Indian Tea Culture

INDIAN TEA CULTURE

Masala Tea

Indian Tea Culture is mostly credited to Britishers. British Raj began to cultivate tea in India in 1835. Since then, tea has become an integral part of the Indian culture and economy, and local customs and traditions have emerged around the beloved Indian chai.

Indian Tea Culture and TEA CULTIVATION

Tea had become a popular beverage in England by the 18th century, so to meet the increasing demand of the British, and break the Chinese monopoly, the British East India Company (EIC) smuggled tea seeds and skilled workers from China, and established tea gardens in the northern part of India.

It wasn’t until the mid-19th century that the newly cultivated tea plants in Darjeeling and Assam were harvested and India began to supply tea to England and the other British colonies, along with innovating with tea at home that nourished India Tea Culture.

THE BRITISH GRADING SYSTEM

To get a good price for the tea they were selling, the British introduced a grading system for black tea based on the appearance of orthodox tea leaves, with the unbroken and unblemished whole leaf being superior to the broken leaf. This system is followed to this day in India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya.

Indian Tea Culture

It’s common for the leaves to break into smaller pieces of varying sizes during processing, especially after they have been dried, because they can become quite brittle. Once the leaves have been sifted and graded, only dust and “fannings,” or tiny pieces of leaf, are left.

These are considered the lowest grade, but if they are the fannings from a superior tea crop, they can be used to create popular commercial black tea blends.

What is masala tea?

Masala tea or spice tea is tea leaf mixed with dal chinin, cinamon, cardamom, ginger etc accordingly that spice up the flavor of tea is called masala tea.

Indian Tea Culture with the help of the British grading system is based only on the appearance and size of the leaf and does not evaluate the flavour, aroma, or the taste of the liquor. Some grades refer to “flowery” traits, indicating the presence of a small leaf bud in the tea leaf, while others refer to “golden” or “orange,” indicating the presence of golden tips on the tea leaf buds or the colour of the liquor.

WHOLE LEAF

white tea
AbbreviationDescription
SFTGFOPSpecial Fine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe (smallest whole leaf)
FTGFOPFine Tippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
TGFOPTippy Golden Flowery Orange Pekoe
GFOPGolden Flowery Orange Pekoe
FOPFlowery Orange Pekoe
FPFlowery Pekoe
OPOrange Pekoe
BROKEN LEAF GFBOPGolden Flowery Broken Orange Pekoe
GBOPGolden Broken Orange Pekoe
FBOPFlowery Broken Orange Pekoe
BOP1Broken Orange Pekoe One
BOPBroken Orange Pekoe
BPSBroken Pekoe Souchong

IN THE EARLY 1900s, ALMOST ALL OF THE TEA PRODUCED IN INDIA WAS BLACK TEA.

CHAI

Darjeeling Tea Turzum Tea Garden 50 grams

Despite tea cultivation beginning in India in the 1850s, the practice of taking tea, or chai, with milk and sugar became popular only in the latter half of the 19th century when British plantation owners introduced it to the masses.

The rich creaminess of buffalo milk, traditionally used in India to make chai, complements the robustness of Indian teas, especially Assam Tea. Although the high butterfat content in buffalo milk is preferred, any type of dairy-based milk can be used and accounts for most types of Indian tea culture.

“Masalas,” or aromatic spices, have always been a key component of Indian cuisine. Hot beverages made with masalas were traditionally drunk for medicinal purposes. During the late 19th century, a marriage of these spices with milky, sweet tea resulted in the rich and spicy beverage we now know as Masala Chai alternatively also called as India Tea Culture.

CHAI BREAK

The sheer number of chai stalls occupying the streets of India is a clear indication of the popularity of the drink. Both office workers and labourers alike can be seen taking tea installs at all hours of the day all of them aggregated for Indian Tea Culture.

KULLARHS

Chai wallahs, or tea vendors, make Masala Chai from scratch with their own blend of spices, low-quality black tea, milk, and sugar. The chai is poured from a height and often served in small, lightly fired clay cups known as “kullarhs.”

Hygienic and environmentally friendly, kullarhs are made of degradable clay and are discarded on the roadside after the chai has been consumed. the Khullars add value to Indian Tea Culture

SPICED CHAI or Masala chai

Bursting with flavour and aroma, the Masala Chai’s kick comes from an assortment of spices including cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and ginger.

Tea in India

Indian tea culture

Traditionally, India is known for its malty Assams and prized Darjeelings. Now the country is experimenting with growing different types of tea, such as Nilgiri Frost and Darjeeling Green. 

Indian tea culture crops up with Tea grown in India, India accounts for around 22 percent of the world’s tea production. Most of the tea grown in India is consumed within the country, with 20 percent being exported globally.

In the early 1900s Indian tea was mostly consumed by upper- and middle-class Indians, with the vast majority of tea being exported to the West. In Indian tea Culture, CTC Tea plays a vital role. CTC Tea process in the 1950s that Indian tea became more affordable for the wider domestic market.

