Whether you’re tired, or need an instant energy booster to complete your pending tasks, or are feeling blues, all you need is a cup of tea, popularly known as ‘chai’ in India. Tea preparations and tea routines vary all across the globe. Some sip it over a break, some enjoy it in the morning, while many would just cherish it as and when it’s served.
There is nothing like a perfect chai/tea recipe for Indians, and almost every Indian house will have a unique style of making it. For many, making and having tea is like therapy in the country.
There’s something so ineffable about ‘garam-chai’ that it’s not just a beverage; it’s an emotion, a state of mind, and a cherishable moment for people in India. I still remember Chai remained the star element for greeting guests, friends, and family a decade back. And it still is.
“No matter where you are in the world, you are at home when tea is served.” – Earlene Grey
Do you know that there are over 3000 varieties of tea in the world? And we are only aware of some popular teas like masala chai, green tea, and black tea. So tea has a world of its own, and if you’ve just started your tea journey, there are chances of feeling overwhelmed because of the different types of tea in India.
India is the second producer of tea and the second-largest exporter of tea in the world. So besides finding some of the best tea in the world, you will also notice Indians drinking tea a lot. As per the research reports, approximately 76% of the tea produced in the country are consumed within its borders. So you can imagine the love for Chai in India now.
Tea Production In India
The Indian tea market is so huge that, as per the latest 2021 reports by IBEF, the estimated tea production in India went up to 73.44 million kgs.
Owing to its ever-increasing demand, the Tea Board India looks into its effective management strategies, innovation in tea plantations, and technological advancement to produce the best quality teas for the world.
Variety Of Tea Plants
The two plants that India has been using for producing various types of teas are-
It grows mainly in China and other east Asian countries. The teas from these plants taste milder and mellower side. Chinese black tea is excellent on its own.
It grows mainly in India and is native to Assam. The teas taste more robust. Indian black tea is often mixed with milk, sweeteners, etc., to fit in for different tastes and preferences.
Basis of Tea Categorization
Various factors are vital to understanding the complexity, beauty, and types of Indian teas. However, the essential considerations from growing conditions to geographical details to processing methods influence the different teas’ appearances, quality, grade and flavour.
There are primarily 6 types of teas based on their distinctive processing methods-
Post- Fermented Tea or Dark Tea
When you mix any of the above teas with herbs, fruits, flowers, and spices, it gives you some magical tea blends and flavours, and you can call it a herbal infusion.
Such experiments give you various tastes, from mild to robust, smoky to spicy, and even sweet to sour. Some popular flavoured tea in India is masala chai, chamomile tea, peppermint tea, etc.
‘Adrak wali chai- (ginger tea)’, ‘Long wali chai(clove-tea)’ and ‘Elaichi wali chai(cardamom-tea)’ are the most favoured herbal-infused tea you can easily find at beaches, parks, and coffee shops, markets, offices and almost everywhere in India.
Types Of Tea In India
The ever-increasing demand for tea from across the globe has made India one of the biggest tea producing hubs in the world. However, there are states which are now best known for their tea productions.
You will notice that many Indian teas have named after the region or states in which they are grown. For example- Assam tea, Darjeeling tea and Nilgiri tea.
Let’s check out some of the best teas found in India-
Not only known for its exquisite landscapes, but for hundreds of years now, Assam has been the den for the primary tea production in India. The best Assam tea leaves are from the camellia sinensis var. assamica variety.
Assam, the northeastern state of India, is the world’s largest tea-growing region by production. The region was the first home to the Indian Tea Plantation back in the 19th century.
Assam black tea is officially the ‘state drink’ for the people of Assam.
Besides its distinctive black teas, the region even produces smaller quantities of white and green teas. Because of the state’s tropical climate, Assam teas have a malty and a unique taste, which makes them savoury and bold.
You will often notice Assam Tea as a preferable choice for breakfast teas because of its strong caffeine content and robust flavour. In addition, black teas are the perfect addition to various breakfast blends like English & Irish Breakfast.
A top-rated hill station in the Indian state of West Bengal, Darjeeling is known for its light-coloured tea leaves with a floral aroma. Best Darjeeling tea leaves are from the Chinese variety of the tea plant called Camellia sinensis var. sinensis.
