The tea tradition originates from China, but India is today one of the main tea producers as well as tea consumers. The history of Indian tea cultivation began during the early 19th century, when the European tea craze had reached immense heights. The East Indian Company did not wish to depend on China and looked for new ways of obtaining the precious commodity. The first British experiments with tea plants were carried out in Assam in North East India, but the plants did not grow well. (The same type of seeds was later planted in Darjeeling in North Indian, where the plants thrived.) In 1820, botanists did however discover wild tea plants in Assam.
These plants were of course adapted to the Assam climate, and formed the beginning of the successful Indian tea industry. Since tea had never been cultivated in India, the production did not function properly until after a few decades. Eventually, India did however emerge as one of the main tea producing countries and tea from India is still highly sought after today.
A vast majority of the Indian teas are cultivated in one of three main tea producing regions: Darjeeling in North Eastern India, Assam in far North Eastern India and Nilgiri in South India. Since these three regions vary when it comes to soil, climate and other geographical conditions, each region produces its own characteristic tea.
Chai is the word for tea in many languages, but in English speaking countries the word chai refers to a special type of tea-drink that developed in India. Chai is pronounced as a single syllable word and rhymes with ‘eye’. Traditional Indian Chai consists of strong black tea, milk, some form a sweetener and various spices. Cinnamon, ginger, pepper and cardamom are all popular ingredients in chai, but the drink can contain a wide range of other spices as well. It is common to choose spices that have a beneficial effect on the digestive system.