Tea cultivation began in earnest in India in the 19th century to supply the British with their own source of their favorite beverage.

The East India Company arranged to have seeds and plants smuggled from China, which were bred with local Assam plants. The cool climate in Darjeeling allowed the Chinese plants to flourish.

Although famed for its Darjeelings and Assams, today India is trying to promote its lesser-known teas, such as Nilgiri Frost, which is picked in late January or February, when the temperatures suddenly drop below freezing, producing very fragrant tea.

Darjeeling tea gardens are also growing and producing different varieties of white and green tea, which have fresh and sweet flavors.

INDIA KEY FACTS

  
PERCENTAGE OF WORLD PRODUCTION:23%
TEA TYPES:BLACK, GREEN, WHITE.
HARVEST:MAY-OCTOBER IN THE NORTH; YEAR-ROUND IN THE SOUTH
FAMOUS FOR:BEING THE FIRST CULTIVATED TEA REGION IN THE BRITISH EMPIRE
ELEVATION:LOW-HIGH INDIA IS THE SECOND LARGEST PRODUCER OF TEA IN THE WORLD
PLANTATIONS IN MUNNARThere are more than 50 tea plantations in and around the small hill station of Munnar in Kerala, covering an area of 7,413 acres (3,000 hectares).
  

ASSAM Tea

The Assam region of India benefits from rich soil and monsoon rains, making it the most productive tea-growing region in the world. Characterized by deep, bold flavors, Assam tea makes up approximately 50 percent of India’s total output of tea.

Located in the northeast corner of India on the low-lying alluvial flood plains of the Brahmaputra River Valley, Assam is a prime region for tea cultivation and produces mostly commodity tea using the CTC method (see p21) for the tea bag industry.

The rich soil is fed by floods during the monsoon season (May-October), and tea is picked from April to November, during the hottest and wettest season. Temperatures can reach 100°F (38°C) at this time of the year, simulating the conditions in a terrarium or greenhouse.

First, flush Assam tea is harvested in April, while the second flush is picked from May to June and is most often used in black tea blends, such as East Frisian or afternoon blends. Some growers are turning to orthodox production to create high-grade whole leaf for export at a higher price than commodity tea.

As such, orthodox Assam tea is protected under Geographical Indication, which ensures that all tea carrying the name “Assam” has come from this region.

The Assam region operates on a different time from the rest of India—“Bagan Time,” or “Tea Garden Time,” sees clocks set one hour ahead of 1ST (Indian Standard Time), allowing workers to take advantage of an early sunrise.

BRAHMAPUTRA RIVER VALLEY

The Brahmaputra River runs the full length of the state of Assam. This river valley is divided into four main tea- growing regions—Upper Assam, North Bank, Central Assam, and Lower Assam

ASSAM KEY FACTS: 13% of worlds tea producer
MAIN TYPES: BLACK CTC, ORTHODOX BLACKS, GREEN
FAMOUS FOR: BEING THE MOST PRODUCTIVE TEA- GROWING REGION IN THE WORLD

LOWER ASSAM

The regions surrounding Nalbari, Bongaigaon, and the state’s capital city, Guwahati, make up the Lower Assam tea-growing region.

DARJEELING

The Darjeeling region of India may cover only 70sq miles (181sq km), but it produces one of the most famous teas in the world. Cool temperatures and high altitudes produce leaves with aromatic flavors that are highly acclaimed.

Located in the state of West Bengal in north India, Darjeeling sits at the edge of the Himalayas. A well-established tea-growing region, some of its 87 tea estates date back to the mid-1800s.

Darjeeling produces only 1.13 per cent of India’s total output of tea, but it is of such high quality that it is protected by Geographical Indication. This has, however, been difficult to enforce, and there are growers selling counterfeit Darjeelings, which have been padded with other Himalayan teas sourced from outside the designated Darjeeling region.

The Tea Board of India has developed a trademark logo for Darjeeling to help buyers identify authentic tea from the region.

Var. sinensis is grown here along with some var. assamica hybrids. The high elevation, 3,280-6,890ft (1,000-2,100m), influences the flavour of the finished tea. The leaves grow very slowly because they are constantly shrouded in cool mist. During the growing season, the plants respond well to warm days and cool evenings. These conditions help to create intense flavours in the leaves.

DARJEELING KEY FACTS

PERCENTAGE OF WORLD PRODUCTION: 0.36%
MAIN TYPES: BLACK, OOLONG, GREEN, WHITE.

FAMOUS FOR: GEOGRAPHICAL INDICATION AND DARJEELING TRADEMARK

HARVEST:

FIRST FLUSH: MARCH-APRIL.

SECOND FLUSH: MAY-JUNE.
AUTUMNAL FLUSH: OCTOBER-NOVEMBER
ELEVATION: High


HARVESTING THE LEAVES
In Darjeeling, female workers hand pluck the leaves over three harvesting seasons, with the first flush starting in mid-March.

Hope you enjoyed Indian Tea Culture.

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