The word tea comes from “tay”, how it is pronounced in the province of Fujian (China) and from there the Dutch merchandisers learnt how to pronounce it. On the other hand, the Portuguese imported the word “cha” from Macao, which is tea in Mandarin and Cantonese. In most of the Indian languages, such as or including in Bangla, tea is pronounced as in Portuguese, Cha.
Although there are many types of teas (black, green, white, yellow, yellow, red, etc.) they all come from the same plant (Camellia Sinensis). From its harvesting to its processing, depending on the applied process, different types of tea are obtained. Here I am going to explain the types of tea that are most commonly found and consumed in India and Bangladesh.
India is the largest tea producer in the world. Due to different climatic conditions, tea from one region differs from another. India is especially known for its black tea, which is generally strong in taste and bright in colour. Out of different Indian teas, Nilgiri, Asam and Darjeeling are most widely known.
The variety of Nilgiri, which means blue mountain, is produced in the state of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India. It ranges from 900 to 2,600m above the sea level. The first commercial planting dates back to 1854, planting seeds from China. Nilgiris’ tropical climate and abundant rainfall make this area much more productive than others and these conditions also favour a pleasant and elegant taste of Nilgiris tea. Nilgiri tea is harvested all year round, but the best Nilgiri is produced during the dry season from December to March. Some of the Nilgiri tea is for local Indian consumption, is reasonably affordable and is often used in spiced tea called Chai Masala. Another part is exported and is usually utilized in blends for tea bags. The mid-range flavour of Nilgiri tea makes it useful for blending. It is an amber-coloured, strong, fresh, and fragrant tea. Nilgiri tea is milder than an Asam tea but stronger than a Ceylon tea. The combination of fragrance and vivacity makes Nilgiri a truly unique tea, the kind of tea that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. It is often referred to as “the fragrant one”. The taste and fragrance of a Nilgiri is superior; the unique taste and fragrance of the Nilgiri tea result from the altitude at which it grows.
Assam is a rainy and relatively low-lying state in the northwest of the country. This is where the tea plant was first planted in India in 1837 and where India’s largest tea research centre is located. From this, tea cultivation has been spread all over the country and has reached the popularity it has today. Asam has the largest tea cultivation in the world and its tea production is equivalent to 70% of India’s tea production. Assam tea is a black tea named after the region. Asam tea is known for its very strong flavour and bright colour; it is full-bodied, with dominant flavours of toasted nuts, malt and slightly floral flavours. It is a tea characterised by its balance and distinguished by its full body and flavour; it is noticeably malty with a dark reddish/brown colour. It is usually consumed with milk and sugar.
While standard black teas are usually infused in water at 95°C for 3-7 minutes, the sensory power of the Assam tea varieties makes it necessary to reduce the infusion time to avoid an excessive harsh taste. The secret is to infuse it in 90°C water for 60-120 seconds maximum; if you choose to accompany it with a splash of milk you can extend the process up to 3 minutes.
Although the original tea plant comes from China, where it has been cultivated for 2,500 years, the world’s most famous tea comes from Darjeeling of West Bengal, in India’s north-eastern Himalayas. The Darjeeling region is in the foothills of the Himalayas; it has a mild, humid climate and an altitude between 600 and 2000m. The Brits began planting tea in Darjeeling from the 1840s onwards.
Thanks to its remarkable success, this hill station, on concession from the Maharaja of Sikkim, became a favourite holiday destination for British residents of Calcutta. Unlike most Indian tea varieties, the Darjeeling tea is usually made from the small-leafed Chinese variety, not like the long-leafed Assam variety. Darjeeling tea is traditionally produced as black tea, although it can also be green or white, depending on its oxidisation; Darjeeling tea is expensive because of its limited cultivation. With four harvests throughout the year, the right combinations of light, sun, rain, humidity, and altitude make Darjeeling black tea the ” Champagne of the tea”.
Darjeeling has four tea harvests throughout the year. The first is harvested between March and April, it has a very bright colour, a mild aroma, and a light astringency. It is considered cross-out as one of the best black teas in the world and is highly demanded. The infusion has an ideal balance between an astringent taste and freshness. It is a very pleasant tea to drink, with a bitter taste at first and then a pleasant fruity sensation. The second harvest takes place between May and June and has a deeper muscatel taste and a more intense aroma than the previous one; it is a full-bodied, amber and muscatel flavoured drink. The third harvest takes place in early autumn and coincides with the rainy season; it does not achieve the excellent quality described above. It is more oxidised and is usually sold at lower prices. It is rarely exported and is often used in Chai Masala. In late autumn, after the rainy season, the last harvest of the year takes place, which produces a very dark coloured tea with a milder taste. Somehow its taste is less delicate and has less spicy tones, but it has a fuller body and a darker colour.
In general, Darjeeling tea has a delicate flavour with fruity aromas, yellowish tinge and is considered one of the best teas in the world.
Besides India, Bangladesh, the less known neighbouring country, produces quite a lot of tea. The largest tea-producing region in Bangladesh is Sylhet, which is very close to the Indian state of Assam. Sylhet offers the perfect microclimate that supports the growth of tea plants. The tea from this area is very similar to Assam tea, with a strong but delicate flavour, bright and it is drunk with milk and sugar. Apart from this area, there are many other regions in Bangladesh where tea is grown, always with a strong flavour and mostly black teas.
This whole region, India and Bangladesh produces and consumes a lot of tea. Most of the tea consumed is black tea and usually with milk and sugar. In both Assam and Bangladesh, the black tea commonly used is found a granulated form (Mamri variety). These teas are strong in flavour and are ideal for the preparation of Chai Masala (spiced tea).
In our recipe section, you can find different tea recipes.