo to Rs 624 per kilo.
Today, the World has reached a crucial milestone where every nation is searching for human immunity boosting methods to counter the Corona Virus infection until an effective vaccination is introduced to the global masses. In that context, drinking warm beverages and inhaling hot vapour is generally believed to be helpful in curbing viral infection. This is where the Tea Research Institute of Sri Lanka (TRI) knowingly reviewed the available literature on “Theaflavins in Black Tea” together with the Sri Lanka Tea Board (SLTB) and concluded Black Tea may be helpful in controlling and flushing out the viruses. The TRI has released a scientific publication under the topic “Antiviral properties of Tea” where it is noted that drinking Black Tea helps to fight viruses. In a recent study in Taiwan, Theaflavin was selected as the prime candidate for developing an inhibitor for virus, SARS-CoV-2 which is structurally similar to COVID 19. Though it is not proven clinically, many ethno-pharmacological studies have revealed that regular consumption of Black Tea boost immunity leading to prevention of COVID 19. Moreover, an alkaloid found in tea Theophylline, is a proven drug in the treatment of respiratory diseases such as asthma, chronic bronchitis, emphysema, and other lung diseases. It contributes to relaxation and opening of bronchial tree or air passages in the lungs, making it easier to breathe. Besides, the preventive and curative effects of black tea, and/or tea polyphenol, Catechins blended with Theaflavins of tea on influenza virus disease has received an international patent, several studies have demonstrated the potential benefits of tea in controlling influenza and common cold generally caused by influenza viral infections and also tea Catechins have the ability to bind to spikes on the surface of the influenza virus and inhibit viral adsorption onto the host cell surface. In addition, Tea Catechins, ECG and EGCG have been reported to be powerful antagonists of human immune-deficiency virus. It is also revealed that antioxidants and L-Theanine in tea enhance immune system of humans, the antibacterial properties of tea, as well as the vitamins and mineral products therein, synergize the immune system.
The Sri Lanka Tea Board opined that frequent consumption of hot Black Tea (without sugar and milk) and inhaling the tea fumes is supportive of flushing viruses trapped in the throat and nasal area. This reaction helps in improving the immune capacity and inhibiting inflammation due to Catechins and Polyphenols contained in Black Tea.
From the foregoing, it is clear daily tea consumption is well linked to continual boosting or priming one’s innate ability in fighting diseases by assisting and strengthening one’s own immune system. It could be hypothesized through the above literature review on therapeutic effects of tea and its known mechanisms of action on influenza viruses, that RNA viruses including corona family viruses could be relieved by Theophylline in tea while multiplication would be curtailed by Theaflavin, assisting body to boost its own immune system. The fact that Theaflavin has emerged as a promising candidate to inhibit RdRp activity in the SARS-CoV-2 augers well in the search for a therapeutic agent against COVID-19 pandemic though information on antiviral and pharmacological activity of Back Tea against SARS-CoV-2 is yet to establish. In conclusion, it is evidently advisable to have a few cup of tea during the day to boost your own immune system.
In this connection, the Sri Lanka Tea industry stakeholders have moved rapidly towards online meetings, lively discussions and working group sessions with the international clientele through Virtual Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and Zoom conferences. All promotional campaigns for Ceylon Tea for the future are being focused through digital and social media against the backdrop of a pandemic lockdown in many global destinations. Utilizing the power of social media applications such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, We chat etc. through an identified panel of Influences, Bloggers, Authentic Opinion Makers and a few Celebrities Ceylon Tea clips, videos, messages, electronic banners etc. are to be aired within the Global Campaign. It will be reinforced through Search Engines Marketing availing Google, Yandex, Baidu and other effective digital media as per the respective countries in operation. This strategy is to be combined with other necessary upgrades on the supply chain mechanism.
A joint publication from TRISL and SLTB
Hon. State Minister for Plantations Mr Kanaka Herath visited the Tea Research Institute at Talawakelle, on 17th October 2020. During his visit, he explored the potential for imparting the technologies on tea cultivation and processing to tea stakeholders, with the aim of enhancing their productivity and the profitability. He also visited the St. Coombs Tea Factory and the research laboratories of TRI, to familiarize with the innovations and new technological developments in tea research sector. Participating in the discussion, the State Minister mentioned that he was pleased to visit the world’s second oldest tea research institute and to be able to share the knowledge with veterans and scholars of the tea industry.
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