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Shorn of all beautiful myths and legends, we get the first authentic references to tea and tea drinking in China in the fourth century A.D. The first person to drink tea was a man named, Shen Nung, who one day took his wife and children mountain climbing. During the climb Shien Non Shei became quite thirsty and while he was feeling thirsty a leaf drifted onto his foot. He picked this leaf up and twisted the leaf with his fingers. The juice of the leaf went on to his fingers and he tasted the juice with his tongue. The taste of the juice was quite bitter, so Shien Non Shei felt that this leaf could have medicinal properties and could help quench thirst, when brewed. Thus, according to legend he was the first individual to drink tea.
The first written reference of tea made and consumed appeared in 350 A.D. Kuo P’o’ updated an old Chinese dictionary to include the description of tea as “a beverage made from boiled leaves.” Tea during this time was made of leaves boiled in water with ginger, orange or other produce added to it. Although tea was mostly consumed for medicinal purposes to treat digestive and nervous conditions, people living in the interior part of China pressed tea into brick “currency” to barter with other tribes. From 350 to 600 A.D., the demand for tea dramatically increased and outstripped the supply of wild tea trees. Farmers began to grow tea plants in the Szechwan district, but soon tea cultivation had spread throughout China.
In the western world tea was brought first to the notice of the Europeans in the mid of the 16th century by Ramusio, the famous Venetian writer on travels and voyages. The first public sale of tea in England was conducted by one Thomas Garway in 1657.
To describe the history of tea cultivation in India around 1774 Warren Hastings sent a selection of China seeds to George Bogle, the then British emissary in Bhutan for planting the same in Bhutan. But nothing seemed to have come out of this experiment. In 1776, Sir Joseph Banks, the great English Botanist, was asked to prepare a series of notes and it was recommended by him to undertake the cultivation of tea in India. In 1780, Robert Kyd experimented with tea cultivation in India with seeds, the consignment of which was stated to have arrived from China. A few decades later it was Robert Bruce in 1823 discovered tea plants growing wild in Upper Brahmaputra valley. In May 1838 the first Indian tea from Assam was sent to England for public sale.
In India, there are three distinctly different tea growing regions. These regions are geographically separated, thereby producing three entirely different teas both in style and in taste/flavor. The three regions are: Darjeeling (North-Eastern India), Assam (far North-East India) and Nilgiri (South India).
Darjeeling is one of the world’s finest hill resorts with breathtaking view of the Himalayan range in the North-East of India. In an around this picturesque setting, sheltered by the mighty snow-capped Kanchenjunga peak, lie the tea gardens producing tea unequalled anywhere in the world – the DARJEELING tea. No other tea anywhere in the world has its delicate ‘muscatel’ flavour, fine aroma and exquisite bouquet.
The exquisite flavour of DARJEELING tea is a result of a combination of plant genes, soil chemistry, elevations, temperatures and rainfall unique to the Darjeeling hills. The tea gardens are situated at elevations ranging from 600 to 2000 metres above sea level on steep slopes which provide natural drainage to the generous rainfall that the region receives.
Tea bushes mostly belong to the ‘China Jat’ and ‘China Hybrid’. An abundance of fine hairy growth (pubescence) termed as ‘tip’ on the underside of the leaf, on the bud and sometimes even on the stalk gives DARJEELING tea its fine ‘tippy’ quality and precious flavour. To maintain the superlative quality of the tea, clonal propagation is widely practiced.
Plucking season begins in March following the first light showers after winter, producing the ‘Spring flush’. The ‘Summer flush’ is gathered in May and June and is in great demand the world over for the pronounced ‘muscatel’ flavour. ‘Monsoon’ tea is produced from mid-July to September. October yields another batch of vintage tea known as ‘Autumnal’.
ASSAM TEA: The Strong One Assam – to the far North-East of India – the land of the one-horned rhino, the land of the mighty Brahmaputra river …on both sides of which lie the rolling plains, the single largest area under tea cultivation in the world. Alongside Assam’s verdant tea bushes lie one of India’s richest game reserves. Amidst these exciting surroundings is grown ASSAM tea known for its strong, bright and full-bodied liquor. It is favoured the world over by those who love their cup strong. Assam is the birthplace of Indian Tea. In 1823, Robert Bruce discovered the plant growing wild in the region. ASSAM tea was India’s first offering to the world. And predictably it look the world by strom. The rich alluvial soil along the banks of the river Brahmaputra and suitable climatic conditions lend themselves ideally to tea cultivation. The tea plants are predominantly of the ‘Assam Indigenous’, ‘Assam Hybrid’. At present clonal propagation is widely practiced to ensure excellent standards of tea from this region. March ushers in hectic plucking season. The first flush is followed by the second flush in April & May. Tippy ASSAM tea of the first and second flush have a characteristic flavour and strong liquor. July to September is the time of the heavy rains. About 75% of the ASSAM tea is produced in this season. Gradually as the climate becomes cooler and drier, the‘Autumnals’ make their appearance which are very similar to the second flush in quality. With December dormant period sets in.
