Black tea is by far the most popular tea on the market including English Breakfast, Ceylon and the amazing flavoured black teas which are now widely available. One things for sure, India has black tea production down to a 'tea', producing some of the finest varieties on the market.
Time for Chai...
Tea is said to have been growing wild in India since the 1500's, and it wasn't until the 1830's that commercial production of tea (or Chai as it is called in Hindi) began. India has three distinct tea growing regions, producing teas that differ in style, taste and flavour. Assam is the largest black tea-producing region in the world. It’s climate (with heavy rainfall and hot temperatures) and geography are well suited for producing rich, full-bodied teas which are ideal for blending and once brewed, are recommended to drink with milk.
What's all the Flush About?
The tea leaves which are plucked from March until May, are known as first flush and when brewed the tea has a strong and fresh aroma. In June the plucking of the second flush starts and goes through to September. The second flush produces the famous ‘tippy teas’, wth a rich aroma, a strong malty taste, and a clear dark red liquor. Assam tea, picked from October to December is known as the winter harvest. The cool and moist climate, the soil, and the sloping terrain of Darjeeling- a hill resort in the tlimalayan foothills of Northeast India, 1 800 metres above sea level- all combine to produce teas famed for their delicate flavour. They are often called the ‘champagne of teas’.
Nilgiri Teas come from the Nilgiri mountains (sometimes called the blue mountains) that stretch across the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala in south India. Tea here is grown by 20 000 or so small holders at elevations ranging from 1000 to 2500 metres. The rainfall, the geography and soil help to produce a tea which is fragrant, whilst being full-bodied and brisk. Nilgiri teas are often used for blending. Other areas producing tea in India are the Dooars, the floodplains and the foothills of the eastern Himalayas; Sikkim, a tiny province to the west of Assam, Terai, just south of Darjeeling; the Kangra valley in Himachal Pradesh and Travancore, which produces teas with similar characteristics to those of Sri Lanka.
Interestingly, only a small amount of green tea is produced in the Kangra Valley, mainly for the Afghan market.
Take a look at the beautiful tea plantations of Wayanad, Karala, and see how it is picked by hand here. You can also get a glimpse of how the tea plant is processed to create the black tea we know and love here.