An olive tea manufacturing plant is set to open in the Rajasthani village of Bassi following a two-year feasibility study. Three olive farms in Jhunhunu, Jaipur and Jalore have been selected for the collection of olive leaves.
While Indian olive leaf tea is a fresh brew, global demand for the product is increasing. It is believed that olive leaf tea delivers more health benefits than green tea and contains more anti-oxidants and vitamin C.
See more: Rajasthan Olive Cultivation
Rajasthan’s olive leaf tea plant is expected to initially produce around 50 Kilos of tea per day. Tea tasters have been recruited for the plant, which is a collaboration between the Rajasthan Government and a private company.
The Indian Government is also brewing up plans to extract oleic acid, a fundamental ingredient in medicines used to treat heart disease, from Rajasthan’s olive leaves. Yogesh Kumar Verma, chief operating officer at Rajasthan Olive Cultivation Limited explained, “If we are able to extract it, it will open further avenues in the pharmaceutical sector.”
The olive leaf tea has created a bit of a stir in India’s tea industry. Gagnesh Sharma, deputy director (tea development) at India’s Tea Board said, “As per the country’s Tea Act, any products made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis 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 a proper sense.”
The health benefits of olive leaf tea come from oleuropein, a phenylethanoid sourced from olive leaves. Oleuropein has shown to be effective in lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and preventing cardiovascular disease. It is anti-inflammatory and an anti-cancer compound. oleuropein is also believed to ease arthritis, strengthen the immune system, protect against diabetes and improve brain function. It has been credited with controlling symptoms in AIDS sufferers.
The olive leaf’s history as a herbal medicine can be traced back to the Bible which advises, “The fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.” Olive leaves were used as a treatment to bring down fever and cure malaria as long ago as the 1820s.
Rajasthani farmers have embraced olive farming due to the government subsidies they receive for cultivating the fruit. They also benefit from revenues three to four times higher than from traditional crops.
Rajasthan’s olive groves were also designed to help the state’s tourism industry, which is centered around the Thar Desert. Agriculture minister Prabhu Lal Saini said, “We plan to plant olive trees alongside our desert highways and have olive-covered sand dunes. We want the state’s tourism to benefit from the greenery that olives are bringing, besides the cash farmers are getting.”
Olive farming has only recently taken off in India. The Northern Indian State of Rajasthan began cultivating olives in 2008; with saplings imported from Israel which has a similar climate to Rajasthan. By 2016, India had launched its own home-grown brand of “Raj Olive Oil.”
India’s olive industry is largely credited to Vasundhara Raje, Rajasthan’s chief minister.