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Savour the Flavour of a Fabulous Indian Tea

Photo Courtesy of Nancy Prole © 2019

Some of the most exquisite teas in the world come from the tea gardens and estates of India. Cultivated in a number of different regions, Indian Teas often have distinctive flavours and characteristics unique to their terroir. Darjeeling teas, for example, are grown high in the foothills of the majestic Himalayas, and are renowned for their delicate muscatel notes and floral aromas. Assam teas grow in a tropical climate with ample rainfall, and yield rich, malty flavours in a bright, amber liquor, while teas produced in the beautiful Nilgiri Hills of southern India are known to be particularly fragrant. Tea is said to be the national drink of India, and most of the tea grown there is used for domestic consumption.Visitors to India can’t help but be reminded of the importance of tea as part of the country’s culture, whether they are viewing vast landscapes of lush fields packed with tender tea plants, or hearing the chants of the chaiwalahs, selling steaming cups of chai on bustling city streets and railway platforms.

The First commercial tea plantations in India were established by the East India Company in the early 1800s. Some of the tea plants used originated from China, and others were from an indigenous variety that had been growing wild in the jungles of Assam, and used by natives medicinally for centuries, before being identified as the tea plant Camellia sinensis.These plants were discovered in 1823 by Major Robert Bruce, a Scottish tea planter employed by the East India Company, who saw tribesmen chewing leaves from the plants and brewing them with water to drink. Suspecting the plant to be related to those used for tea production in China, he collected samples for analysis. When tested at the Botanical Gardens of Calcutta, they were confirmed as being Camellia sinensis leaves, albeit a different type to the Chinese variety. This variety was named Camellia sinensis var. assamica.

The East India Company was keen to break the monopoly on the tea trade that China had enjoyed for thousands of years. They introduced tea plants, from seeds smuggled out of China to some of the British colonies, including India, believing the climate and growing conditions in the Assam region to be favourable for tea production. The Chinese seedlings, however, did not do so well in Assam, but fared better when planted in the mountainous Darjeeling region. Tea plantations were subsequently created in other areas of India using native plants. Consequently, Darjeeling tea is produced from the Chinese variety of Camellia sinensis, and other teas in India produced from the Assamese variety.

When India was granted independence from Britain in 1947, tea production continued to grow, with ownership of plantations under Indian control. For many years, India was the largest producer of tea in the world, but today the country is the second largest producer after China. The Indian Tea Association, founded in 1881, was instrumental in the development of India’s tea industry, and its recommendation of tea breaks for staff working on the railways, factories, and mines, made a huge impact on the country’s tea drinking culture. Although India adopted the British way of drinking tea, with the addition of milk and sugar, it is usually prepared with the whole mixture being boiled, rather than the leaves being steeped first. The addition of spices and herbs to make masala chai, has become a popular way to drink tea in India, and different regions have their own recipes, using ingredients such as ginger, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and black pepper.

Tea-Direct.co.uk has a fabulous selection of Indian teas. Here are a few suggestions for you to try:

Darjeeling teas are regarded as the ‘Champagne of Teas’, and Darjeeling Leaf First Flush Tea is a great example. Sourced from the Darjeeling Tea Estates of Phoobsering, Gopaldhara, Giddapahar, Singbulli and Puttabong, this first flush blend of top grade teas reveals the delicate muscatel notes and complex flavours Darjeeling teas are famed for.

Assam Leaf Tea is a large leaf tea that produces a luxurious amber brew with bold, full flavours. A good all-round tea to be enjoyed at any time of day.

Nilgiri teas grow in the spectacular mountain ranges of southern India, also referred to as the ‘Blue Mountains’. Nilgiri BOP Tea is a small leaf, delightfully fragrant tea with well-rounded flavours.

Desi Masala Chai Tea is made with premium Assam black tea mixed with spicy cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods, with the addition of bay leaves to provide contrasting herbal notes. A great morning or afternoon drink to help increase focus and concentration.

The above are just a few of the hundreds of wonderful loose leaf teas and sumptuous infusions from around the world that Tea-Direct.co.uk can deliver directly to your door. Through our network of gifted buyers, we carefully select the very finest varieties for your enjoyment, and swiftly deliver them to your home, work, or anywhere else!