You all might have had tea/chai. But do you know the history behind it?
Tea is quite possibly one of the oldest and most popular beverages in the world. So old in fact, people have been enjoying this brew for nearly 5000 years, mainly in China. As trade routes were developed to connect the countries of Europe to that of Asia the popularity of this commodity skyrocketed. Even though tea grew naturally in the Assam jungles, it still is not until 750BC that we begin to hear about tea being consumed in India.
In the early days, tea in India was actually used more in cooking than it was for drinking. They would use the tea leaves in making stews and also mix in garlic and oil as a veggie dish. Not only would they use it in cooking, but like China, they would use tea in many different medicines. The closest that the Indian people came to drinking their tea was in the still popular chai. It was not until the British invaded in 1608 and began to control India and meld the two different cultures together, that tea was enjoyed as a beverage.
Over the next two centuries, the British spent time trying to cultivate tea and expand the trade commercially, as a way to compete with China. It is even said that they sent people to China to spy on their tea productions and steal workers and seeds. This went on until 1823 when a man named Robert Bruce was introduced to native Indian tea from the Assam Valley. He found that it was very similar to what they were getting from China and that the soil in Assam was perfect for growing the assamica tea plants. After Robert died in 1830 his brother Charles picked up where he left off and by 1837 had opened the first British-led tea plantation in Chabua in Upper Assam. By 1840, the demand for Indian tea began to rise and so did the need to produce more tea. The same seeds that were taken from China that did not work well in Assam, were tried out in the higher elevations of Darjeeling with great success.
The tea grew so well in fact that by 1850 the Tukvar Tea Estate was established in the Darjeeling region. It is from here that tea production really began to boom. The boom continued on through 1947 when the British finally gave India its freedom. In today’s market, India is among the top exporters of tea in the world. With over 100,000 tea gardens spread over the Assam, Darjeeling, and Nilgiri regions, the tea industry employs over one million Indians and generates nearly two billion dollars in revenue. Tea is so important to India that they made up a to certify that the many different teas of India are the real deal. This method of certification was added to the Tea Act of 1953.
The history of tea in India may be a short one compared to the history of the country itself, but it has played a very important role in where India is at today. Today. India is the largest tea producer in the world.