Commercial tea plantations in the country were first established by the British East India Company, which led to large-scale production of the traditionally brewed native tea variety of north-eastern Indians. When introduced tea was a high-status drink, but the booming production and consumption have made it economical for everyone to savor this delicious concoction as of today.
The globally favorite Indian tea comes from Darjeeling in West Bengal, and Assam. Most of the tea varieties found in the country are named after the regions they are cultivated. Due to its geographical origin, Darjeeling tea became the first Indian product to receive a Geographical Indication tag in 2004-2005. Most of the top-selling tea brands procure the tea leaves from specific tea estates to retain their quality and authenticity.
Tea drinking in India has evolved in many ways. While tea or “Chai” (in Hindi) is usually brewed from loose tea leaves, sugar, and milk, based on the different regions of the country, a variety of spices is added to make it more flavorful. Some regional favorites include masala chai, kadak chai, Bombay cutting-chai, Kashmiri kahwa, and Sulaimani chai (black tea). In the north, Kulhad chai is popular, named after the traditional, disposable, handle-less clay cup it is served.
“Chaiwallahs” are people who make and sell fresh tea all day, from their numerous road-side stalls throughout the country’s nooks and corners. These chai shops are a common ground where all strata of the society come to enjoy a relaxing cup of hot steaming chai.
In recent years, the rise of urbanization and the café culture has led to a diverse growth in how Indians consume tea. For instance, bubble tea and green tea has become popular in cities. Unsurprisingly, tea was the most valued beverage in retail market and is expected to grow steadily.