Introduced by the English, tea is one of the export products with the greatest reputation in the Indian subcontinent.
Legend has it that a Chinese emperor fell asleep under a camellia bush. He was carrying a small bowl of boiled water in his hands when a leaf fell into the container. Upon waking, the emperor sipped the liquid without realizing the slight dye he had acquired. He liked the taste so much that he decided to use the leaves of that shrub to aromatize his boiled water.
India joined the geography of tea much later, when the English spread the crop for its main colony. Over the years, India became the world’s leading producer and is today the largest consumer of tea. The two main production areas are Assam and Darjeeling, in the northeast of the country. In each zone, the traveler meets a particular culture and a unique landscape that fill the air with the aromas of tea. If you like imperial infusion, undoubtedly, India is a destination that will make you fall in love.
Start by exploring the Darjeeling area, known as the Queen of the Mountains. Darjeeling was the summer capital for the British who lived in Calcutta. The town retains the colonial air, full of churches and elegant European-style bungalows. Staying in a plantation takes us directly to the 19th century. From Darjeeling, a night trekking to the Tiger Hill will allow us to see the sunrise over the snow-capped peaks of the Eastern Himalayas, dominated by the majestic Kanchenjunga.
Darjeeling produces one of the most appreciated teas in the world, pure white tea or silver needles that is made with the tender buds of the bush. The velvety obverse of the buds gives the infusion the grayish silver color and being young leaves without oxidation its flavor and perfume are mildly captivating.
Continue the journey to the east and you will find Assam. The largest producing region in India is known for black tea. The hills of Assam flank the Brahmaputra, one of the four sacred rivers of the country. The immensity of its waters is sometimes confused with the sea and in its interior there are large islands that emerge according to the season of the year. Assam tea is processed, oxidized and fermented until a dark, intense and complex infusion is obtained. It is delicious by itself or flavored with bergamot (Earl Gray), the English tea by antonomasia. In India, you will find it in every corner. Here it is complemented with spices, sugar and milk to make the famous chai. Sitting down to share a cup with the locals is the best way to get to know the tea culture in India.