The tea industry in Mauritius was developed towards the end of the 1800′s, when Mauritius was still a British colony.
A Historical Perspective
Its glory days were between the 1960′s and the early 1980′s, thanks to government backing and a very favourable international environment, when the price of tea, as a sought-after commodity, experienced several successive increases. However, the end of the 1980′s revealed an opposite trend and government was forced to subsidise this struggling sector of the economy.
1994 witnessed a decisive turn for the local industry, when government, which owned most of the factories, decided to disengage from tea production, as was no longer competitive on the London market. The landscape of the island’s high ground changed as many tea plantations made way for sugar cane fields. Nowadays, there are 680 hectares of tea plantations in Mauritius.
Virtues of Tea
“Tea awakens wise humours and thoughts. It refreshes the body and calms the spirit. If you are discouraged, tea will restore your strength.” – Emperor Chen-Nung
One day of the year 2737 BC, when the Chinese emperor Cheng-Nung was resting under a tree, some tea leaves, floating on the wind, fell into his cup of hot water. The water soon turned an amber colour. The emperor tasted it and was immediately filled with an ineffable feeling of well-being. Thus was tea born.
This imperial beverage is reputed for its innumerable virtues. Since times immemorial, Chinese medicine has used tea leaves in the manufacture of remedies. Its anti-oxidant and phenolic properties reinforced by the action of its components – catechins, caffeine and theanine, among others, make tea a preventive drink. It protects against various illnesses: cancer, cholesterol, cardiovascular diseases… One could even speak of Tea-rapy!
Its popularity spread to the West, where Europeans discovered for themselves this concentrate of goodness. In 1680, the Countess of Bedford instituted the “five o’clock tea” in England. Tea is served with small cakes and scones. This ritual is the moment to spend some time in good company and to share treats. More than a drink, tea nourishes and restores the spirit. It stimulates body and soul.
From hot, tea became an iced drink, thirst quenching and refreshing. With time, it became flavoured, a subtle balance between its natural benefits and a fresh fruity taste. A real pleasure for the palate and the body.
A refreshing drink
Water is life. To drink tea helps to rehydrate the body, composed of 60% water, which is an essential element for many physiological functions.
In May 2004 a research report entitled Polyphenols, Vitamins and Antioxidants in the Mauritian Diet, directed by Dr Theeshan Bahorun, associate professor at the University of Mauritius and president of the Food and Agricultural Research Council, established and codified the chemical properties of Mauritian tea, its phenol content and its antioxidant capacity. This study, financed by the Mauritius Research Council, was performed in the domain of horticulture and nutrition at the University of Mauritius in the department of Biological Sciences. It allowed the researchers to establish a link between the antioxidant action of Mauritian teas and their phenolic components.
Numerous scientific arguments point to the importance of including fruit, vegetables and drinks such as tea in the diet for better health and the prevention of disease. An excess of free radicals (reactive chemical entities produced by our body), responsible for damage to cells, cause pathological conditions. The list of diseases which involve free radicals, increases all the time: cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes, tissue lesions during transfusion, eye pathology, inflammatory diseases, cancers, AIDS, Alzheimer’s syndrome, Parkinson’s disease. Considering the frequent occurrence of cardiovascular illnesses, diabetes and cancers in Mauritius and the vital role of antioxidants for the optimal functioning of the human body, this study is of utmost importance. It would seem therefore that Mauritian teas, being important sources of antioxidants, have a prophylactic potential on cardiovascular illnesses. In this light, a clinical study is being considered to demonstrate the effect of Mauritian teas on certain stress markers responsible for the development of cardiac pathology. This study will be performed with the collaboration of Dr Sunil Gunness, of the Pamplemousses Cardiac Centre, and the Prof Okezie I. Aruoma, of London South Bank University.