History Of Tea In India
HISTORY OF TEA IN INDIA
Tea has had an interesting history and has always been synonymously associated with India. Many tasty Indian tea blends have their origins in China and the Middle East, from where it was first brought into the country. Tea has been prevalent in India since around 750 B.C. During this time, Indian tea was not only a popular beverage, but also tea leaves were used in the preparation of several vegetarian dishes.
However, the main credit for rediscovering and cultivating tea is given to the British who made India into a tea growing empire. Since the time of the British rule, the Indian tea growing market and industry has flourished. The interesting history of India tea is a journey through time, so let us explore the origins of India’s most popular beverage.
How did tea come to India?
Tea came to India through the Silk Route where caravans travelling to Europe from China brought tea leaves with them. Although the tea plant was native to India, it grew mostly in the wild where the locals had not yet realized its true potential. Tea was used in cooking, for example, as an additive for soups or broths, or for medicinal purposes. However, the popularity of tea as a beverage increased, and today, Indian tea leaves are transformed into black tea, or chai, which is sweetened with sugar and milk and spruced up with spices to make a delicious tea drink that is enjoyed all over the world!
Who discovered tea in India?
The tea cultivation business was established by the British, who wanted to grow tea in India solely to overthrow China’s monopoly on the tea business. As soon as they discovered that Indian soil was suitable to cultivate and grow the tea plant, they got to work and started what would now be one of the biggest sources of income to Indians. The early sites for tea plantations were Assam and Darjeeling, which are still extremely popular destinations for tasty tea and premium tea today as well. Today, India’s production is equal to if not more than China’s tea production.
Native Tea Species
Tea was discovered by a Scotsman, Robert Bruce in 1823 in Assam. Bruce was introduced to a plant which was similar to tea plucked by the Singpho tribe. These people would first pluck the tea, then put it in a bamboo shoot and smoke it till it developed a good flavour. Once the flavour developed, they would put it in beverages which Bruce thought tasted similar to the teas in China. After Bruce’s death, his brother Charles sent these samples to Calcutta but they showed a different variety which they named Assamica.
Thus started the tea industry, which eventually made its way towards the green tea hills of Munnar. The first plantations in Munnar were founded by a British resident named John Munro, who was initially sent to the region to resolve a border dispute. Falling under the charm of the beauty of this lush, arable land, he bought a large amount of property from the local leaders, and began to cultivate coffee, cardamom and other crop. A H Sharp, another planter followed suit in 1880, but was the first to grow tea on his plantation in the Munnar tea region. His property, now known as the Seven Mallay Estate, was one of Munnar’s first tea plantations.
As the Indian tea industry evolved, many varieties of delicious tea were grown all over the country from Assam tea, to Nilgiri Tea, to delicious and authentic Munnar. Tea drinking itself has evolved in many ways, with every region of this vast country making their own chai variants.