“Each cup of tea represents an imaginary voyage.” ~Catherine Douzel
With spring trying to poke its head out from under winter, I am dedicating this installment to my favorite cold weather drink. I drink it every afternoon especially late in the day as the temperature seems to fall as evening comes. This wonderful yet simple drink seems to warm me up all the way to my toes.
Let the voyage to India begin…
The word “tea” is synonymous with “India” since it is the largest producer of tea in the world today, growing a quarter of the world’s tea. (China is second.) India has been growing tea for more than 2500 years. The Ramayana, the ancient Hindu story about the adventures of the Hindu deity, Rama, mentioned that tea was consumed during those times, approximately 500 years BC.
Assam tea from India is ready to be added to the pot for a fresh cup of tea.
Tea requires a hot and humid tropical climate with acidic soil to grow. In India it grows abundantly on the hills in north and east side of the country. Traditionally, tea leaves were picked by hand but machines pick the bulk of the tea today. The method of harvesting the leaves today is based on the terrain and the type of leaves grown. For centuries it was grown and consumed locally. With the arrival of the British East India Company in the 1820s, large areas of land were converted to tea plantations to supply tea to the rest of the world. More than two thirds of the tea that is grown in India today is still consumed within its borders.
India is known for its black tea but, keeping with current trends, now grows green, white and oolong teas due to increased popularity and heath benefits. India is now the second largest producer of green tea.
Many of the most popular varieties of Indian tea are grown in India. Assam, Darjeeling and Niligri are the most popular.
Assam is the name of the largest and most beautiful tea-growing region in the world, located on high on a plateau in the north of India along the Brahmaputra River in the state by the same name. It is also the name of the tea that is grown there. The tea from this area has a bold, strong flavor so it is traditionally served in the morning. English Breakfast Tea, made popular by Queen Victoria in the 19th Century, is a popular blend with a large percentage of Assam tea.
Darjeeling is one of the most popular teas in the world. It is grown in northeast India in the state of West Bengal along the Himalayas. The tea that is grown here has a delicate flavor so ‘Champagne of teas’, it is never blended with other teas because it would loose its special flavor. Some of the best Darjeeling tea is grown right around the town by the same name. My husband’s favorite is Orange Pekoe that is a variety of Darjeeling Tea.
In the southwest corner of India, the states of Kerala, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu grow tea along the Niligri Mountains, translated as the Blue Mountains due to the fog and clouds that surround the mountains that give them a blue cast. This tea is called Niligri tea. With its mild and clean flavor, it is often blended with other teas.
Other regions in India grow tea as well but do not have the level of production or popularity. These are:
- Terai and Dooars along the Himalayas south of Darjeeling,
- the Cachar district in the state of Assam in north India,
- Dehradun in the state of Uttarakhand in north India,
- Manipur a state in northeast India,
- Kangra on the western Himalayas, and
- Travancore, a region at the southern tip of the state of Kerala.
I hope you enjoyed our voyage around India to find the perfect cup of tea. Next year I plan to travel to some new parts of India and visit a tea plantation first hand.
Let me know your favorite!
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