Spilling Tea on Tea
The global favourite considered as India’s national beverage; Tea has had a pretty interesting journey towards becoming India’s staple beverage. The beverage steeped in the way of life of many cultures was discovered in 2000 BC by the founder of Chinese medicine by accident, which is a pretty well-known story; what is interesting although is the journey of that tea to India where it evolved into the beverage we know and love today.
Records show tea being grown in the far north-eastern parts of India as far back as the 1600’s by some isolated tribes. Once the British acquired a taste for the beverage, their search for the beverage led them to the Singpho people in Assam where they started a large-scale tea production facility after a treaty with the then monarchs of the region in 1820 which some would argue eventually led to the British occupation of India. The British identified the Indian variety of tea was stronger and had a greater demand. In the early 1850’s, Robert Fortune, who was working on behalf of the Royal Horticultural Society of London in China was commonly credited with bringing Chinese Tea to India for mass scale production. The Tea plants and seedlings were tightly guarded by the Chinese Imperials and Fortune had to employ various underhanded methods to smuggle some 20,000 tea plants and seedlings. He planted them in Darjeeling, after ensuring that they would grow adequately. The few 100 of the 20,000 Chinese tea variant that survived the shift is what we now know as Darjeeling Tea.
Over the century India turned into one of the largest producers of Tea, producing over 1.2 million tonnes of tea per annum, where more than 70% of that is consumed domestically. Currently, with several methods of preparation of the tea leaves and the tea, the average tea consumer has a plethora of options from Green, Oolong, Darjeeling, to Milk tea, Iced/ Bubble/ Masala and even Tandoor tea. India was quick to adopt the beverage, initially using the perceived medicinal properties of tea, which were later proved to conclusively impact in the reduction of neurodegeneration, cancer, weight, diabetes and shown to provide anti-oxidants and maintain higher bone density.
September 21st is regarded as national Tea Day in recognition of this versatile beverage. No matter if you prefer it with milk or black, with or without sugar, Tea has got a version to suit your taste which is possibly why Tea was able to be adopted so widely in a diverse country like India, such that you can expect a good Tea no matter where you are in India.