Teh Javana from Wings Food purports to use the best tea leaves and jasmine flowers in its brewing. (JG Photo/Sylviana Hamdani)

A Whiff of Jasmine and a Taste of Premium Tea in Teh Javana

JANUARY 27, 2015

Local food and beverage producer Wings Food recently launched its latest bottled tea product, Teh Javana, in a move it hopes will highlight the quality of Indonesian tea.

“We’re concerned about the [poor] condition of Indonesian teas,” says Aristo Kristandyo, group head of marketing communication at Wings Food. “And as a local producer, we feel responsible for promoting and highlighting Indonesian teas.”

Tea is a familiar drink in Indonesia. The beverage, steaming hot or iced, is usually served after each meal in almost every eatery, from the lowliest roadside warung, or food stall, to upscale restaurants. The common thinking is that the slightly astringent flavor of the tea cleanses the tastebuds after a rich meal and leaves a fresh aftertaste in the mouth.

“But very few people know of the long and illustrious history of teas,” says Ratna Somantri, a tea connoisseur and head of the promotion division of the Indonesia Tea Board.

“The amazing thing is that wherever tea goes, all the countries embrace it and internalize it into their own culture.”

The Indonesia Tea Board is a nonprofit organization established by the Agriculture Ministry in 2007 to help local tea growers and other industry stakeholders promote local teas.

Tea planting began in Java in earnest in the 16th century, Ratna says.

“Back then, tea was a really ‘sexy’ commodity in Europe. Everybody loved drinking it. And its price was exorbitant. So the VOC [Dutch East India Company] was looking for new grounds to plant tea and produce it themselves. And they brought the plants to Indonesia,” Ratna says.

The first tea plantations were established by the Dutch in Purwakarta, West Java, and Banyuwangi, East Java. The harvest was then exported to Europe.

“Indonesian tea became one of the most sought-after teas in the world. Because of our tropical climate and fertile soil, our tea has superb taste and quality,” Ratna says.

Indonesian black teas, for instance, generally have a full-bodied flavor with a slightly acetic aftertaste, which is very refreshing, she says.

The top teas grown in Indonesia were initially reserved for the nobility in Europe, Ratna says. “It’s a fact that we should all be proud of.”

But those heady days have long since passed, and Indonesian tea no longer carries the international cachet that it once did all those hundreds of years ago.

Ratna says this is because local tea producers are growing and selling in bulk these days. Buyers, who include major international tea labels, then blend, package and label the product as their own.

“Thus Indonesian teas lose their identity, while they are actually being served in the best cafes and restaurants around the world,” she says.

The best Indonesian teas are mainly exported, she claims, while local buyers are left with a product of lesser quality.

Wings Foods hopes to change this with its Teh Javana, which it brews using Indonesian jasmine tea.

“Indonesian jasmine tea is already world-renowned,” Aristo says.

“It has unique flavors unparalleled with other tea products in the world.”

It differs from Chinese jasmine tea, which has a thinner texture and slightly different flavor because of the different types of tea leaves and jasmine used in the brewing, Aristo says.

He adds that the black tea used in the new bottled drink is harvested from some of the finest plantations in Java.

“We only use the tender tea shoots as these are considered the best and usually reserved for export markets,” he says.

“With our ‘Aroma Recovery Technology’ we can capture the first delectable aroma of tea leaves when they are just brewed and infuse [the aroma] into the [bottled] drink.”

There is indeed a mild jasmine scent upon first opening a bottle of Teh Javana. The drink itself is moderately sweet, with a rounded flavor.

The new product costs Rp 3,000 (24 US cents) per 350 milliliter bottle.

“We can maintain our good quality at that price since we already have great supply chains, distribution channels and optimized [work] performance,” Aristo says.

For more information, visit tehjavana.com and manaindonesiamu.com.

Indonesia tea