I hope every one has been fine and doing well since our last meeting .If you remember, the last time I wrote about Indian Tunics and Kurtis. This time I wanted to feature another article that you will shortly find on Totally bananas. Indian Tea .
I think that every one of us is familiar with tea as we all drink it, some more than other’s I’m sure. In India , in every street corner you will find a Dhabba or tea stall as they are more commonly called where they are busy making tea, all kinds of tea, (with milk, spices, sugar or shakkar and even Gur or Jaggery )Tea is made both at home and outside. Outside the home, tea is most commonly and easily found at the ubiquitous tea stalls that dot just about every street in India. The tea stall has become a part of the urban landscape and a cultural institution.
As you all know I am a coffee addict but even I cannot restrain myself and say no to a good cup of chai. My childhood days can be remembered drinking a hot cup of chai in the winter all cuddled up in a jaipuri quilt hearing the rain beat down on the roof, chatting with friends. These days I sit here on my own on a really cold day with my quilt wrapped around me and reminisce about the good old days gone by, missing my land of birth and those days I make a hot cup of masala chai and it keeps me warm and brings a smile to my lips..Chai is India, sitting in the train and hearing the chai wallah screaming Chai, Garam Chai (Chai, Hot Chai) at every station and serving it in little clay pots.The tea just tastes different. So tasty, the taste of home in fact…
India has quite a reputation throughout the world for its tea plantations mainly in Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars, Cachar, Sylet Hills, Khangra, Kerela, Nilgiri, Terai and Travancore. The culture still continues, and especially the Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars tea has immense popularity worldwide even today.
The world of tea has hardly changed in the past century in the Darjeeling, Assam and Dooars region. The culture surrounding the huge tea plantations is a unique phenomenon, and is a lifetime experience.
It was almost 175 years ago, the race for growing tea in India began. One of the major reasons was that the Assam Tea was much superior to the Chinese Tea and the English entrepreneurs could easily grow it here in India, and sell the finished product abroad. The plantation consisted of pure Chinese plants, pure Assamese plants and also mixed plants producing the best of the Indian Tea. Within no time, tea, which was a secret known only to the Singpho community, turned into huge plantations and a global business.
In the process, a new kind of society developed based on these plantations. The owners and management force were called the ‘Planters’. They were in those days mainly English, Scottish and Irish. They tried to create a small world of their own, which could be similar to their home, yet tuned with the local culture and atmosphere. They created a ‘Bungalow Culture’ which still can be experienced and a well trained local man power who could serve the Memsahibs and Sahibs.
There are two forces in the tea gardens or estates, the management and the labour force. The labour forces were mainly tribal people from Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Orissa and Nepal. The best part of the tea laborers were and are still, the women, who are better recognized then the men in this industry. A part of the profits were used to create shelter, medical services, children’s crèches and schools etc. The lives of the tea labour villages are most of the time better than most of the agricultural villages in the East and Northeast part of India. Their original culture, along with the tea culture has given birth to a folk practice, which is very much a character of a tea plantation.
The history and culture behind the everyday cup of tea can only be discovered after living a couple of days in the tea gardens.
The cultivation of tea in India has a long history. Commercial production began with the arrival of the British East India Company, at which point large tracts of land were converted for mass tea production. The widespread popularity of tea as a recreational drink began in the 1950s.
Today, India is one of the largest tea producers in the world, though over 70% of the tea is consumed within India itself. A number of renowned teas, such as Assam and Darjeeling, also grow exclusively in India. The Indian tea industry has grown to own many global tea brands, and has evolved to one of the most technologically equipped tea industries in the world.
India used to be the top producer of tea for nearly a century, but recently China has overtaken India as the top tea producer due to increased land availability.
The major tea-producing states in India are: Assam,West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Sikkim, Nagaland, Uttarkhand, Manipur, Mizoram , Meghalaya, Bihar, and Orissa.
The cultivation and brewing of tea in India has a long history of uses . The practice of Ayurveda resulted in a long standing tradition of tisanes, (an infusion of dried herbs, used as a beverage for medicinal effects). Traditional Indian kitchens have long utilised the medicinal benefits offered by various plants and spices such as Basil (Tulsi), Cardamom (Elaichi), Pepper (Kali Mirch), Licorice (Mulethi), mint(Pudina), etc., and traditionally, tisanes made with these plant leaves and/or spices have been in use for centuries for maladies ranging from the serious to the trifling. Tea also serves as a
vehicle for these traditional tisanes. The taste of chai (sweet and milky) helps disguise the stronger and more bitter flavors of some of the medicinal additives, while other, more pleasant flavors such as cardamom and ginger add a pleasing flavor and aroma to the tea along with health benefits.
The consumption of tea in India was first clearly documented in the Ramayana (750-500 BC). It was indigenous to eastern and northern India, and was cultivated and consumed there for thousands of years.
Tea cultivation in India has somewhat ambiguous origins. Though the extent of the popularity of tea in ancient India is unknown, it was thought that the tea plant was a wild in India and was brewed by local inhabitants of different regions. One can only speculate that tea leaves were widely used. Many of the origin myths for tea are found in Chinese mythology, and the first verifiable records for tea consumption also point towards China.
In 1598, a Dutch traveler, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten, noted in a book that the leaves of the Assam tea plant were used by Indians as a vegetable, eaten with garlic and oil, and as a drink.The same year, another reference to tea in India was recorded, by a different group of Dutch explorers.
