The origin of tea: How tea became every Indian morning routine
Tea, the ubiquitous beverage, has become a deeply embedded part of our lives. But do you know how it came about and became such a crucial part of our morning routines? Let's find out!
History of Tea
Tea, the elixir of our daily life, has a history dating back to the nineteenth century. China had discovered tea some 2000 years ago when the British had first tried it. It was through the marriage of King Charles II and the Portuguese princess, Catherine of Braganza, who brought a chest of tea and an island in Bombay as her dowry, that tea was first introduced to the British. The British liked it so much that they forced the East India Company, which was the distributor of tea at that time, to supply large quantities of tea, mainly for the British elite. However, the Dutch tea soon lost its charm and was regarded as bad quality tea. The East India Company was under a lot of pressure and, as their last resort, started importing tea from China. It cost them a fortune. The situation got even worse after the Anglo-Dutch war, as it led to the depletion of their resources. Tea now became even more expensive as the British could not afford the silver the Chinese were demanding in exchange for their tea.
The British tea lovers were now getting irritated. They were continuously trying out ways to bring Chinese tea to India. Their efforts paid off as, in 1824, tea saplings were found in the Assam and Darjeeling regions. After this great discovery, the British had no idea as to how to cultivate tea and the methods to ensure its growth.
The Scottish horticulturist, Robert Fortune, was then sent to China, to learn about the methods and ways with regards to tea preparation. He disguised as one of the locals there, and apart from collecting the tea saplings he observed the method through which tea was prepared. This incident is known as the Great Britain Tea Heist. Fortune was able to smuggle 13000 plant samples and 10000 seeds. It was because of him the tea industry in Britain was able to flourish. However, before the heist, Fraser’s Magazine had said that it was India which was a proper tea nation as the
“INDIAN TEAS ARE PURER. INDIAN TEAS ARE MORE AROMATIC. INDIAN TEAS ARE STRONGER. INDIAN TEAS ARE CHEAPER. INDIAN TEAS ARE MORE WHOLESOME AND ARE BETTER IN EVERY RESPECT THAN CHINESE TEAS.”
Increasing popularity of tea in India:
In India, the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, which was established in the year 1878, was a catalyst in promoting the growth of Indian tea. The Indian Tea Association is aimed at making Indian tea global by serving it on the Indian Railways. Gradually, in 1903, the Tea Cess Bill was passed, which regulated cess on tea exports and was used for promoting Indian tea globally. After World War I, the Indian vendors were equipped with kettles and stoves and began to sell tea at some of the most historically renowned railway stations in Bengal, Punjab, and the Frontier provinces. The Tea Association was proud of all these accomplishments and even stated that nothing is more satisfying than having tea at tea stalls at the railway stations. Hoardings stating various tea recipes were put up on large hoardings in many railway stations. These horadings are still found at railway stations in Bengal. Gradually, the tea vendors started to add milk and sugar to tea, and soon tea became a worldwide sensation. A famous historian, Lizzie Collingham, has said that, "The chai-wallah is still the first thing a passenger hears on waking up in a train in northern India as he marches through the carriages, a metal kettle swinging in one hand and glasses in the other, calling out 'chai-chai-chai’."
The discoveries in Assam and Darjeeling and the illegal adventures of a Scottish mandarin who trekked to the mountains north of the Fujian and Jiangxi provinces in China 170 years ago have all contributed to making tea what it is.
India, a land abounding in a plethora of rich resources, is also a land known for its tea. The origin of tea, as discussed earlier, is quite unique and is nothing less than a legacy handed down to us by our ancestors. Tea plantations are not only carefully taken care of but are also extolled for their scenic beauty. For Indians, morning tea is like an impetus for them to get started with the day. In every Indian household, tea is what you will be served first thing in the morning. It wakes you up instantly, energizes you and is also beneficial for your health.
Let us walk you through some of the benefits of morning tea:
Excessive amounts of radicals in the body can lead to various health damages. Diseases like cancer, high-blood pressure are all related to this. Tea helps in stabilizing these radicals and prevents the formation of more such radicals.
Tea helps in relieving you of stress. Certain teas contain an amino acid called L-theanine which soothes your mind and leaves behind a calming and relaxing effect.
Tea has antioxidants which help in firing up your body with energy. It is a perfect dose of energy which you must treat yourself with in the morning.
Apart from these there are several benefits of drinking tea in the morning and also a major reason as to why tea has also become a major part of Indian morning routine. It has become a part and parcel of our lives. Tea is now introduced in various flavors, catering to everyone’s needs and preferences.
People in India have their own stories about the invention of tea. Some believe that ancient kings invented tea to prevent them from dozing off during long court hours. Some believe it to be the alchemy that brought Lakshman out of a coma in the epic Ramayana.
Soon, the addition of milk and sugar was initiated. It is said that Indian traders from Gujrat, Maharashtra, and Bengal had easy access to good quality milk and, hence, the idea of "doodh wali chai" came into being. It was consumed early in the morning to keep the traders fresh and awake.
Hence, tea has been a very important part of our lives and has become a part of everyone’s morning routine as well. This instant dose of energy has left its imprints in various countries and is a very renowned beverage. So, enjoy your tea, tea lovers; fall for it over and over again; pamper your mornings with tea and be fresh and free from any kind of disease!