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Types of Darjeeling Black tea

India and China are neighbors across the Himalayan range, and history has documented our trade exchanges since the beginning of such practices. Interestingly, however, tea travelled all the way to Europe before Indians had a taste of it.

The British brought tea to India in the form that they enjoyed it most – mixed with milk and sugar, and that is how Indians have been consuming it for years. To better suit the Indian palate, spices were added to create the much-loved Masala Chai, but it is not too far removed from the English brand. Like heritage, the British adopted the Chinese custom of tea, and profited off it from their colonial states.

Tea, originally meant a blend of flavors in water. Teabags are an American discovery, but they are closer to the original Chinese way of brewing the drink Image source: wikimediawikimedia

Tea, originally meant a blend of flavors in water. It is believed that in China, around 2737 B.C., the troops of Emperor Shen Nung were boiling water under a tree. The strong wind blew a few leaves into the water which flavored it. The tree was identified as Camellia sinensis, and became what we popularly know as the tea tree. After this, tea came to be known as the drink that stimulated the senses; the welcoming drink shared between host and guest; and the evening or morning brew that prepared the palate for the rest of the day.

Apart from the many exports China made on the Silk Road, tea was a highly valued commodity Tea plantations are often situated on hill slopes to suit the soil and climate needs of the plant. Tea plantation in Darjeeling. Image source: wikimediawikimedia

Apart from the many exports China made on the Silk Road, tea was a highly valued commodity because it did not grow anywhere else in the world. It was first packaged as leaves, but soon assumed other forms as it tended to spoil quickly. Powdered tea, however, did not hold the same flavor, and the Chinese then made tea cakes, or tea bricks, of which a little was pinched off and brewed.

With the arrival of the Song dynasty between A.D. 960- 1279, tea became popular in the powdered form again, and was whipped in boiling water. The Japanese took over the mastery of this technique, and made it part of their tea ceremony. In the early 1500s, rolled tea leaves were preferred to bricks and powder, and the tea pot was invented.

 Tea revolutionized in the 1900s when it reached American shores. The original Chinese teapot Image source: wikimediawikimedia

While the British colonized parts of the world and traded language, practices, and wealth, tea began to gain acclaim across the globe. It was revolutionized in the 1900s when it reached American shores.

Prior to this, tea had become popular in America through the British, but one particular merchant, Thomas Sullivan changed the way it was consumed. He sold the loose tea packed in small silk pouches to his customers. It was intended that they take the tea leaves out of the pouch and brew them, but they found it easier and less messy to simply immerse the entire bag in the boiling water. This new practice called for a revision even in the size of the cups and put the teapot out of service.

Tea in India is grown in large plantations on hillsides. Tea being prepared in a stall in Chittagong Image source: wikimediawikimedia

Tea in India is grown in large plantations on hillsides, to allow the plant to derive the full nutritional benefits of the soil and the climate. They do not grow on flatter land. Darjeeling and the Nilgiri hills are most famous hill stations for their tea plantations. Today, Indians consume tea in all the available forms it exists in.

We incorporate the flavor of spices, leaves, and flowers, like the Chinese; use varying qualities and types of milk and cream with sugar, like the British; and have our own preferences for teabags like the Americans. But no matter where you go in India, the best tea is the one sold in the shoddy little shops on the side of the roads, that allures you with its unique aroma.

Keywords: Tea, History, China, Britain, Forms


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