The Blue Mountains or the Nilgiris are situated in South India. They are a picturesque range of undulating hilly landscapes where tea is grown at elevations ranging from 1,000 meters to 2,500 meters. Rainfall varies from 60 inches to 90 inches annually. These conditions favor the fine, elegant flavor and brisk liquor of Nilgiri teas. The combination of fragrance and briskness makes Nilgiri a truly unique tea, the like of which can be found nowhere else in the world . If you like a fragrant tea with good body and superlative flavor , Nilgiri should be the one for you.
Medicinal values and health aspects of Tea are being increasingly reported and documented in research papers now a days. The various properties of tea as a health drink are being discussed in different forums (symposia, workshop etc.) and being considered important for future in the context of identification of research projects in tea. In the recent past National Tea Research Foundation (NTRF) has funded various projects in the areas of tea and human health to different nationally acclaimed research institutes. Some of the projects were successfully completed and some are being continued as ongoing. Effects of Tea extracts and chemical compounds in preventing human disease like Cardiac problems, Cancer, Bone degeneration and Gastric disorder etc. are well known. Black tea, the most widely consumed beverage, is a source of compound with antioxidative, antimicrobial, antimutagenic and anticarceinogenic properties. In a study on the medicinal properties of tea root extracts and its active constituents conducted by one of the famous institute of Kolkata (IICB) stated that triterpinoid saponins in tea root possesses strong activity against human lymphoma and leukemic cells. The findings also suggest that the cytotoxic effect and apoptosis inducing capacity of tea root extract reflects its importance as potential chemo preventive agent and its use in cancer therapy in future.
India tea, whether grown in the foothills of the Himalayas in Darjeeling, in the plains of
Assam or in the blue mountains of the Nilgiris, is available to you in a wide variety. Teas are essentially of three grades – leaf, broken and dust. In each of these main grades, the tea is further classified according to size and final grades generally bear fancy names.
Black tea : These teas are fermented and fired to bring out the inherent taste, flavour and aroma. The tea that is so popular throughout the world is available everywhere in India.
Instant Teas : India has modern manufacturing units, where instant tea is produced mainly for exports.
Green Teas : Green leaf is steamed or roasted as soon as possible after it is plucked, to halt fermentation. Research shows that green teas contain antioxidants which are good for health. Green teas from Darjeeling and Kangra are popular worldwide.
Oolong Teas : This is a semi-fermented or semi-oxidised tea. The time of picking being crucial for Oolong tea – the leaves should be neither too young nor too mature. Soon after plucking, the leaves are allowed to wilt in direct sunlight or dried with warm air to remove moisture and then rolled. After oxidisation the l eaves turn reddish brown andadds to fragrance.
Bio-dynamic Teas : A holistic approach based on the lunar calendar, is used to make bio-dynamic teas. Fresh spring water, natural fertilizers, even herbs like oak bark, yarrow, chamomile, valerian etc. are put to use.
White Teas : The new buds are plucked before they open, then withered to allow the natural moisture to evaporate. Sun dried and unfermented, these teas are silvery in appearance and give a pale and straw colored liquor.
Flavored teas : Flavored teas are gaining popularity in the west. India too
When you pluck tea from the bushes, always pluck “Two leaves and a bud”.
It is then brought by garden workers to a factory which is most often inside the garden. A garden factory is under the over all supervision of the Garden Manager who is the highest authority for all matters.
The leaves are left to dry in the huge open ceilings and through the roof chutes they are poured into the rolling table to be crushed and refined. It is very important to ensure time and the season of plucking.
INSIDE THE FACTORY: IT UNDERGOES SEVERAL MECHANICAL PROCESSES INVOLVING EXPERIENCED HUMAN HANDS
IT IS DRIED AND SORTED AND THEN RE SORTED BEFORE IT IS READY FOR PACKAGING
WE WILL NOW TASTE THE TEA AND CHECK ON QUALITY