Darjeeling tea is known to be the finest tea in the world. The state has even earned the title of ‘champagne of teas’ among connoisseurs.
It’s unique because the Darjeeling tea leaves can be processed in different ways, resulting in black, green, white, or oolong tea.
It does have some caffeine, so avoid taking it late afternoon, evening, or night. Instead, you can have this tea during the mid-morning or early afternoon for the best experience.
Many drink it without milk, lemon and sugar; however, you can add whatever you prefer to give it a nice twist.
One of the most beautiful tea regions globally, Nilgiri teas are not as popular as Assam and Darjeeling teas but is an excellent option for blending in with various robust teas. Fragrant and flavoured teas are from the picturesque hills of Nilgiris and Munnar district in Tamil Nadu.
Nilgiri teas are like hidden gems among the variety of teas across the world. It’s very aromatic and medium-bodied with a subtle and soft taste. It even contributes to some of the best iced teas in the world because of its natural sweetness.
Golden with a light floral finish, the Sikkim tea has a unique taste and aroma. It is not as widespread as Darjeeling tea, but has recently gained much attention because of the increasing demand for organic products.
Sikkim tea has a lot of resemblance in terms of taste and appearance with Darjeeling tea as it’s next to the city of Darjeeling. The tea is famous as ‘Temi Tea’ in Sikkim. The state specializes in producing delicate white tea varieties and manufactures Oolong tea as well.
Anyone who wants to try something different and powerful must try the addictive and aromatic Sikkim tea. Many consider it even more premium than the popular Darjeeling tea.
As the smallest tea regions of India, green and black teas from Kangra are even more exclusive, with a delicate woody aroma. The tea estate in Kangra nestles amongst the outstanding and beautiful Himalayas in Northeast India.
There are 6000 tea gardens in Kangra, and they primarily produce orthodox black tea. The Kangra teas are mostly fresh, with a drizzle of earthiness with a long-lasting finish. Enjoy the green, vegetal aroma with a subtle and sharp flavour.
It’s a perfect drink to live up to your mood!
India’s most cherishable, favourite, and popular beverage has reached almost all the nooks and corners of the world due to its special preparation. Indians have a unique way of making tea, and it is called ‘Masala Chai’, also called ‘spiced tea’ in English.
The name itself talks about ‘masala’ (meaning spices in English), making this Chai. If you’re wondering how to make masala chai, let me tell you it’s easy. Just boil the black tea in milk and water. Then, add some Indian spices and aromatic herbs to give it a masala twist.
Some of the famous masala (spices) for Chai are clove, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger. And the essential ingredients of masala chai are milk, sugar, tea leaves, water, ginger. However, everyone has their version of making this remarkable and irresistible tea.
Most Indians sip it with biscuits, protein-rich dry snacks, hot fried items and even just as it is.
Butter Chai is a signature beverage of people from Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Also knowns as ‘Boe Cha’, ‘Cha Suma’, ‘Goor Goor Cha’, ‘Cha Suskan’. Butter tea keeps the people of this region warm and helps them survive the icy weather conditions.
It’s on the saltier side and tastes like light soup. Butter Tea is an essential part of the Tibetan culture where it holds a very significant part of their breakfast menu. The Chai contains fat, energy and calories and acts as a power drink for the localities.
It’s the best drink for the citizens of Tibet as it’s suited for the higher altitudes. You’d be shocked to know that they sip 60 cups of butter tea per day.
Today, India is one of the world’s largest tea producers after China and is known worldwide for its aromatic, high-quality flavoursome teas.
You will find as many varieties of teas as tea brands in India. It is because tea holds an exceptional place in the hearts of most Indians.
Many would even start and end their day with a cup of Chai and nothing else. Tea is like a habit for most people.
Whether you like green, black or oolong, always pick the closest ones to your taste. I would recommend you not forget to try herbal infused teas as they have a soothing aroma, unique flavour and will be as exotic as any other beverage.
Remember, Chai is not any flavour, and it’s the staple tea of India mixed with herbs and spices using Indian black tea. Nothing works like a good cup of Chai for Indians.
What’s your favourite part about sipping tea?
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