History of tea drinking dates back to 750 BC. In India generally tea is grown in North-Eastern part and the Nilgiri Hills. Today India is the largest producer of tea in the world.
Do you know that thousands of years back, Buddhist monks in India have used tea for its medicinal purpose. A very interesting story is there behind it and i.e. the history of drinking tea in India began with a Buddhist monk around 2000 years ago. This monk later became the founder of Zen Buddhism and decided to spend seven sleepless years contemplating the life and teachings of Buddha. When there was his fifth year of contemplation he felt asleep. Then he took some leaves of bush and started chewing them. These leaves revived him and enabled him to stay awake.
So, when he felt asleep he repeats the same process. In this way he was able to complete his penance for seven years. And amazing is that it was nothing but the leaves of the wild tea plant. In this way tea became prevalent in India and local people started chewing the leaves of wild tea plant. But the commercial production of tea in India was started by the British East India Company and the first Tea Garden was also established by them at the end of 19th century after the Company took over tea cultivation in Assam, in the North-Eastern part of India.
Further, in the 16th Century, it was also observed that people in India were preparing a vegetable dish using tea leaves with garlic oil and also boiled tea leaves which were used to prepare a drink.
In 1823 and 1831, an employee of the East India Company; Robert Bruce and his brother Charles confirmed that the tea plant was indeed a native of Assam area and then sent seeds and specimen of plants to the officials at the newly established Botanical Gardens in Calcutta. But could not be implemented as East India Company has trading rights of tea with China and decided not to waste time and money on it. But when Company lost its monopoly, again a committee was set up and Charles Bruce was given the task to establish first nurseries and sent secretary to collect 80,000 tea seeds from China as they were not sure that indigenously it will be cultivable in India or not. Finally, seeds were planted in the Botanical Garden and nurtured there. Meanwhile, Charles Bruce in Assam cleared the land to develop these plantations pruning existing tea trees to encourage new growth, and experimenting with the freshly plucked leaves from the native bushes to manufacture black tea. He had recruited two tea makers from China and with their help; he steadily learnt the secrets of successful tea production.
Ironically, the native plants flourished and the Chinese seedlings survived in an intense heat in Assam.
Also, in the 19th century when an Englishman noticed that the people of Assam drank a dark liquid which was a type of tea brewed from a local wild plant and in this way it became prevalent from region to region and now it became favourite of a common man.
Tea is also known by the name of Chai and everywhere in India it is famous, you will see it in various tea stalls and railway platforms etc and is easily available.
Famous places of Tea are:
1. Darjeeling: Since 1841 Darjeeling has been growing Chinese variety of tea plant. From here tea is sold at very high premiums in the International market because of its Muscatel flavour it is not produced anywhere.
2. Assam: The name of Assam is derived from the word ‘Asom’ which means one without equals. It is a home to largest tea research centre, which is located at Tocklai in Jorghat and is managed by Tea Research association. Assam is the only region where tea grows in plains and also the only other region apart from Southern China, which grows its own native plant. Assam tea is famous for its distinctive taste and bright liquor.
3. Dooars and Terai: Champta is the first plantation in Terai which was set up by James White in 1862. The name ‘Dooars’ is derived from doors, which signifies a gateway to Northeast India and Bhutan. Dooars tea is clear, black and heavy with volumetric count with fresh virgin flavour and Terai tea is spicy and slightly sweet in taste.
4. Kangra: In Himachal Pradesh, Kangra district is famous for tea which is grown by Dr. Jameson in 1829. Basically this region is known for green tea and black tea with exquisite flavours.
5. Nilgiri: Nilgiri tea is named after the Nilgiris or Blue Mountains. This mountain gets its name from the saxe-blue kurinji flower, which blooms once every 12 years. Its tea has exceptional fragrance and equisite flavour, also its liquor is yellow in colour which provides a creamy taste in the mouth and has notes of dusk flowers.
6. Annamalias: This hill is present between Kerala and Tamil Nadu and is a home to Tea Research Association managed by UPASI. Tea from here is famous for its brisk and strong flavour having bright golden saffron liquor. It is regarded as an ideal refresher early in the morning.
Strange but true that India will make health capsule from tea extract. Tea polyphenols are obtained from black tea, green tea and oolong tea are known to be effective in preventing neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and also help in combating cancer and heart ailments. These polyphenols are useful in beverages, confectionery, cosmetics, food preservatives etc.
7. Karnataka: Plantations of tea are located around Chikmagalur in the Baba Budan hills of the Sahyadris range. Here tea produces golden ochre liquor with a fair amount of briskness. The best part is that you can consume it multiple times a day because of its simple and balanced character.
8. Munnar: Munnar is situated in the Idukki district at a height of 6000 feet. Tea was first grown in Munnar by AH Sharp in 1970s. In 1964 Tata Group and Finley formed a joint venture and tea plantations under the Tata were transferred to the Kannan Devan Hills Company in 2005 which manages 16 estates. Tea from here has golden yellow liquor with strong and refreshing briskness and a hint of fruit.
9. Travancore: Basically produces coffee which was started by JD Monro in 1862. But a dreaded leaf disease hit coffee plants in 1875 and after that started producing tea and by 1906 covered 8,000 acres of tea plantations. This tea has medium fragrance with reddish liquor and yellow tinge.
10. Wayanaad: The first tea plantation was set up at the New Hope estate in Ouchterlony Valley in 1874. Here tea is famous for its clean fragrance and produces an earthy reddish liquor.
Various types of Tea are:
Do you know that there are three main varieties of tea in the world: namely The India tea, The China tea and the Hybrid tea? From these teas only various types of tea are produced like green tea, white tea, herbal tea etc.
Green Tea: When normally tea leaves are picked they are dried due to which oxidation takes place. But when green tea is manufactured it is not allowed to oxidise, they are dried up quickly and then stored. In this process it retains the polyphenols catechins and the flavanoids which make green tea a healthy drink. Benefits of green tea is its antioxidant properties which aids in preventing cancer, raise metabolism rate, reduces fat and reduces the probability of heart disease.
Black Tea: It is stronger tea than any other tea. It has high caffeine content and enjoys the maximum sales in the world. Plain black tea without sugar contains antioxidants and is beneficial in reducing cardiovascular diseases.
White Tea: It is the rarest variety of Tea. These leaves are picked and harvested before there buds are fully open and covered with white hairs on them. It undergoes least processing and is not fermented. Their flavours are light and have less caffeine and more antioxidants properties.
Herbal Tea: Tisane or ptisan is an herbal infusion which is made up of any part of the plant either from dried or fresh flowers, roots, seeds or leaves. Even flavoured tea can be prepared by adding this to regular tea like jasmine tea of China. For various medicinal purposes herbal tea is consumed.
Oolong Tea: It is originated from China and is considered in between black and green tea and has different taste from other teas as well.
Amazing is that Oolong tea is brewed in a special type of pot known as Gaiwan.