Over 70% of the tea produced in India is consumed within the country itself while the rest is exported.
India is the second largest tea producing country in the world. Two-thirds of the tea production originates from the four tea growing regions in the north of India: Assam, Darjeeling, Dooars and Sikkim. One third is produced in Nilgiri and Kerala, both lying in the south of India.
It is also one of the most important tea-producing countries, and also the second-largest country by population. The tea plant is indigenous to eastern and northern India, and tea may have been produced and consumed in India for thousands of years in small quantities, probably for medicinal purposes, but the widespread cultivation of tea in India did not begin until the British introduced it from China.
Currently, India, together with China, is one of the two largest producers and consumers of tea. Most of the tea produced in India is consumed in India, although India does export substantial amounts of both mass-produced bulk tea and high-quality specialty or artisan tea.
There are great differences from one type of Indian tea to another. On the one hand, this is due to the climate and local conditions which can vary greatly from one region to another: from mountainous regions to plateaus or plains; on the other hand because the plantations are not all made up of the same type of tea plant: Camellia Assamica in Assam, Camellia Sinensis in the south of India, both varieties in Darjeeling, hybridising etc.
The province of Assam is situated in the northeast of India, to the east of Darjeeling between Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and China.
It is a low-lying region, criss-crossed by the Brahmapoutre and its tributaries, that was covered in the early 20th century with tropical rainforest. This fertile region produces more than half of India's tea. The rainfall is the same as in Darjeeling (dry from November to January and wet from April to September) but the rain is much heavier. Two harvests are possible: the first flush however takes place very rarely; the bulk of the output comes between April and October.
Assam teas are vigorous, spicy, tannic and astringent, typically known as "British taste". The infusion is generous and very dark; the liqueur is dark and powerful, and can sometimes be drunk with milk.
These teas are found in all the full-bodied morning blends. If not blended, they must be sold under their label of origin, in other words under the name of the plantation that produced them.
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Chai, properly called masala chai, is Hindi for "spiced tea". The word "chai" just means tea, so terms like chai tea, although in widespread use, are redundant. A more accurate term is spiced chai.
Masala chai is a drink made by brewing tea, usually black tea, together with spices. Often, but not always, milk and sweetener, such as honey or sugar, are added. Sometimes condensed milk is used. If the milk is steamed, as with an espresso machine, the result is called a "chai tea latte".
Typically, masala chai is mixed up at the time of brewing, adding spices to taste, although, especially in the U.S., it is also sold pre-blended in teabags. A few companies sell green or herbal teas in a similar style to masala chai.
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Darjeeling are high altitude teas, cultivated on plantations situated between 400 and 2,500m above sea level, in the foothills of the Himalayas, on the outskirts of the town Darjeeling, famed for the coolness and purity of its climate. The English started the first plantation in 1856: Tukvar, later to become Puttabong and North Tukvar.
The quality of the teas and the success they enjoyed encouraged the rapid start up of other plantations: Dooteriah in 1859, Ging, Ambootiah, Tukdah, Phoobsering between 1860 and 1864, Badamtam, Makaibari a little later.
Muave doesn't offer Darjeeling tea yet, but we are working on our new collection, which will be soon introduced.
The Nilgiris, or Blue Mountains, are a mountainous area in South India. The best teas are harvested in the plantations up to 2000m in January. Not many Nilgiri teas appear on the International market, and most tea is consumed inland.
The valley of Kangra, situated to the south of Kashmir, produces strong, aromatic teas. Flavour is indeed the unique selling proposition of Kangra tea. The Chinese hybrid variety grown here produces a very pale liquor, which is the reason why Kangra does not produce any CTC (crushed, turned, curled) tea—the staple tea of India.
A region situated to the west of Assam, whose teas are especially aromatic and highly coloured. They are not without a hint of certain summer Darjeeling, which they marry with the roundness and the strength of Assam.
Dooars means 'doors' in Assamese, Bengali, Maithili, Bhojpuri, and Magahi languages. There are 18 passages or gateways between the hills in Bhutan and the plains in India. This region is divided by the Sankosh River into Eastern and Western Dooars, consisting of an area of 880 km2 (340 sq mi). The Western Dooars are also known as the Bengal Dooars, and the Eastern Dooars also as the Assam Dooars. Dooars is analogous with the Terai in northern India and southern Nepal.