Thursday, 5 February 2015

A tale of tea

Most widely consumed drink in the world is water without doubt. Next to water most widely consumed beverage is tea. And as regards India, country is one of the top producers of tea & at the same time one of the top consumers of tea. India consumes 70% of its tea production. Number of consumers in India or China are such that they easily reach in to the record books.

Tea is an evergreen bush or shrub cultivated mainly in north eastern states of India & also in some hilly regions of southern India. The tea plant is indigenous to Assam & other NE states & has been there for thousands of years but its usage is not recorded. Buddhist monks are said to have been using the aromatic tea leaves in first century AD. Local tribes of Assam were also familiar with the use of tea leaves. However commercial production began after arrival of British East India Company.  

Tea from China came to Europe via Portuguese merchants in 16th century. Much later in 1848 Robert Fortune was sent by East India Company to bring tea plants secretly to Britain.

British East India Company attempted large scale production of tea in Assam to break the Chinese monopoly.In 1837 first tea garden was established & in 1840 Assam Tea Company started functioning.

In 1931 William Mckercher introduced a process of CTC tea -  a process involving the leaves to be cut, twist & curl (or crush, tear & curl) on a series of cylindrical rollers. The tea we normally use is produced through this process. It gives more darker colour when these leaves are boiled in water.

Scientific name of the tea bush is 'camellia sinesis' though commonly referred as Cha, Chaha or Chai. Tea can be prepared in many ways. Most popular method of preparation of a cup of tea is to boil the leaves in water, add milk & sugar. Though in many parts of India Kahwa or black tea is also popular. In Kahwa they add nuts in Kashmir & yak milk butter in Ladakh. One can add ginger, tulsi leaves, Dalchini or Saunf for flavour & taste.
Some quotes about tea:

* Tea to the English is really a picnic indoors - Alice Walker

* Tea! Bless ordinary everyday afternoon tea! - Agatha Christie

* A gentleman is he who never refuses tea - unknown

Hight of the tea bush is kept at waist level to facilitate plucking of leaves

Tea bushes on Munnar Hills, Kerala

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