August 02, 2020
History of Tea | India

India is one of the world's leading tea producing countries.

In fact, the history of tea was established against the background of British colonial policy.

In this article, I’m going to introduce the history of tea in India.

The history of tea in India

India is famous for the origin of black teas such as Darjeeling and Assam.

In this section, I will introduce the history of tea in India in chronological order.

East India Company's trade monopoly and the Opium War

In order to understand the history of tea in India, it is necessary to first give a brief description of the situation in England at the time.

Around the 17 century, the Dutch brought tea to Europe, and since then tea has boomed in Britain as a simple pastime.

In England at that time, tea was enjoyed by a wide range of people from court nobles to common people.

Its popularity was so great that tea caused two wars.

The first was the Anglo-Dutch Wars, which arose due out of a backlash against the Netherlands having monopolized the trading rights of Chinese tea.

The East India Company won an exclusive trading right to import tea from China.

However, the demand for tea in Britain had rapidly increased and there was a significant trade imbalance with China, which was importing tea. It triggered the famous Opium War.

Realizing that the supply of tea would no longer be met solely through imports from China, Britain decided to cultivate tea in its own colony, India.

Discovery of Assam cultivars and development of plantation agriculture

The reason why the British were able to venture into tea cultivation in India was the discovery of a new tea tree called “Assam cultivar” in the 19th century.

In fact, Britain had previously attempted to transplant Chinese tea to India, but was repeatedly frustrated because the Chinese cultivars did not match the Indian climate.

Under these circumstances, the discovery of the Assam cultivar suitable for Indian climate led to the development of large-scale plantation agriculture in various regions of India.

Also, as tea cultivation developed in India, it was discovered in 1841 that Chinese cultivars grow in the Darjeeling region.

As India was able to produce two types of tea, its exports have grown rapidly and it became known as a Tea Country.

Assam and Darjeeling, which are famous cultivars of tea even today, were born against the background of British colonial rule.

The Origin of Chai

India became one of the world’s largest tea producers as a result of British colonial policies, but good tea was still a “for export” commodity and was not available to the Indian people.

Therefore, among the people of India, “Chai” came to be a regular drink.

Chai was originally made from the scum of green tea leaves, but the scum is too bitter to drink.

So the Indians drank tea brewed from the scum of tea leaves mixed with sugar or milk to make it taste better.

Thus, Chai gradually became popular among Indians and became a national drink in India.

Nowadays, Chai is found on the Starbucks drink menu and is loved not only in India but all over the world.