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The Mesmerising History of Tea in India

by Aditya Shah on May 10, 2022

Step onto any Indian street, and you will see people enjoying the mesmerising aroma of their beloved beverage. 

Yes, everyone’s favourite ‘chai’ or tea is the perfect drink to kickstart the day. However, its popularity is undoubtedly global!

Here’s a stat — Tea ranks second in the world (after water) amongst the most consumed beverages. So, your cup of ‘chai’ is, indeed, a world favourite drink.

But the important point is, every world-famous food has a rich and adventurous story. Tea is no exception. 

The history of tea in India is a tale worth knowing, especially for all tea lovers. So, if you don’t know about the story of tea in India, it is time to read ahead.    
 

Tracing Tea Roots: The Indian Beginning 

It’s flashback time!

The adventurous entry of tea into the Indian culture is a culmination of several events. China was the first tea-drinking nation that supplied this popular beverage to the western world, especially the British.

In the 18th century, the Anglo-Dutch wars made it difficult for successful tea trading between China and Britain.

The result?

The British started growing opium in India and exchanged it for tea with China. (Through smuggling, of course). But was this a long-term solution? Certainly not.

So, the British decided to cultivate tea in India using Chinese tea saplings.

 

Was the Experiment Successful?

Well, partly. You see, some Chinese tea saplings couldn’t survive the Indian clime. Call it heat or variation in soil. 


So, it was time for the British to explore other options. After all, the west loved the rich taste and fragrance of this wonderful beverage.

 

The Breakthrough Moment

Every story has a moment that changes the entire plot. The same was the case with the ‘history of tea in India.’

Around 1824, Robert Bruce and Maniram Dewan discovered native tea saplings in Assam. Yes, the beloved Assam tea was one of the first national beverage discoveries.

These saplings, being native, were perfect in terms of growth, sustainability, and of course, taste. Consequently, local tea saplings spread across Darjeeling and Assam. 

 

The Accelerator

 You might be thinking – the history of tea in India is a tad straightforward. However, the story isn’t complete without another protagonist, Robert Fortune.

Scottish horticulturalist, Robert Fortune, loved to travel. To explore tea plantations, he travelled to China.

Later, due to his impressive research on Chinese tea saplings, the East India Company offered him a golden mission. 

This mission was to enter China and smuggle suitable tea saplings into India. In 1848, with the help of his servant Wang, Fortune smuggled approximately 13,000 plant samples from Hong Kong to Calcutta.

Fortune’s adventure was a prime accelerator of tea plantations in India.

You can trace the journey of our beloved ‘chai’ in the following table. 

Table: Tracing Tea in India

  

Tea – The National And International Beverage 

Quite a tale, isn’t it? The history of tea in India is surely fascinating. India continued the late 18th-century momentum in terms of tea production. 

Today, India is the second-largest global tea producer. The country is home to several companies that process CTC (crush, tear, curl), orthodox, and green tea.  

However, becoming the global beverage king was a result of several reasons. 

  • Health benefits (antioxidants, reduction in cholesterol levels)
  • Phenomenal source of energy
  • Excellent source of hydration
  • Tasty and tailor-made varieties

Hence, tea fuels the whole world with its taste, health advantages, and of course, the lovely varieties!

 

The Many Forms of Tea

Talking about varieties, a refreshing cup of any ‘chai’ type can work wonders. Here’s a quick look at what people in India and abroad enjoy drinking.

  • White tea
  • Black tea
  • Green tea
  • Oolong tea
  • Pu-Erh tea
  • Herbal tea

The distinct flavours, colours, and aromas are too attractive to miss out, don’t you think?

 

Endnotes

From China to India and the whole world, tea is integral to our lifestyle. This beverage rejuvenates, refreshes, soothes, and lets us connect.

Everyone can try the fantastic variety with several forms and lovely tea brands.

After knowing the rich history of tea in India, you might be tempted to walk right into the kitchen. So, get moving and sip your preferred blend of ‘chai’ now!

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