Imagine missing your tea on one of the days, due to various reasons! The signs of uneasiness soon become palpable as we are unable to carry on activities normally. One often wonders why things are going wrong, and the striking reality pops up, that one has missed tea. The effect the tea has on us is aptly summerized by William Ewart Gladstone, who served as the prime minister of Britain on four separate occasions, from 1868 to 1894.
While International Tea Day falls every year on 15th December, to celebrate this very popular beverage, every day is a tea day for the common man.
The cultivation and prevalence of tea in ancient India is still unknown, as the tea that we know in the modern world was introduced and popularized by the British during the Colonial era. Before that, there is not much evidence to suggest that India relished tea in any way.
It is known that India is today one of the largest producer of tea, second only to China. As per the 2011 report of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM), India is also the largest consumer of tea, consuming about 30 percent of the global output.
Chai is the popular term used for tea in India, and is among the most consumed everyday drinks. This word is derived from the Chinese word Cha, which also means tea.
Cha in Chinese
The British first launched the tea industry in Assam in 1820s. Maniram Dewan was the first Indian tea planter, and is credited with establishing the first private commercial plantations at Assam.
Importance of Tea
Tea is consumed both at home and outside.
The people have their cup of hot steaming tea, first thing in the morning in order to stimulate their senses and refresh themselves.
There are tea stalls across the urban landscape, in just about every nook and corner of any street. Chai Wallah is a common title given to the person who runs a tea stall. It is well known that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was once a “Chai Wallah”. This term has today become a symbol to represent those who from a humble beginning, rise to great heights through hard work and perseverance.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi consuming tea
Apart from being a daily drink, tea
- is consumed for refreshing the mind after work during ‘tea break’
- is served as welcome drink for guest at home
- is an occasion for conducting important meetings, Chai Pe Charcha, as it is populary known
Varieties of Tea
There are four basic varieties of tea produced, based on how tea leaves are produced, namely,
- Green tea (non-fermented)
- Black tea (fermented)
- Oolong tea (partly fermented)
- White tea (least processing)
Tea is grown in 16 states in India. Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala account for about 95 percent of total tea production. The other major tea-producing Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Bihar, Orissa.
The tea has also been branded based on where they are produced. Currently there are 10 major hubs of tea production in India.
- Darjeeling Tea (West Bengal)
- Assam Tea (Assam)
- Dooars and Terai Tea
- Kangra Tea (Himachal Pradesh)
- Nilgiri Tea (Tamil Nadu)
- Annamalais Tea (Tamil Nadu)
- Wayanaad Tea (Kerala)
- Karnataka Tea (Karnataka)
- Munnar Tea (Kerala)
- Travancore Tea (Kerala)
There are many other popular variations depending on regional and cultural affiliations.
An Aspect of Indian Culture
In the last many decades, tea has become an integral aspect of Indian culture. Tea is a major part of life at home, work, on the streets and while traveling. Remove tea from everyday life, and you remove the vital essence of a vibrant nation.