Tea in India is nothing less than an elixir for life. Famously known as Chai which when combined brewed with hand ground. spices like ginger and cardamom, has an aroma that is capable of soothing the senses and taking away all the stress.
It is safe to say that tea is the unofficial drink of India and a companion for people in all days and times. India is the second largest producer of tea after China. It is famous for its Darjeeling tea and Asaam tea.
We have known tea to exist in India for as long as we can remember. However, Tea in India may have been documented in the Ramayana way back between 750 and 500 BC, but it wasn’t recorded in existential India until 1598 by a Dutchman named Jan Hughen Van Linschoten, who served under the Portuguese influence in Goa. During his travels through the country he recorded coming across tea as a beverage.
Years later, in 1788, British botanist Joseph Banks reported that the climate in North Eastern India was ideal for the cultivation of tea. Cut to 1823, when Scottish trader and explorer Robert Bruce discovered tea growing wild in Assam. Bruce died two years later, but he had passed his knowledge on to his brother Charles Alexander Bruce.
Charles decided to carry on his brother’s work and in 1830, sent samples collected from Assam to Calcutta, which were confirmed as Camellia Sinensis Var Assamica. Even though the samples were confirmed to be that of tea, they said to be not of quality good enough.
British East India Company made several attempts to grow plants imported from China. But, it was finally found, after fourteen long years, that the indigenous tea plant thrived much more successfully.
The start of Indian tea trade can be attributed to the Bruce brothers. In 1838, the first shipment of non-Chinese tea was shipped to England. Even though India is one of the leading producer of tea in the world, 70% of the produce is consumed locally, such is the love and consumption!
This article is a contribution by Dr. Rupali Ambegaonkar, CEO, Tea Culture of the World.