In the early 1820s, the british began large-scale production of tea in Assam. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the start of the 20th century, Assam became the leading tea producing region in the world. Seeds were procured from China in the beginning some planted in the hill districts of South India, and some in the hill districts in Kumaon in North India and Upper Assam on the north east frontier. It was only later that the indigenous plants were used. Today, the Chinese strain produces Darjeeling and the indigenous Assamese variety produces the remainder of the tea produced in India.
Typically, tea in India is consumed with both milk and sugar. but the tea leaves are not prepared separately by being steeped. Instead, the tea leaves are boiled along with certain spices, and then boiled again after the addition of milk and sugar. Sometimes the tea leaves themselves are used as flavoring. In fact if you ever visit a village you are treated like royalty and the tea that is offered is made entirely of milk. They just add tea leaves and sugar to milk boil it and serve it to you in tiny clay pots especially made to serve tea in.There are many varieties of tea available these days.
Orthodox Tea(Leaf Teas)
This tea is blackish / brownish in appearance and is comprised of four main categories:
Whole Leaf:-Long and Wiry,
Broken:-, smaller in size.
Dust:-The smallest particles-powder. In the cup, Orthodox Teas are generally bright and brisk. The whole leaf grades are lighter than the broken. In fact, the smaller the leaf particle, the more color and body it infuses.
This tea is blackish / brownish and the process of manufacture makes the tea granular. CTC brews quickly and makes a full bodied gustier cup than Orthodox Tea.
Green Tea(Leaf Teas):-These teas are processed differently and are greenish in leaf color, giving a very mild pale yellowish green liquid.
White Tea(Leaf Teas):-These teas are hand processed and semi-fermented. Only the delicate buds (middle leaf) are used.
Darjeeling Tea:-Teas grown on the misty heights of the Hill District of Darjeeling, popularly known as the ” Champagne of Tea’s” are famous the world over, for their exquisite aroma and taste. The premium Darjeeling Teas are generally mild in character and have distinctive natural fruity or Muscatel flavors. Undoubtedly – the best teas in the world and the most sought after by connoisseurs. Darjeeling produces the highest quality but the quantity produced is less than 2% of the total tea produced in India . The bulk of the Darjeeling tea is comprised of
Orthodox Teas, and high quality, unfermented, Green Teas are also manufactured selectively. Some premier Tea Gardens also manufacture the semi-fermented White Teas.
The tea cultivation begun in the nineteenth century by the British, however, has accelerated to the point that today India is listed as the world’s leading producer, and of course, the teas of Assam, Ceylon, (from the island nation known as Sri Lanka), and Darjeeling are world famous.
Nilgiri Tea:-Teas grown in the South Central region of India , known as the Nilgiri Hills or Blue Mountains , in the states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Both Orthodox as well as CTC Teas are manufactured here and are comparatively lower in quality and cheaper in price to other Indian Teas.
Terai/Dooars:-The foothills of Darjeeling are known as Terai and the plains further North East, stretching along the Bhutan border upto the Assam border, are known as Dooars. This area, too, produces mostly CTC Teas and some Orthodox & Green Teas. Are you the daring type and do you like to try new things? New adventures, If so then I have the perfect thing for you. A few recipes only the daring would love to try. You will look at tea in a very different way once you try some of these. Go Ahead I dare you to…
The ideal drink for those cold wintery nights. Brew a tumbler of Hot Darjeeling tea. Take about 50 ml of rum. Flambe the Rum, mix it into the tea, add sugar to taste and serve with a slice of lemon.
Ice tea Magic
Brew Tea the normal way . Before serving, fill 3/4 of a tall glass with crushed ice and pour the tea into the glass. Add a few drops of fresh lemon juice, a couple of slices of lemon and some sugar to taste. A sprig of mint enhances the taste. Cool for a few minutes and enjoy the magic of Iced Tea.
Mix a cup each of milk and water in a kettle and put to boil. Grind a clove, a stick of cinnamon with a few strands of saffron and put into the boiling mixture. Add two teaspoons of strong Nathmulls Assam C.T.C. Tea and Sugar to taste. Boil for a couple of minutes till the mixture becomes caramel coloured. Strain and serve hot.
something to help you sleep
Fill 1/2 a Tumbler with freshly made Assam Tea. Add a stick of cinnamon and a couple
of tablespoons of whisky. Stir in some milk and a teaspoon of honey for sweetening. Really helps .
Drinking 5 to 6 cups of black tea a day helps control your cholestrol level, decreasing the chances of a heart attack. It gives you relief from fatigue, headache, depression and relaxes your body muscles. Tea tempers the spirit, harmonises the mind, awakens your thoughts, prevents drowsiness and refreshes your mind and body.
Tea reduces skin damage and acts as a stress reliever. Many world famous perfume brands use tea infused fragrances.
Polyphenols are responsible for the flavor and color of the brewed beverage.
Tea has practically no calories and is suitable for dieting if taken without milk or sugar or any other additive.
Green Tea is an un -fermented tea and is among the richest source of Antioxidants. It has been said that tea helps in digestion, helps dissolve fats and neutralizes poison in the digestive system and cures dysentery. Its astringency is used for cleaning sores and is also recommended as an eyewash as well as a mouthwash. Brewed tea leaves placed over the eyes are good for refreshing puffy or tired eyes.
On this note I wish you all adieu as I need to get back to my chai which is simply smelling heavenly and sitting here next to me steaming away gently waiting for me to take that first sip of manna from heaven.. Its raining cats and dogs outside and I cant wait to take a wander down memory lane with my cuppa Chai..
I love you all. Be safe .
Until the next time….
Sources:- Wikipedia. The free Encyclopedia , The Tea Board of India, www.delhimagic.com