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Armenian Tea Isn't Appreciated in Armenia

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Posted 27 February 2008 - 02:40 PM

Armenian Tea Isn't Appreciated in Armenia

Lena Nazaryan February 04, 2008

When the thyme leaves blossom residents of nearby villages begin to harvest the herb from the lofty meadows around Sisian, Kapan and Goris. The fragrance of the thyme is much ore pronounced in these areas and the oil content of the herb is rich.

The company Bio Universal, LLC, purchases the thyme from the residents in its dried state and produces tea, oil, syrup, tinctures and seasonings from the herb.

Yuri Chilingaryan, the firm's French Director, says that, " Some 3,200 herbs grow in Armenia of which 1,500 are medicinal plants. Many such plants are only to be found in Armenia. Based on this fact we've decided to select the better known varieties and produce teas, essential oils and condiments from them."

Tea is produced from the thyme's flowers and oil from the stems. The rest of the herb is used to make seasonings for appetizers and cheese aged underground. For example, one gram of thyme essential oil can cure 100 kilos of meat. It neutralizes the meat's odor and prolongs its shelf life.

These products are also used for curative purposes. Thyme tea regulates the body's metabolism, cleanses the body of the negative properties of alcohol and narcotics and stabilizes blood pressure. Thyme oils refresh and rejuvenate the skin. Joint pain can be eased when the affected areas are massaged with thyme essential oil. Just the aroma of the herb itself is sufficient to kill off certain bacteria.

These items are used to produce medicinal remedies as well since the herbs contain potassium, calcium and magnesium, among other elements.

Bio Universal began operations two years ago. During this period teas, syrups and oils made from blackthorn, hawthorn, rose hips, mint, peppermint and other medicinal herbs were added to the product list being sold under the "Manana" brand name.

These herbs are also known for their curative properties. Hawthorn syrup, for example, strengthens the contractions of the heart muscle and improves blood flow to the heart and brain as well as regulating heart rhythm. Blackthorn syrup contains anti-inflammatory properties and is known to regulate body metabolism.

While these herbs were traditionally in Armenian medicine, Armenian consumers today are more attracted to the black and green tea varieties more commonly found in the market.

One of the reasons is that these 'Armenian teas' are expensive when compared to other tea types. One packet of thyme tea, for example, has an intrinsic value of 1,300 drams and is sold in stores for 1,560 drams. One gram of thyme essential oil is valued at around $5. This cost factor doesn't allow for large quantities of product to be sold in the Armenian market.

Mr. Chilingaryan says that, "In addition to the fact that these products are expensive to begin with, there's also the 20% VAT (value added tax) tacked on as well. This further complicates matters for the small-scale producer. We have packaged and stored away much of our product line but it's been a year already that we haven't been able to sell it in the market. Our thyme and rose hip items are stored but haven't yet been packaged. At the same time we're ready to produce more and expand our production capacity that today only amounts to 25-30% of total capacity."

The Director adds that, "In exchange for the high price what we offer the consumer is a quality product. Our tea is only made from thyme leaves and flowers. There are many other thyme teas sold in the market in the form of crushed and dried leaves. This allows for a host of additives to be included to add weight to the product. Often, other fragrances and pigments are added as well. In this sense our product is ecologically pure and thus more expensive."

There's a trick that the consumer can use to insure that they're buying pure thyme without any additives. The flowers of the herb open more fully when placed in hot water than cold. Also, a bag of thyme tea, once used, produces a more fragrant drink and a more brilliant color the second time around.

For this small company even the packaging of its products is an expensive luxury, especially if the firm intends to enter the foreign market. Bio Universal imports a special wrapping paper to package its herbs. This wrapping preserves the natural fragrance of the plants.

Special technologies are employed in the processing of the herbs and the production of the essential oils and syrups. The oils are produced only by using equipment fashioned from glass. Metal cannot be used since at the high temperatures employed in the production process, metallic elements can fuse with the oils. The tea leaves are separated both by hand and by being extruded through sieves. Any dust on the plants is removed by air filtration.

The Director of Bio Universal states that the Armenian market for his company's product line is quite small. Thus, the firm views any future growth solely linked to the foreign market.

The whole world is interested in Armenian tea - from China, Greece Syria, Russia and several African countries. Contract orders with foreign buyers are presently being negotiated.


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